A Mongol soldier on horseback

Ancient Arborists – The Mongols

How Did the Mongols Utilize Trees in Their Nomadic Lifestyle?

The Mongol Empire (1206-1368), known primarily for its nomadic lifestyle and equestrian skills, also showed an understanding of the value of trees in the vast steppes. Trees were not abundant in their homeland, but the ones that did thrive in these harsh conditions were highly prized.

The Mongolian Larch (Larix sibirica), a species resistant to cold and drought, was one of the few trees that could survive in the Mongol steppes. Its hardy wood was used for making yurts, the portable homes of the Mongols, as well as for crafting bows and other tools.

What Role Did Trees Play in Mongol Religion and Culture?

In Mongol culture, trees held a sacred place. The Mongols practiced Tengrism, a religion that revered the natural elements. Sacred groves, known as ovoo, were places of worship, where trees were adorned with prayer flags and offerings were made.

Trees also featured prominently in Mongolian folklore and mythology. For instance, the World Tree, also known as the Tree of Life, was a common motif, representing the connection between the heavens, earth, and underworld.

How Did the Mongols Impact Arboriculture in Conquered Territories?

As the Mongols expanded their empire, they encountered diverse ecosystems and agricultural practices. In conquered territories, such as China, they adopted and promoted local arboricultural techniques. They encouraged the planting of fruit trees, particularly in Persia, which led to increased production of fruits like peaches, pears, and cherries.

Who Were the Iconic Figures in Mongol Arboriculture?

Genghis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire, was known for his military prowess, but he also left a mark on arboriculture. He introduced a law known as the Yassa, which among other things, prohibited the cutting of young trees, reflecting an early understanding of sustainable forest management.

Intriguing Facts about Trees in the Mongol Empire
  1. The Mongolian Larch is deciduous, unlike most conifers. It sheds its needles to survive the harsh winters.
  2. The Yassa laws of Genghis Khan were so strictly enforced that they led to an increase in forest cover in some regions of the Mongol Empire.
  3. The Mongol’s composite bow, renowned for its power and range, was made from layers of horn, wood, and sinew.
Links for Further Reading:
  1. Mongol Empire: Culture and Society
  2. Tengrism: The Mongol Religion
  3. Mongolian Larch: A Survivor of the Steppes
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