Genghis Khan's portrait found on ox horns


A craftsman in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region claims to have found mysterious portraits of the great ruler Genghis Khan ingrained in ox horns.

A craftsman in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region claims to have found mysterious portraits of the great ruler Genghis Khan ingrained in ox horns.

The biggest of the portraits was about the size of a standard passport photo, and was very much like the badges of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong worn by many Chinese in the 1960s, said He Hongchen, a Manchu craftsman in Ewenki Autonomous Banner, Holonbuyr City, over 2,000 kilometers from the region's capital Hohhot.

"Even I myself cannot tell why these portraits have come out," said He, 55. "But I've found them only on the horns of some bulls,and the exact position of the portraits on the horns varies."

Plain horns with a fine texture often bear clearer portraits, which were just like the portraits most Mongols hung on the walls of their tents to show love and respect for the legendary leader, said He as he showed some portraits to Xinhua reporters.

An avid lover of fine arts, He started to make souvenirs out ofox horns in 1998.

"At first, I thought about root carving -- to carve the roots of trees into artwork, but too many people had been doing that andI didn't want to follow them," he said, "so I worked on ox horns instead."

Most of the pieces he has made are traditional Chinese musical instruments and drinking vessels, and the process always starts with cleaning, sterilizing and slicing of the material, before grinding and polishing.

The first head portrait of Genghis Khan came out in one of the slices in January, 2003, when He was grinding the horn as usual. "It appeared after some ten minutes of grinding," he said, "And themore I worked on it, the clearer it became."

And the same portrait, in different sizes, has appeared in someother horns. He was convinced it was part of the horns rather thanprinted or carved into them by man. "Once it's there, you can never erase it no matter how hard you try."

When the news of He's discovery spread around town, some local Buddhists came to him asking for portraits of Kwan-yin and Buddha."I did try, but couldn't get one," he said.

He Hongchen said he also tried the same grinding techniques on wood, ram's horn, bones and plastics, but could not get any portrait either.

Experts with the local museum have all heard of his discovery, but no one can explain why the portrait exists on ox horns.

As suggested by his friend Zhang Dezhu, director of the city's forestry administration, He has made over 300 souvenirs bearing the portraits.

"It's just incredible," said Zhang, a Mongol himself.

According to Zhang, the Holonbuyr City is believed by many to be Genghis Khan's birthplace.

Some of He's hornware pieces had been given away to friends, and some were on display at the city's museum, said He. "But the local tourism administration has bought most of the pieces, at prices ranging from 20 yuan to 10,000 yuan (2.4 to 1,200 US dollars)."

Genghis Khan was born in 1167 into an aristocratic family near the Onon River in Mongolia.

In 1206, he unified Mongol tribes and became the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. He was later conferred the title of "Genghis Khan", meaning the "universal ruler".

Genghis Khan conquered most of Eurasia and fathered many children. Kublai, one of Genghis Khan's grandsons, later became the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).