On November 25, 2022, a stone replica of the Chokushi-kogenkaku-hi* (a tortoise-borne stele) was completed and an unveiling ceremony held in front of the main entrance of the Karakorum Museum in Mongolia.
Karakorum** has its origins in a military supply base built by Genghis Khan in 1220 and is the first capital of the Mongol Empire, created in 1235 by the second emperor, Ogedei Khan, on the orders of the first emperor, Genghis Khan. Chokushi-kogenkaku-hi was carved to commemorate the reconstruction of the Kogenkaku, a Buddhist temple built in the former capital city of Karakorum. Today, only the stone turtle base remains, but it is still considered an important symbol of the Karakorum site.
In 2020, at the 800th anniversary of the construction of Karakorum, plans were made in Mongolia for a conservation and restoration project for the Karakorum Museum’s collection. Producing a replica of the Chokushi-kogenkaku-hi was the biggest challenge for the project, but with funding difficult to obtain, following 20 years of excavations and research exchanges involving Professor Hitoshi Muraoka (Ryukoku University Faculty of Letters) and others, the replica stele has been made possible through the support of Ryukoku University and the Digital Archives Research Center (DARC).
DARC Director Mazumi Mitani was present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony that included two local children, and offered congratulatory remarks following a congratulatory address by President Takashi Irisawa (read in his absence). After the ceremony, a workshop was also held in the Karakorum Museum. Associate Professor Yuko Nakata (Ryukoku University Faculty of Agriculture), who serves on the DARC steering committee, was an online participant in the workshop and reported on the potential for cooperation with DARC thanks to the replica inscribed stele. Karakorum Museum was opened in 2010 with Cultural Grant Assistance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and Ryukoku University’s name, which is carved into the replica tortoise-borne stele that now stands as a symbol of the museum, will be seen not only by the people of Mongolia, but also by tourists visiting the World Heritage Site***.
* Called “The First Inscribed Stele of Karakorum” in Mongolia.
** Now named “Kharkhorin.”
*** The Karakorum site was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List (cultural site) in 2004 as a major monument of the Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape. Eizaburo Nomura and Zuicho Tachibana, members of the second Ōtani expedition, visited Erdene Zuu (Karakorum), which is also listed by UNESCO as Mongolia’s first Buddhist monastery.
Images of the unveiling ceremony and workshop can also be viewed on the Facebook page of the Karakorum Museum.
[Celebratory Address (full text)]
Thank you for inviting us to the unveiling of the completed stone carved replica of “The First Inscribed Stele of Karakorum,” which has been erected to commemorate the reconstruction of the Buddhist Temple of Kogenkaku in Karakoram.
Ryukoku University has been dedicated to Buddhist education and research since its foundation in 1639. The libraries at Ryukoku University house a vast collection of classical documents and cultural property, including Buddhist materials unearthed in Central Asia.
Established in 2001 as the Center for Digital Archiving and Research of Classical Documents, the Digital Archives Research Center adopted its current name in 2019. Our research agenda is to lay the foundations for digital archiving and versatile publishing methods for cultural property and academic material, and DARC makes effective use of digitally archived classical documents and cultural property gathered according to the founding spirit of Ryukoku University, and employs the latest techniques, such as ultra-realistic communication technologies, to form digital archives for the versatile publishing of academic material. Furthermore, through the latest research findings and scientific analyses based on interdisciplinary research that integrates the humanities and the sciences and a track record of international collaboration with the International Dunhuang Project, DARC aims to add discussions of historical context, support the preservation, restoration, and succession of cultural property and academic material, and build a next-generation digital museum.
Our center promotes international collaboration that uses an international network built on the cultural property held by the center, and our participation in this project is an important part of this international collaboration.
The completion of this replica is a potential opportunity to develop effective exhibition methods, restore the Kogenkaku itself, and digitally restore the Erdene Zuu Monastery.
Going forward, we hope to promote further cooperation in research and international collaborations through mutual cultural property, including further research collaborations and the sharing of even more versatile publication methods. I look forward to your cooperation.
This is the end of my address on the occasion of today’s unveiling ceremony and research workshop. Thank you.
November 25, 2022
Ryukoku University Digital Archives Research Center Director