Setsuko Watanabe's World Sketches

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Inner Mongolian Plain

2.The Morin Khuur and Suho's White Horse

After dinner, I am welcomed with the folk songs and dance- grand and rough in nature, of a people who have lived many years on the wide plain. Their singing voices, accompanied by the morin khuur, resound across the vast plain.

The morin khuur is a two-stringed instrument unique to Mongolia which has a sculpted horse's head at the top of its neck and is tuned to an interval of a fifth.
The origin of this instrument's name is told in an folk story.

Copyright1998 Setsuko Watanabe
There once was a poor shepherd boy named Suho who saved a white colt which was near death. As the horse grew, it helped Suho watch over his sheep.
One day, Suho and the white horse won the town's horse race championship. The king was fascinated with the white horse and took it away by force, but it ran away back to the plains. Pierced with the many arrows of its pursuers, the white horse at last made it back to Suho's side where it drew its last breath.
Suho, overcome with sadness and grief, saw the horse in a dream. The horse told him to take its bones, skin, tendons, hair and tail and make them into a musical instrument.
The result was the morin khuur. Suho played his instrument everywhere and sung in a voice which rang throughout the plain.
Sometime after this, the morin khuur became popular throughout the Mongolian plain. It is said the tail of a horse, run to exhaustion and overcome with fatigue, plays with a delicate and exquisite sound.

Outside, it is so dark that you can't see your hand in front of your face.
Swarms of grasshoppers dance about the stalks of forget-me-nots and shine bewitchingly under the starlight like fireflies.
The sky is filled with stars from the horizon to the heights of the heavens.
The stars' brightness is like shooting arrows. They seem near enough to touch if I just reached out my arms. Their infinite number and huge size- I am overwhelmed by all of them and left speechless.

Taking a deep breath of the air filled with the smell of damp grass, I feel as if I have been given an additional twenty years in my life.
The low and gentle sound of the morin khuur echoes far across the plain.

The temperature in the pao drops dramatically at night and despite wearing all the sweaters I have brought with me, I am still cold.
From the skylight, I can see the innumerable stars, looking as if they are pouring out onto the ground.

Copyright1998 Keiko Andou
On the way to town, the driver and my guide- big, robust men, busily gather flowers, and, bending over, pick unusual stones from the plain.
These were presents for me. Flowers and rocks are considered very heartfelt presents here, as they are rare on the plain. I am touched by their kindness.

There are no televisions, radios, clocks, electricity, or phones here. Horses are their form of transportation.
Nothing is owned which is unnecessary. It is a open-hearted and simple life.
You wake when the sun comes up, you sleep when it gets dark. You look for pastures, and when it's cold, you sleep in a hill's hollow, and when hot, in the shade.
The nomadic life, moving in harmony with nature's cycles, is the origin of human lifestyles.

Nonetheless, today's young people dream of a life of houses, televisions, refrigerators, and cars and will probably leave the plain for the cities.

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Genghis Khan

Copyright1998 Setsuko Watanabe

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