In the Middle Ages, a pattern called Tavan Nuden (means Five Eyes) could only be used by people with Mongols royal blood, of which, the descendants of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan. No one, even highly rank state men, had the right to use this privileged symbol.
During the times of the Yuan Dynasty (1271–1368), which was founded by Khubilai Khan, the grandson of Chinggis Khan, this pattern became the main state symbol. Tavan Nuden was fully suited and personified the policy of the Mongol Empire, which was called the Five Colors and the Four States.
It is believed that this pattern is firstly adopted from repetitive shape of steel armors chains of Mongol warriors, therefore, it is symbolized as a reliable protection from any threats. The Mongol warriors applied Tavan Nuden to their helmets, stirrups, saddle cloths, saddle cushions, pommels, sword-hands and, horse bits. Literally, everywhere it was possible.
During the period of Mongol Empire, this pattern was regarded as an embodiment of the eternal blue sky, the worship of all Mongolians. And in the Yuan Dynasty, a division of the Mongol Empire, that Tavan Nuden became a distinctive pattern of the Mongols royal blood.
Historian Baatar Shirchin found that an interesting fancywork made of silk with the Tavan Nuden pattern, dating back to the Yuan dynasty is kept in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. In this museum’s catalog, this fancywork is listed as a silk neckerchief with a coin pattern discovered in an ancient Buddhist stupa in one of the districts of the city of Suzhou, in China.
Until now, numerous items with the image of Tavan Nuden related to the period of the Yuan dynasty have been found.
It should be noted that during the reign of the Ming dynasty in China, after the fall of the Yuan Dynasty, the Tavan Nuden symbol was depreciated and depicted on the chair and stair surfaces. In that way, it began to be called as a coin pattern.
In the 17th century, Mongolia has lost its power and weakened considerably due to continuous civil wars between small local khans. Meanwhile, a centralized and strong Manchu kingdom arose in the Northeast Asia, which had defeated the powerful army of Ming Dynasty, and formed its Qin dynasty in China and Beijing as a capital city.
After that, the Manchus successfully used the internal strike of the Mongolian lords and gradually conquered all of Mongolia. At that alarming time, the lords of central Mongolia gathered in the assembly-Khurildai in 1639 and proclaimed five-year-old Zanabazar, the son of Chinggis khan’s descendant Tusheet khan Gombojav, as the head of all Mongolian Buddhists with the title of Bogd khan.
It was unsuccessful attempt to unite Mongolia under the name of Chinggis khan and Buddhism – a religion that quickly spread among the Mongols, due to foreign interventions in internal politics. After recognizing the power of the Manchu Khan and becoming his vassal state, Zanabazar began to use the Nashi symbol on his seal, which means “Four grains” in Tibetan.
He declared to the Buddhists of Mongolia that the sacred Nashi pattern symbolized the five gods, the abundance and accumulation, the spread of peace and virtue throughout the world. But in fact, Zanabazar made the symbol of Tavan Nuden secretly from the Manchu conquerors, in this way revered among his compatriots.
Therefore, all Bogd Zhivzundambs or heads of Buddhism in Mongolia have widely used the Tavan Nuden pattern, since the time of Zanabazar. Moreover, this pattern has become an integral part of Buddhism and associated with applied art of Mongolia.
Today, you can see this in Ulaanbaatar, while visiting the Bogd Khan Palace Museum, Chojin Lama Museum-Monastery, Gandantegchinlin Monastery or the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum.
Mongolia finally gained independence from the Qing dynasty after the December Revolution in 1911. According to the decree of the Government of Mongolia, officials were given nine grades. And the highest ranked one wears a golden sign with the image of Tavan Nuden.
Even Bogd Khan himself, as the head of Mongolia, dressed in a national costume deel with this old pattern. Within exterior and interior decorations of his palace, Tavan Nuden, a distinctive pattern of the Mongols royal blood was frequently found as an emphasis of him as a Mongolian khan.
This pattern was also used after the People’s revolution in 1921, when the militia of the Mongolian People’s Party expelled the Kuomintang Chinese occupants from Urga with the Soviet Union’s military assistance.
While the circulation of Mongolian new dollar between 1921 and 1924, Taven Nuden pattern was depicted on this currency as you may guess.
Mongolian new dollar between 1921 and 1924.
This history is unique and revered by the Mongols from the time of immemorial pattern called Tavan Nuden or Five Eyes.