Tsogt Taij (1945)

In Mongolian: Цогт тайж. Also released as “The Glorious Descendants of Genghis Khan” and as “The Knights of the Steppes”. Tsogt Taij was the eleventh full-length feature film produced by Mongol Kino, the national film studio in Ulaanbaatar.

Tsogt Taij chronicles the life of Tümenkhen Tsogt Khun Taij (1581-1637), a nobleman in Northern Khalkha who waged war against the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, depicting him as a Mongolian nationalist and hero who leads his people in the fight against domination and manipulation by foreign powers.

Initially, the film shows the invasion of Mongolia by the Manchu leader Hong Taiji (1559–1626) and his defeat of Ligdan Khan, the last direct descendant of Genghis Khan to rule Mongolia. But the entirety of the rest of the film shows Tsogt Taij, referred to in Tibetan as Chog-thu, leading campaigns and battles against Mongolian nobles who support Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama.

Tsogt sends an army led by his son Arsalan to besiege Lhasa, only for Arsalan to be seduced by a beautiful Tibetan princess who entices him to declare allegiance to the 5th Dalai Lama. Tsogt orders his generals to execute his son for treason. Finally, Tsogt dies in battle with Gush Khan (Gushri Khan), the main Mongolian supporter of the Dalai Lama.

The film has a strongly socialist message about the dangers of religion, which is shown in the case of Tibetan Buddhism as sweet-sounding, manipulative, and deceitful. But its overwhelming emphasis is on the importance of nationalism and of the preservation and defense of the Mongolian nation, including its cultural heritage. The film was made at a rare and short-lived moment at the very end of World War II when Mongolians under Communism were allowed to celebrate their national identity rather than class struggle.

Although Vsevolod Pudovkin’s Storm over Asia (1928) had shown scenes of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, lamas and rituals, and several feature films had been shot in the 1930s by western film-makers in the Indian Himalayas, Tsogt Taij is the first known feature film to depict the city of Lhasa and the Dalai Lama.

Note: Taij is the title for a high-ranking position, sometimes translated as “Count”.

General Director/General producer: Yurii Tarich

Tsongan Tsegmed as Tsogt Taij, deciding whether to order the execution of his son for treachery.

Directors: M. Bold, M. Luvsanjamts, and B. Gombo. Some sources also name D. Jigjid as a director.

Writers: Rinchen Byamba (Rentsen), Yurii Tarich

Cinematography: Jigjid Dejid, Demberel Baldan, Gajuur Damba

Art: Gavaa Luvsan

Music: Damdinsuren Bileg, Murdorj Luvsanjamba

                        Leading actors

  • Tsogt                                         Tsegmed Tsagaan
  • Ligden Khan                            Bat-Ochir Danzan
  • Red Hat                                    Luvsanjamts Jamba
  • Gush Khan                               Tseveen Chimed
  • Guyen Hero                             Jigmiddorj Buuch
  • Khulan                                      Dolgorsuren Chimed
  • Arslan                                       Tserendendev Ayur
  • Dambiinyam                           Gombodorj Eruult
  • Tuvdiin Gunj                           Tsogzolmaa Luvsanjamts
  • Chin Taikh Ichinkhorloo      Dashzeveg
  • Akhai Daichin                         Gombosuren Gombojav
  • Zasag Lam                               Tsegmed Nyam
  • Maidar Khutagt                      Sharavdoo Yondon
  • Ambagai Tsetsen                    Mijiddorj Bilgee


Further reading

Robert Barnett, “Tsogt Taij and the Disappearance of the Overlord: Triangular Relations in Three Inner Asian Films”, Inner Asia 9 (2007): 41-75.