In a chapter on the life of Dambijantsan I wrote the following about Chingünjav, the Khalkh leader of the last great uprising in Mongolia against the Qing Dynasty:
Chingünjav remains a hero to this day among many Mongolians for his ultimately quixotic stand against the Qing. At least he had stood up to the oppressors, unlike other Mongolian noblemen who were more interested in saving their Qing-granted titles and perquisites. When I was researching my book on Zanabazar, the first Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia, I was told by numerous informants that Galdan Bolshigt, the Oirat, and Chingünjav, the Khalkh, were true warriors who had fought for Mongolia while others, for instance Zanabazar himself and his relative the Second Bogd Gegeen, were wimps who had only caved in to the Qing.The last sentence will have to be corrected. I just went to the exposition of Mongolian goods at the Misheel Trade Center and lo and behold there on display was a new vodka made in Khövsgol Aimag, where Chingünjav was finally captured:
A monument north of Lake Khövsgöl now reportedly marks the spot where Chingünjav was arrested. The monument is on Mongolian territory, but local people still claim that back then it was Russian territory and thus Chingünjav had been illegally seized. There is also now a street in Ulaan Baatar named after Chingünjav. But while Galdan Bolshigt has had a brand of vodka named after him—the ultimate accolade in modern-day Mongolia—to my knowledge Chingünjav has not yet been accorded this honor.
I shudder to think what indignity will be inflicted next on the hapless public: perhaps Zanabazar Vodka?
By the way, the assortment of Mongolian goods for sale at the exposition was truly amazing: all the way from live horses, camels, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, geese, and turkeys to several new brands of beer, medicinal herbs, numerous varieties of cheese, camel milk yoghurt, spectacularly decorated wedding cakes, and on and on . . . I bought enough honey and pickles to last the winter, plus a pair of camel wool socks.