Legend of Gessar Khan, the mythical hero of Asia, was the popular lore in Central Asia. For centuries it survived through oral tradition. The Imperial Academy of Sciences in St, Petersburg took upon itself the arduous task of putting the Mongolian legend into print. Later, one of the members of the team entrusted with constructing the text, translated it into German, It was only then that the epic fascinated the Westerners, The present translation in English presents a source of living material, on the, odes of speech and manners of life of the nomad tribes three centuries from now.
In peking in 1716, during the reign of Kanghi and at his order, there appeared in the Mongokian language the legend of Gessar Khan, mythical hero of Asia, whose mighty exploits had lived long on the lips of the people before they were set forth in print. In 1836 the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg authorized Isaac Jakib Schmidt, one of its members, to prepare a new edition in Mongolian form the earlier text, and three years later sanctioned a project apparently very close to Professor Schmidt's heart, a German translation. It is upon this German translation, entitled Die Thaten Bogda Gesser chans and published in St. Petersburg in 1839, that the present version is principally based, although reference has also been made to Benjamin Bergmann's account of the so called Little Gesser, translated from a Kalmuch original, and included in Nomadische Streifereien, Volume III, published in Riga in 1804.
Whether the origin of the epic is Tibetan or Mongolian is not clear, since it has been set down in both languages, but Professor Schmidt inclined to the former view through the weight of internal evidence. Himself a student and lover of Oriental lore, he saw in this work a source of living material, hitherto inaccessible to Europeans, on the modes of speech and manners of life of the nomad tribes; and although his interest was primarily scholarly, he was not indifferent to the treasure of pure folk narrative he had made available, and of which this volume seeks to take advantage.
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