Link #91: The Mongols Never, Ever Took a Bath!

 

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Link #91: The Mongols Never, Ever Took a Bath!

MONGOLS
Mongols by John Thomson, PD image.

The great Mongol Empire is known for many things. Some of these things are good while others are downright disgusting. For example, in our last post, we described one of the best qualities of the Mongol Empire – their relay system for mail, intelligence reports and even travelers.

In this post, we will look at one of the worst characteristics of the Mongol Empire – their lack of cleanliness. Do you know that people in the Mongol Empire never, ever took a bath?

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Did People in the Mongol Empire Wash Themselves?

dragon_vector

The people in the old Mongol Empire never washed themselves because of a prevalent superstition of the time. In order to understand this, you need to first know that the Mongols of those times believed that the water cycle was controlled by dragons.

They never washed themselves because they thought that it would result in the water getting polluted. This pollution, according to them, would make the dragons that controlled the water cycle angry. So if you were to meet any Mongolians of those times, you would be overwhelmed by their filth!


Did People in the Mongol Empire Wash Their Clothes?

Mongol_warriors_Traditional_Dress
Strong men In Traditional Dress at August games (Mongol). Photo by Wm. Purdom, 1909-1911. Weichang Xian, Hebei Sheng, China”. Image credit: ralphrepo, cc2.0

Since the people in the Mongol Empire didn’t bother to clean themselves, it shouldn’t surprise you that their clothes were in the same boat. This means that they never washed their clothes either. You would think that common sense would at least make them change their clothes regularly since they didn’t wash them.

However, this was not the case. In fact, people of the Mongol Empire didn’t change their clothes till they got torn or came apart on their own. The only exception to this was during festivals and holidays. On festivals and holidays, everyone in the Mongol Empire would change into special robes.


Did the People of the Mongol Empire Smell a Lot?

Yuan_Emperor_Taizu_Genghis_Khan
Taizu, better known as Genghis Khan. Portrait cropped out of a page from an album depicting several Yuan emperors (Yuandjai di banshenxiang), now located in the National Palace Museum in Taipei (inv. nr. zhonghua 000324). PD image.

It’s only natural for a person to smell if he or she has never taken a bath in his or her life. However, the Mongol Empire took this to another level too. They treated a person’s smell as something special and personal. Effectively, while you or I would treat their stinky clothes with upturned noses, they saw them as something honorable. It was also connected to their personalities.

For instance, if the great Genghis Khan was to give some individual his old, worn out, and stinky clothes, then the person would feel honored. This feeling wouldn’t only stem from the fact that the individual got to own the clothes of the great Mongol Empire’s leader, but also because he received his smell with them.


What Types of Clothes Did the Mongols Wear?

Mongolian_clothing_Tului_With_Queen_Sorgaqtani
Traditional Mongolian clothing – Clothing of the Mongol nobles. By Rashid al-Din, PD image.

People in the Mongol Empire mainly wore long, flowing gowns which are known as caftans. Depending on an individual’s status in the society, the detailing on his caftan would vary. Furthermore, the material of the caftan also varied according to the status of the person wearing it.

The materials used by the Mongols included silk, fur, cotton, leather, wool and even brocade. Along with their gown, they wore boots made of cow fur and belts. The worst part is that their boots almost always smelled of cow dung.




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Sources:

http://www.uselessdaily.com/history/mongols-never-washed-their-clothes-or-themselves/
http://www.tydknow.com/did-you-know-that-people-of-the-mongol-empire-never-took-a-bath-or-wash-their/
http://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1ly2rj/til_people_of_the_mongol_empire_never_washed/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Society_of_the_Mongol_Empire#Traditional_Mongolian_clothing

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