The Soul of Man by Philip Lhamsuren

Here I can pile on all my clothes on top of each other without becoming a laughingstock but this winter clothes will not suffice.

This is the story of an eastbound journey into the lands of Siberia and the remote provinces of Mongolia where the cold reigns for most of the year. The book does not attempt to take its readers on an adventure but rather to make its way into their hearts, focusing on the concept of the significance of human life, its free and eternal essence.


ИAnd there in the ger treasures are laid out – an old rifle, a birch bowl with silver lining, a hand-made padlock missing its key, a coral bridal necklace. All of a sudden the wrinkled face cracks into a faint smile tinged with fond memories. I feel the warmth seeping through my body. Bowed, I leave the ger with the gift, hidden in the folds of my deel, and my benefactor, clearly not expecting declarations of gratitude, walks me to the threshold with a suutei tsai. A simple, dry, masculine handshake. Then each on his way. A ritual so different from the meaningless „charity” of the city – a noble gesture allowing a stranger to regain his dignity. A toothless smile sees me off, warmer than any embrace. A pure heart is ready to help without design and does not need a college education.

There is no struggle against nature here. Nature cannot be defeated.


I roam the lands with a knife in my boot and a bullet in the barrel. There is no one to attack me here, except the icy sting of winter. Remoteness protects me from my worst enemy – the city. It is only here that the earth and the storms can swallow me up in order to protect me. Hunting is not a passion or a hobby, it is a ritual ingrained in the blood of my ancestors and, more than anything else, a means of survival. Hunting is the ability to become one with the long snowy treks, it is silence, spun out of patience. Hunting game is like hunting thoughts. Like the net of the shaman which is why the shaman’s ger is laden with animal hides. With every sunset away from electric bulbs and the drone of motorcycles you learn to trust yourself as part of the whole, to divine the truth and appreciate love, to not label the weather as good or bad. Still, the human soul remains easy prey for the foe waiting in ambush … the one we carry within ourselves … To be able to breathe free, with a light heart even when threatened by danger – this is what it means to be human! And this land knows why its son roves the taiga…
Here I can pile on all my clothes on top of each other without becoming a laughingstock but this winter clothes will not suffice.
The cuttingly-cold headwind and snow will not let me ride further. Like a frigid wall they force me to stop unless I want to fall off my horse. I cannot tell whether it is only me who is shaking with cold or whether the animal beneath me is trembling as well. My hands are numb. The darkness is so thick that I cannot make out the horse’s ears – an accurate measure for direction.

I push on upwards the way all humans push upwards, at least that’s how it should be.

I aim for the very peak, taking the shortest route, in other words – the steepest. I clamber up a river of stone and colossal chunks of rock. I get lost in the tangle of ravines and the labyrinth of cliffs. My goal is not the peak itself. My goal is to meet the first rays of the sun up there, to let my eyes caress the backbones of the ridges, to hold my breath for life, to be alone in the break of day. I am young in years but ripe for my dreams. When I find love I ask no questions. I jump right in with the knowledge that love is but a fleeting moment and I want to live in the moment. But even love will not turn me from my path because I have already committed myself and every breath I take has been gifted to me so that I can walk onwards.

The backpack must embrace me like a women, gentle yet strong, in a shared unity, just as the hilt of the knife must fit perfectly in my palm, like the wrist of a woman whom I am pulling towards me; just as the butt of the rifle, pressed against my temple, should be like the lap or shoulder of a lover on which I can rest my head, hold my breath and focus on the target.

Excerpt from “The Soul of Man“.

I have a thousand days to walk…