Mon­go­lian fes­ti­val

Con­tests are high­light­igh­light of cul­ture cel­e­bra­tion

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - Con­tact the writer at xingyi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Sum­mer is the ideal time to visit the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion, not only be­cause the lush grass­lands stretch as far as the eye can see, but also be­cause it’s a won­der­ful time to ex­pe­ri­ence Mon­go­lian cul­ture as lo­cal peo­ple cel­e­brate the tra­di­tional Naadam fes­ti­val.

The fes­ti­val is cel­e­brated in a num­ber of places. Typ­i­cally, peo­ple from a neigh­bor­hood get to­gether, but the gath­er­ing can even com­prise thou­sands of peo­ple.

One of the places where Naadam — which runs from July 23 through July 29 — is cel­e­brated is Chilechuan, a scenic spot in the Tumd Right Ban­ner, 70 kilo­me­ters west of the cap­i­talHo­hhot.

Naadam, which means game or com­pe­ti­tion in the Mon­go­lian lan­guage, typ­i­cally features three con­tests for men — horse rid­ing, archery and wrestling.

The ori­gins of the fes­ti­val can be traced back to about 800 years, when Genghis Khan (1162-1227) ruled most of the north­ern Mon­go­lian tribes.

Then, in or­der to in­spect his army and unite the tribes, Genghis Khan used to or­ga­nize gath­er­ings of sol­diers from dif­fer­ent tribes to show­case their skills.

Over time, the fes­ti­val has mor­phed into a cul­tural and sports event for lo­cals and tourists.

As for the Naadam held in Chilechuan, nearly 1,000 com­peti­tors from around the re­gion take part in the tra­di­tional Mon­go­lian sports events.

“We brought 80 horses and 30 rid­ers to com­pete,” says Nars, the chair­man of the horse as­so­ci­a­tion in­Uxin Ban­ner in Or­dos, a pre­fec­ture-level city west ofHo­hhot.

In the past, peo­ple usu­ally rode to the near­est pas­ture for Naadam, but nowa­days they travel to dif­fer­ent re­gions to com­pete for prizes and honor.

“There are more places which cel­e­brate Naadam now com­pared with 10 years ago. Next month, we will at­tend a Naadam in Or­dos,” says Nars, whose team drove seven hours to at­tend the Chilechuan Naadam.

For Nom­in­qu­luu, a 54-yearold Mon­go­lian bow maker, Naadam is very im­por­tant to pre­serve the Mon­go­lian tra­di­tion of archery.

“With­out the com­pe­ti­tion, the fes­ti­val can­not be called Naadam,” he says.

Tra­di­tional Mon­go­lian archery re­quires a bow which is very dif­fer­ent from its mod­ern com­pa­triot. It is made from a bull’s horns and hard­wood or bam­boo with­out such parts as an aim­ing de­vice or a shock ab­sorber, and it re­quires more strength to use.

“Mon­go­lian bows had dis­ap­peared af­ter the ‘cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion’ (1966-76), and so had the skill of tra­di­tional bow-mak­ing.” says Nom­in­qu­luu, who went to Mon­go­lia to learn the lost craft in 2005, be­fore be­com­ing an active pro­moter of the skill.

As for other sports there is tra­di­tional Mon­go­lian wrestling. Called bokh in the lo­cal lan­guage, it sym­bol­izes strength and courage.

One of its defin­ing features is the dance that the com­bat­ants per­form as they en­ter or exit the arena. The dance has both phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual as­pects; it helps the wrestlers show their re­spect for na­ture and their op­po­nents, while pro­vid­ing a good warm-up.

Mean­while, atChilechuan, a Mon­go­lian prayer cer­e­mony is per­formed be­fore the start of all com­pe­ti­tions.

Er­deneqad, 51, who works at the Mau­soleum of Genghis Khan, per­forms the rit­ual be­fore a ta­ble that holds roast lamb, dairy prod­ucts and parched rice.

Dur­ing the rit­ual, a group of se­niors ut­ter chants which praise the feats of Genghis Khan.

“Not ev­ery­one can per­form this rit­ual,” says Er­dene­gad.

“The rit­u­als re­quire peo­ple with spe­cial train­ing.”

The opening cer­e­mony of the Naadam at Chilechuan also saw a grand pageant of 600 eth­nic Mon­go­lians wear­ing tra­di­tional cos­tumes, and a performance by Chi­nese, Mon­go­lian and Rus­sian singers.

PHO­TOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A Naadam fes­ti­val in the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion gath­ers par­tic­i­pants from dif­fer­ent re­gions who show­case their archery art and eye-catch­ing cos­tumes; and wrestlers com­pete for strength and courage and young mu­si­cians play ma­touqin, or horse-headed fid­dle.

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