One-time nomads hang on to traditional celebrations

Updated: 2013-08-28 07:35

By Zhang Yuchen in Xilinhot, Inner Mongolia, and Yang Fang in Hohhot (China Daily)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

One-time nomads hang on to traditional celebrations

Wrestling is one of the 'three manly skills' of the Mongolian ethnic group. The sport, along with horsebacking riding and archery, forms the basis of the competition at the annual Nadaam festivals. Photos by Cui Meng / China Daily

'Three games of man'

The celebrations, which are sometimes known as the "three games of man", are celebrated across the length and breadth of Inner Mongolia. As summer reaches its midpoint and the breeding season comes to an end, the nomads will gather together, just as long as there are games and contests, however big or small.

Unlike their ancestors, those in attendance nowadays usually arrive in vehicles rather than on horseback. Horses are now usually only used for grazing or shepherding the flocks.

Taivanhuar, 34, the head of Bulgan Sumlin Yalalt Gacha, an administrative division equivalent to a village, remembered the days when he rode on horseback to visit his neighbors. "Everyone on the grassland, male or female, old or young, is a good rider, so this is a celebration of the nomadic people," he said, adding that the festivals also draw an increasing number of tourists.

However, this nomadic group is gradually settling down and most people now live in permanent dwellings. China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) aims to settle the nomadic population, around 1.16 million people, remaining on the 400 million hectares of grassland by 2015.

Despite the lifestyle changes, the people are attempting to continue living in strict accordance with tradition, including cultural events such as Nadaam, which have been listed by the Ministry of Culture as important aspects of the region's intangible cultural heritage - which includes songs, music, drama and handicrafts. Each Nadaam mainly consists of the "three games" that are still practiced daily, even though their popularity has declined slightly in the past few decades as modernity has encroached on the traditional lifestyle.