Chahar Costume from Central Inner Mongolia

Written by Ehshig, Visiting Fellow to the Mongolia Institute (2019-2020).

Traditional Mongolian costume is very rich both in design and colour. Different regions have their own local designs and characters. While the Halha, Üjümchin, Harchin and Barga dresses have elaborate decoration and ornaments, the Sünid, Dörbed and Chahar costumes are simple in comparison. The regional differences reportedly developed during the Qing Dynasty (1634-1912) because the Manchu court not only divided the Mongols into Banner systems and restricted the movements of people, but also designated different colour codes to each banner. There were 49 Banners in Inner Mongolia alone, not including eight separate Chahar Banners. Both Mongol men and women wear deel for winter or terleg for summer and both are equally colourful, but the men’s dress is a bit simpler in design and ornamentation.

Like all Mongolian costumes, Chahar costume not only adapts well to the environment and climate, while meeting the various needs of nomadic production and life, it is also known for its well-matching colours, accompanying accessories and exquisite workmanship. The Chahar costume has its own character, but also absorbed characteristics of costumes from other regions, due to Chahar’s central location amongst the Mongol banners. The Chahar region is located in today’s central Inner Mongolia at the crossroads between east and west, north and south. It was not only the geographical centre but also used to be a cultural and political centre across Mongol history. The Chahar region is centred around the famous Xanadu, Khubilai Khan’s summer residence and home to the last Mongol Khan, Ligden, who was defeated by the Manchus.

In the past, outfits worn by officials and wealthy people were covered with brocade and the hems were made from silk ribbon. The buttons were mostly made of copper or silver, while the tunics donned by herders were made from cotton. Winter deel were made of sheep wool or fox pelts. Today, there are two types of Chahar tunic, or caftan, either with or without nidurga, a semicircular ‘sleeve-extension’ with narrow cuffs attached to the end of the sleeves. Due to its shape resembling a horse’s hoof, in Chinese it is called matixiu (hoof-shaped sleeves). Traditionally the Chahar tunic had straight and rather narrow sleeves, without nidurga, but was possibly influenced by official’s fashion in the Manchu court to then add the nidurga. The nidurga come in different sizes and are usually be rolled up. They can only be elongated during the cold season, or while in mourning. The nidurga of summer robes are small and made of softer fabrics, while for winter nidurga are made of otter or fox pelt, or lamb’s wool, designed to keep the hands warm. Some local Chahar still don’t like wearing an outfit with nidurga because they think that the Chinese term ‘horse-hoof-shaped sleeve’ was discriminating against the Mongols, essentially referring to the Mongols as livestock.

Chahar family in winter deel.

During some festivals, married Chahar men and women wear waistcoats (ooj or oguji) over their deel.  The sash is an indispensable and important part of the Mongolian costume, made of cotton and silk. When the man ties his sash (bus) around his mid-riff, the coat is lifted slightly to make it comfortable for riding, while at the same time making the rider look lean and smart. A sash is not only a decoration but also acts as protection against the strong chilling wind of the grassland steppe. For men, the sash not only holds the deel tight around the waist, but has both practical and decorative functions: to hold a Mongolian knife, a fire striker and a colourful rectangular-shaped cloth pocket (with a snuff bottle inside). When unmarried women tie their sash, they should pull down the dress neatly so that a woman’s figure is evident. Like women in other regions of people with Mongolian heritage, Chahar women do not wear a sash after getting married, so they are called  ‘busuguei’, which means ‘person who does not wear a sash’.

Headwear and chest ornaments are worn only on important occasions. Traditional Chahar women’s headdresses were highly ornamented, the most typical of which was bridal head gear. Chahar women’s headdresses were luxurious and beautiful and the most eye-catching part of  Mongolian costumes. The headdress could include a bun inlaid with rubies and red corals and a forehead hoop made of pearl greenstones, a fine coral pearl chain and other precious or semi-precious stones. These were further embellished with a pair of large gold or silver earrings and with a necklace made of pearls, agate, amber, or coral.

Chahar bride with headgear, a sleeveless long waistcoat over the deel.

The Chahar costumes not only constitute the epitome of artistic craftmanship, but also play important social functions. For example, Chahars have the custom of giving each other traditional outfits to express their good wishes. In addition, in the eyes of the Mongolian people, the Mongolian tunic is very sacred. Traditionally, the expected etiquette was that when people wear Mongolian dress, they should also wear a Mongolian hat and boots (at least riding boots), and tie a sash around the waist.

Modern Chahar clothing, however, is a mixture of traditional and modern styles. Chahar Mongolians usually wear sheep-tailed leather hats in spring and winter. In recent times, more Mongolian men from Chahar wear Western style hats, while women wear small domed hats, while men wear runners instead of riding boots and an increasing number of young women wear high-heeled riding boots. Chahar women no longer wear ancient headdresses and exquisitely-made long waistcoats and robes, nor do men wear waistcoats, fire sickles or knives. There are people of Chahar heritage, however, who are keep the traditional Chahar women’s headdresses and men’s outfits and accessories as an important part of their cultural heritage.

Modernized Mongolian costume worn by a Chahar woman.

References

http://xilinguole.nmgnews.com.cn/system/2018/04/10/012478405.shtml

http://www.nmg.gov.cn/art/2018/7/2/art_216_184122.html

https://new.qq.com/omn/20180523/20180523A1PUHW.html

Ming Rui. 2013.”The costumes of Chinese Mongolian.” Yuan Fang Publishing House, Inner Mongolia publishing group, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.

 

A Missing Stanza from Natsagdorj’s Poem, ‘My Native Land’

By W. Juna.

There has been a lot of recent discussion over the Chinese government’s new ‘bilingual’ education policy in Inner Mongolia. This new policy has  reduced Mongolian language instruction in favour of instruction in Chinese (Also see a post by Prof. Christopher Atwood).

From September 2020, first year Mongolian school children are now required to learn in Chinese, along with their mother tongue. Mongolian textbooks of Morality and Law as well as History will also be replaced with textbooks written in Chinese from 2021 and 2022. The reform not only reduces Mongolian as a medium for teaching and learning, replacing social science subject textbooks, but will also alter the content of Mongolian textbooks. A quick perusal of the new Mongolian language and literacy textbooks reveal that well-known Mongolian authors’ works have been replaced with translated works of Chinese authors. The historical story of Chinggis Khan’s youth, ‘Temüjin’s Childhood’, for example, was replaced by Mao Zedong’s ‘Serve the People’, while the poem ‘Mongolian Language’, written by famous Mongolian writer and scholar B. Rinchin has been replaced by a translation of Chinese writer Weiwei`s ‘Who is the Dearest Person’, an essay paying homage to the Chinese Voluntary Army during the Korean War in the early 1950s. If such changes are conspicuous upon comparing the new textbooks with the old ones, other changes are not as immediately evident, such as the disappearance of the last stanza from Natsagdorj’s most famous poem ‘My Native Land’ (see poem below).

Borjgin Dashdorjiin Natsagdorj (1906-1937). Source: Wikipedia.

Dashdorjiin Natsagdorj was a Mongolian poet, writer, playwright, and one of the founders of Mongolian modern literature. Within his short lifespan of 31 years, he produced a copious body of works. The poem ‘My Native Land’ was published in the early 1930s and is one of the classics of Mongolian literature. In this poem, the author praises the pristine nature of Mongolia and infuses the lines with pride in the heroic history of the past, the enjoyment of the present and hope for the future. Originally it consisted of 12 stanzas, but is known to Mongols with 13 stanzas. The last stanza reads:

The mother tongue we learn from childhood is a legacy we cannot forget

The homeland we live eternally is a place we cannot depart from

The name Mongol has glory in world history

The heart of all Mongols beats with our homeland Mongolia

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful.

 

According to Professor Kazuyuki Okada in 1955, the 13th stanza, or last stanza, was added to the poem, which was taken from one of his later poems on history by the compilers of the collection of Natsagdorj’s work after his death. This expanded version has become well known across the Mongolian plateau, taught within schools both in Mongolia, as well as Inner Mongolia for decades. In Inner Mongolia, the poem has been included in the Mongolian high school Language and Literature textbook. Thus, hardly anyone remembers that the last stanza was from a different poem.

Natsagdorj’s beautiful rhymes delicately capture the nature of the Mongolian plateau and the Mongols love for their magnificent home and hence pulled at the heart strings of all Mongols. In particular, the 13th or the last stanza of the poem, has been recontextualized in a variety of contexts, ranging from the cultural revitalization movement, to a calligraphy competition, to an online advertisement of Mongolian-themed products (see Figure 1 below). The last stanza, which centers on the mother tongue and a connection to the homeland, evokes pride in Mongolians’ and a love for their language, culture and nomadic pastoral lifestyle.

The last stanza of My Native Land with the image of Genghis Khan (Source: WeChat post.)

Not surprisingly the deletion of this part from the poem in the recently revised textbook caused resentment among Mongols. The editors of the new textbooks may have been unaware of the fact that the last stanza was not in the original part of the poem. Even if they were aware, however, removing this emotionally-loaded stanza, in the context of a highly controversial education reform, makes it an intellectual and political issue. Put in context of the removal of other pieces of Mongolian history and culture from other textbooks, it is clear that the editors of the textbooks aimed to discourage young Mongols’ from an attachment to their language and cultural heritage. This unscrupulous removal of text has further fuelled Mongolians’ dissatisfaction and anger with the proposed new model of education. By tampering with the poem, reformers, who seek to depoliticize ethnic culture and identity, perhaps unwittingly politicized the famous poetry text.

 

My Native Land (Translation by John Gombojab Hangin)

Magnificent are the ridges of the Khentei, Khangai and Sayan.

Forest-covered mountains are the beauty of the north

Vast are the Gobis of Menen, Sharga and Nomin

Seas of sand dunes, supreme in the south

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

Crystal-clear are the rivers of Kherlen, Onon and Tola

Health-giving fountains and hot springs abound

Deep-blue lakes of Kubsgul, Ubsa and Buir

Brooks and freshets quench the thirst of man and beast

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

Splendid are the rivers of Orkhon, Selenge and Khokhul

Abundant are the mountain passes rich in minerals

Ancient monuments, ruined cities galore

Broad are the highways that vanish into the distance

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

Snow-capped mountains gleam from afar

Clear blue skies over steppe, plain and field

Majestic glacial peaks are visible far off

Vast airy valleys which calm the mind of man

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

Between Khangai and Altai lies the Khalkha land

Where we galloped to and fro since childhood

The long low foothills where we hunted deer and game

The beautiful valleys and hollows we raced our swift steeds

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

Undulating sea of grass, when touched by the gentle breeze

Enchanting are the mirages of the wide open plains

Land with severe terrain that produces the best of men

Here are the sacred heights, worshipped since times of yore

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

Luxuriant pasturelands full of fine grass

Here is wide open country criss-crossed by our tracks

A land to move as we like in all the four seasons

Where the soil is rich for the five kinds of grains

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

The sacred mountains where our forefathers rest

The land where our children grew, and rear their children

The meadow and valleys filled with the five kinds of stock

Here is the land which entrances all us Mongols

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

In the winter’s tingly cold-a blanket of ice and snow

The land shines like a crystal mirror

In the warmth of summer season- flowers and leaves unfold

Land where distant birds come to sing their songs

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

The fertile virgin lands between Altai and Khangai

Land of our eternal destiny where ancestors lie

Land grown mellow under the golden rays of the sun

Land grown eternal under the silver moon

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

Homeland of our ancestors since the days of the Hsiung-nu

Land of great might in the days of the blue Mongols

Land we become more accustomed to with every passing year

Land where now the crimson flags flutter

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

Beloved country of us all who were born and die here

The enemy who dares invade our soil shall perish

Let us build our revolutionary state on the land ordained

Then let us march head high towards the brave future new world

This is my native land

Mongolia the beautiful

 

References:

Kazuyuki Okada, ‘D. Natshagdorjiin “Minii nutag“ ba “Tüühiin shüleg”-iin xarichaa’, in B. Mönhbayar eds, IIh Zoholch D. Natsagdorj Shine Sudalgaa II (Ulaanbaatar, 2017), pp.40-54.

John Gombojab Hangin, ‘Dashdorjiin Natsagdorj (1906-1937)’, in The Mongolia Socieity Bulletin Vol 6. No. 1(11), 1967, pp. 15-22.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concerned Parents Opposed to Proposed Changes to Mongolian Language Texts, Inner Mongolia

By Prof. Li Narangoa

Mongolian schools in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China started from 31 August this year. The start of school, however, filled the hearts of parents, teachers and students with concerns, anxieties and resentment. On the 26 August, 2020, an announcement was made by the Inner Mongolian Bureau of Education, just a few days before the beginning of school. Most parents subsequently refused to send their children to school, as they were opposed to the newly announced proposal, particularly the introduction of Chinese language teaching from the first year of school and the replacement of Mongolian History and Politics textbooks with Chinese. Rumours about this change had been circulated on social media since late June 2020. No explanation was given by the local offices of education despite frequent requests from concerned parents. Even the Inner Mongolian Bureau of Education, which is the highest organisation managing education matters in Inner Mongolia, shocked both parents and teachers by remaining silent until the proposed changes were announced. Thousands of petitions with over tens of thousands of signatures were submitted to local governments and the Bureau of Education, as well as the government of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, in an effort to revoke the proposal.

Inner Mongolia is one of five Autonomous Regions founded in 1947 and became part of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The administrative language was decreed to be in both Chinese and Mongolian at the time, but Chinese has become the dominant language. Hence the broader language environment, especially for those living in urban areas, is Chinese. The main media outlets are in Chinese. Parents have been struggling to maintain Mongolian as the mother tongue of their children in urban areas. The Inner Mongolian school education system has been successful producing bilingual students fluent in both their mother tongue and in Chinese. Promoting Chinese as the ‘National common language’ was, therefore, viewed by Inner Mongolians as unexpected and unnecessary.

Parents’ protests have been based on three aspects, based on wellbeing, cultural and legal factors. First and foremost, parents and teachers have been concerned about the wellbeing of their children. Currently, Mongolian school children learn Mongolian, their mother tongue, from year one and Chinese and English from year two and three of their schooling. With the current curriculum, teachers were already struggling to finish all the content within the Mongolian language textbook. If Chinese were to be added to this, it would place a much larger workload on young children. Moreover, the newly proposed Chinese textbook is the same as the one used by their Han Chinese peers. In general, school children under the Chinese curriculum would have learned approximately 3000 characters by the time they enter their first year of schooling. Hence it would be an incredible pressure on Mongolian children, who would be starting with no knowledge of Chinese characters to learn in Chinese and be expected to achieve the same level of results.

Parents are apprehensive that bureaucrats do not understand the wellbeing of their children. They do not want their children to become learning machines, concerned about their childrens’ mental and physical wellbeing when pushed to such an extent. Reportedly, the contact hours for the first year of school will be extended from 26 to 33 hours per week. The proposal by some local school administrators to add after-hours tutorials in order to assist the Mongolian children to catch up, would further extend the learning hours and children would then have to complete their homework in the evening! Beyond immediate concerns, the parents are also apprehensive about their childrens’ futures and how this change of curriculum would effect results within the national university entrance exam. Previously, Mongolian high school children were able to answer the exam questions in Mongolian and the Mongolian language exam was one of the main subjects. If Mongolian students start to learn Chinese alongside their Han Chinese peers and have to take Chinese language as the main subject rather than Mongolian, they would be required to compete against millions of Han Chinese students. One or two marks of difference within an exam result can make a huge difference as to the university the student can attend. The higher the marks, the better the chance the student has to enter a good university, which is inevitably linked to a better career.

Second, parents are also concerned that their children won’t be able to learn their own language properly if the two main social science subject textbooks (history and politics/morality and law) will be in Chinese and taught in Chinese. These two subjects are important for learning academic vocabulary and developing analytical thinking in their own language. If these subjects are replaced with Chinese textbooks, there is the potential to not develop deep and precise modes of expression in either language. This would not only effect their children’s personal development but could also be detrimental for the future of the Mongolian language and script. Parents have been expressing a fear that if these two main subjects are initially changed then other subjects changes are likely to follow. They are concerned that if the proposal is implemented there will hardly be anyone writing and publishing books in Mongolian in the near future and that would be the end of the Mongolian language and script. Inner Mongolian protestors are not opposing the use of nationally unified textbooks but the plan to change the teaching delivery from Mongolian to Chinese and replacing the Mongolian with Chinese textbooks. Apart from the language textbooks, the Inner Mongolian schools have been using Mongolian textbooks translated from Chinese and parents are requesting to translate the new nationally unified textbooks into Mongolian. The change will also impact Mongolian teachers. They will have to be re-trained or removed from the position to do something other than teaching.

Third, parents argue that the proposal not only did not involve broader consultation with the Mongolian community, nor an official status as a lawful document: no numbers, no stamps, nor an official red letterhead (hongtou wenjian). Therefore, they pointed out that the document is against the Chinese Constitution (Article 4), as well as the self-rule law for ethnic regions of the Peoples Republic of China (Article 36). Both laws grant ethnic minorities the right to use their own language as a means of education. The Inner Mongolian protestors argue that this is not promoting ethnic harmony, as the proposal claims, but will cause social and ethnic conflict if implemented. Inner Mongolia has been a ‘model’ Autonomous Region without significant protests at this scale. Mongols are recognised for living in accordance with the Central Government and Communist Party, but Inner Mongols could lose their trust in the government if this proposal were not revoked.

Mongolian parents’ resistance has been a peaceful one, keeping their children at home and submitting petitions. They have been determined not to cause any unrest. The parents’ simple means of peaceful resistance, however, has faced huge pressure by the local authorities to send their children to school. Parents who went to pick up their children from schools but were prevented by local security guards in some places were mistakenly represented as demonstrators on the street and as trouble-makers by some media outlets, distributed further by Western social media. Most parents seem to think that these pressures have been carried out by some local corrupt officials who get used to bullying citizens and lying to the authorities above them, while acting unlawfully. They believe that the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Government and the Chinese Central Government will take appropriate measures to question these corrupt officials and they have been hoping that both level of government will listen to their petitions. Whether parents’ peaceful requests and petitions will be heard by the authorities remains to be seen.

Petition signed by Mongolian primary school class parents, Hohhot, Inner Mongolia.

Further readings:

https://madeinchinajournal.com/2020/08/30/bilingual-education-in-inner-mongolia-an-explainer/

https://www.languageonthemove.com/will-education-reform-wipe-out-mongolian-language-and-culture/

 

Hanggai: Galloping Across the Mongolian Steppe Between Different Worlds of Music

By Dr Gesar (Gaz) Temur

Gesar finished his Doctor of Philosophy from the ANU in 2015. He continues as a Visiting Fellow at the ANU Mongolia Institute.

Hanggai is a music band from Inner Mongolia, China. The band made their name by playing and singing traditional Mongolian songs with a modern twist. Hanggai’s fame extends from the grassy Mongolian plains and the Altai Mountains, across the Eurasian Steppes to the Volga in Europe, and as far down under in Australia. The modern punk and rock music flowing from the Morin Khuur (horse-head fiddle) and banjos, along with Khoomii (throat singing) and Urtiin duu (long song) reminds the listener of galloping horses.

“Hanggai”, symbolises a natural landscape of sprawling grasslands, rivers, and mountains with green trees under blue skies and is the name adopted by the group, formed in 2004. The band is made up of seven members – band leader Ilchi and singer Hurcha – and others who play horse-head fiddle, electric guitar and percussion.

Hanggai’s extensive, melodic and broad range of music and its interactive performance are regarded as a breath of fresh air in the music world with its crossover hybridisation of folk with contemporary music.  In 2018 the band won a national competition hosted by state broadcaster, China Central Television, gaining millions of fans across the world. Hanggai is a highly successful Mongolian group in both Europe and China.

In an interview on 26 June 2020, the band’s leader, Ilich, told me that ‘this distinctive Mongolian repertoire of sounds relates to our unique Mongol music which represents modern Mongolness. I would say that we are folk music revivalists who use a crossover form of modern and folk music to articulate the values which are embedded in our modern community, especially ethnic Mongolians in China and those who have left and live abroad’.

Ilich continued, ‘The world is changing rapidly due to modernisation and Mongolians are one of the last nomad [cultures] left in the world. We want to send out the message that the preservation of the environment is a way of life for us. The rich Mongolian herding culture – the harmonious way of life alongside nature and animals – is believed to be an important aspect of life, so it must be maintained. We want to tell people that we use our music to promote cultural heritage and thus preserve the environment, our language, and way of life and to stress how important it is that these aspects are respected.’

Ilich explained that Hanggai travel to many continents and countries each year to feature the world of Mongolian music. I asked Ilich what they all have been doing during the COVID-19 lock down: ‘We pretty much have spent time with family and composed music’. The plan for the rest of 2020, from July to November, is that they will perform forty-odd shows, entitled Heading North- Homeward Journey’, in approximately forty cities across China’.

‘Currently, we are practising in our yurt in the countryside and getting ready for the music tour. July and August is the most beautiful time to spend on the Mongolian steppe and our hearts and souls are closer to nature here. We hope that Australian fans and friends will see us in person after the pandemic and that you will all follow us on social media.’

Globalisation and industrialisation have brought huge challenges to local cultural identity and the environment in Inner Mongolia in China. Cultivation and the industrial development of pastural land have not only been causing environmental degradation but also the loss of the Mongolian lifestyle in the form of nomadic pastoralism. Herders are not permitted to herd their animals and have been forced to settle, or look for jobs in cities. This migration into cities and towns, where Chinese is the dominant language, is causing the gradual loss of Mongolian language and other cultural attributes. To avoid loss, modern musicians are clinging onto their cultural roots through a contemporary use of ‘in-betweenness’.

What has made Hanggai so successful in China and the rest of the world is there is a cultural revival in nomadic pastoralism as a concept, yet the way of life has been influenced and changed by the outside world. Hanggai’s music in the contemporary context belongs in this category. Their lyrics and vocal styles express an explicit connection with Mongol perspectives with regard to nature, the foundation of which is the deep reverence for the natural world, the animals that they herd and their surroundings, a worship of the Blue Heavens (Tenger) and a respect for their elders.

 

O, the silence of the Hanggai

stretches to the distant horizon

 

Silent as the grave

Filled with the fragrance of frankincense.

 

O, Hanggai, endless prairie

Give me freedom in life and a great heart 

 

Long live my homeland

Ancestors gave us our ancient gods

 

Who to pass on to? Give us the wisdom to survive 

The cradle of heaven is our inheritance

 

O, blue Hanggai

Melding with the distant horizon.

Horses roam over the green prairie

 

O, vibrant Hanggai

Hanggaithe endless steppe

 

Song translated from the album “He Who Travels Far”, listen here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHvUruU5BH8

All images are from Hanggai’s Chinese website and used with the permission of the band.

 

Links to Hanggai information online:

https://hanggaiband.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Musician-Band/Hanggai-896344303871919/

https://www.weibo.com/hanggaiband?refer_flag=1005050010_&is_all=1

Шигэp Шигэp https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iwzwr2VduLs

Hanggai – Baifang (Official Video) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNJ_FtYbTtc

 

The Changing Face of Mongolia

The Changing Face of Mongolia: Maintaining cultural traditions in a globalized world

By Joseph Fernandez

Figure 1. Naran Tuul Market Entrance.

 

Over half the population of Mongolia was born after 1991, meaning the median age is just 28-years-old. This young demographic plays an important role in shaping the culture and identity of Mongolia but is at times at odds with the traditions of older generations. During my time in Mongolia, as part of an intensive field-based course, this generational divide was clearly apparent.

In Ulaanbaatar, it is almost impossible to miss the signs of westernisation amongst Mongolia’s youth. As we walked past teenagers in vans and through the countless stores selling fake Louis Vuitton in the famous Naran Tuul Market, or Black Market, it became obvious how pervasive American style and culture had become amongst young Mongolians. Our tour guide, a 20-year-old university student who studied at the National University of Mongolia, talked about his favourite hip-hop stars and NBA players. Basketball has become one of the most widely watched sports in Mongolia, despite the national team not being ranked in the FIBA World Cup. The longer we spent in Mongolia the clearer it became that Americanisation had increased exponentially in the last couple of decades, driven primarily by the country’s young people.

Out in the country, there is a far greater level of connectedness to the traditional Mongolian culture and lifestyle. Nomadic kids wear the traditional clothing, or deel, as they play together outside their yurt (ger), whilst a few older teenagers and young adults speed around on motorbikes herding livestock. Here, many people are using technology to help keep the nomadic way of life thriving. Mobile solar panels are set up next to gers and trucks help to ease the seasonal movements of gers throughout the year. An interesting observation that we made was the lack of people our own age out in the countryside. Despite being there in the height of summer, there were hardly any university-age students. It became apparent through talking with local people that many young people had moved to Ulaanbaatar, a move that many older people struggle to come to terms with. Giving up the nomadic lifestyle is, for older Mongolians, turning your back on an ancient and central part of the Mongolian way of life.

Many young Mongolians have moved to Ulaanbaatar in search of a different future and better work or study prospects. Many also move in search of a community bigger than those that exist in small towns or more rural provinces (aimag). With families who desire a retention of a pastoral way of life, young people’s relationships with their parents can become strained. A network of youth centres have opened up around Ulaanbaaatar in recent years, offering a place to meet and create communities. These centres also provide essential information about important issues that are particularly relevant for young people, such as reproductive and sexual health. With sex education rarely taught in high school, these centres and services are vital in helping to educate young Mongolians in preventing STIs and unplanned pregnancies.

Another aspect of the generational divide in Mongolia is the treatment of LGBTQI+ people. Homosexuality was illegal in Mongolia until 2002, and it was only in 2014 that a law was passed to include attacks against queer people as a hate crime. However, members of the community have continued to be victimised, with 80% of people who identified is LGBT having experienced some form of human rights abuse or discrimination in the past three years. This wasn’t always the case. Before the communist revolution in 1921, society largely accepted LGBTQI+ people. Many queer people became shamans, who were gender diverse. With the advent of urbanisation and the breakdown of nomadic family microcosms, the idea of ‘otherness’ emerged, and the criminalisation of homosexuality soon followed. Now, these ideas still permeate many communities, even amongst young people. A UN report found that nearly 87% of queer people in Mongolia hide their sexual or gender identity from their friends and family. However, in recent years there has been a growing tolerance amongst young people, which can be attributed to both the work of NGO’s and activists in Mongolia, increasing exposure in popular culture and ease of access to the Internet.

The connectivity created by new technology in recent decades has enabled young people to interact easily and create communities online. Whilst this has led to a dramatic increase in non-Mongolian media and culture coming into the country and being consumed by youth, there has also been successful efforts to partake in and spread aspects of Mongolian culture. Mongolian fashion, photography and art has flourished on platforms such as Instagram and opened up Mongolia to a global audience. Musicians such as The Hu and Magnolian have incorporated Mongolian melodies and instruments into their music to widespread success with both bands garnering millions of streams on Spotify. It is clear that some young Mongolians are using their platforms online to spread and actively partake in Mongolian culture in the face of globalisation.

Mongolia’s youth are becoming increasingly urbanised, drifting away from the traditions of older generations. Some efforts are being made to blend the old and the new, but it remains to be seen how Mongolian culture will change and hopefully flourish in a globalised world.

 

Joseph Fernandez is currently studying for a Bachelor of Law (Hons) and International Relations at The Australian National University.

http://www.fiba.basketball/rankingmen

https://www.unfpa.org/news/young-people-mongolia-finding-places-where-secrets-are-safe

http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/mongolia_human_devlopment_report_2016_english_full_report_2016_06_28.pdf

https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/2103383/lgbti-mongolia-fighting-rights-and-recognition

https://medium.com/@WorldLearning/embracing-the-lgbt-community-in-mongolia-563f230d0f37