Mongols, as one of Chinese 56 ethnic minorities, live on the vast grasslands in the north. They are a mighty nomadic people, the descendants of Genghis Khan. They like riding and shooting, so it is called the nationality on the horse. Milk wine, milk tea, and dairy product are the favorite drinking for them. The Mongolian national holiday Naadam is celebrated in Mongolia each year on 11 July. Naadam is a Mongolian word meaning "game" or "entertainment", The Mongolian people celebrate this festival to express their pleasure for the harvest. During the festival, milk drinking is an indispensable part of the festival celebrations. But the festival is not just a time for enjoying milk. It has profound sports significance. “Eriin gurvan naadam” the three manly games of wrestling, horse racing, and archery- make up the core activities of the National day festivals.
Grassland in the Inner Mongolia is the representation of its natural beauty. The best time to visit the grassland is definitely during the traditional Mongolian Nadam Festival period when there is a better chance to both participate and feel the lively atmosphere of the grassland life.
The Naadam Festival develops from the "Ji’ao’bao", which means the sacrifice activities. It is a distinctive event created by Mongolian people in their long-term of nomadic life. According to the Stone Inscriptions about Genghis Khan, the festival originated at AD1206, the establishment of Mongol khanate. At that time, Genghis Khan was the ruler of the Mongol Empire. He reviews his troops and responsible for the maintenance and distribution of pasture. To enhance the unity, he called the tribal leaders together to hold a party to express the friendship and pray for the next year harvest between July and August. At first, there was only one activity - Wrestling, Horse-race or the Archery. In Yuan and Ming dynasty, these three major competitions had been combined. That is the origin of Naadam Festival.
At the start of competition all the wrestlers with the higher title – holder in front , enter the hall in a line wearing gutuls (decorated Mongolian boots. ) and hats and their wrestling costumes called “zodog”(an open fronted , long sleeves vest of silk) and “shuudag”(tight short trunks ). There are many different titles for the wrestlers such as Titan (avarge), Lion (arslan). Zaan and Falcon. All the names signify strength. Titles are mostly confirmed during the national festival Naadam. A wrestler who wins five fights in succession during one competition has the right to have the title of Falcon, and if he wins seven fights in succession Elephant. When a wrestler wins all the fights in a competition during one of these festivals he will be a Lion. If he wins a subsequent year he merits the title of titan, the highest rank. There is a variety of throws used to defeat opponents. Some say there are hundreds of them.When a wrestler touches the ground with any part of his body other than his feet and arms, he is considered to be defeat. The main difference between Mongolian national wrestling and international free style wrestling is that the weight category of wrestlers is not taken into consideration.
Mongolian people have loved horse racing since time immemorial. A whole system for conducting the contests has developed over the centuries. In the races held during national festivals, including Naadam, participants are six age groups and the distances range from 15-30kms. No special tracks are prepared, the horses covering the distance in the steppe and jumping over natural barriers. Before they start the riders sing an ancient war-like song –Giingoo. The competitors start at the finishing line and at the signal to start and back to the finish line. Thus the distance is actually doubled. The horse racing can be held on saddled or unsaddled horses. Horses of two years older take part. The winner is honored with a cup of airag which he drinks and sprinkles on the head and croup of his horse. After the races, praise-singer extols the best riders and their horses.
The third element of the national games is archery. Five lines engraved on an ancient Mongolian target immortalize the phenomenal record of Yesuhei- baatar, saying that his arrow hit the target at a distance of 536 meters. The bow is an ancient invention going back to the Mesolithic Period. Ancient Mongolians made their contribution to the design of the bow as a combat weapon.
Today Mongolian's use less complicated form archery than in ancient time; the target is ‘wall' made of cork cylinders braided together with leader straps. It is four meters long and 50cm high. The target is placed on the ground at a distance of 75 meters for men and 60 meters for women. In the past Mongolians used three types of bows; “big hand”(165-170cm),”average hand”(160cm), “small hand'(150cm). Today Mongolians use the average hand bow which requires a force of 22 to 38kg to draw it.
Experiencing Naadam and the Inner Mongolian grasslands is best done with one of our Inner Mongolia tours. Why not contact our travel agent for a tour in Inner Mongolia?