The Mongolian Nationality

Population: 4,802,400
Provinces: Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Liaoning, Jilin, Helongjiang, Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Qinghai

Mongolian Girl in traditional beaded headress

Nomadic shepherds and horsemen, the Mongols were dispersed and separated over China’s vast northern steppes, along the Wangjian River. In the 13th century, Genghis Khan unified tribes by force and diplomacy, and used the Mongol’s horseback expertise to conquer an empire spanning from China to Eastern Europe. Overthrowing the Sung Dynasty, the Mongols established the Yuan Dynasty in China.

Horse herdes on the steppes of Inner Mongolia

The Mongolian minority has its own Altaic-based language, which has several sub-dialects. A written language was created in the 13th Century, and Mongolian scholars have written texts on history, language, literature, medicine, astronomy, and weapons.

While some Mongolians have become urban dwellers, most still live in the countryside. Many engage in animal husbandry, while others are farmers. The former still live in traditional “yurts,” or round tents. Diet consists of mutton and dairy products. They enjoy music and poetry, and much of their culture relates to their past martial glory. During the annual Nadamu Fair, they compete in horse racing, archery, wrestling, as well as song and dance.

Wrestlers at the Nadamu Fair

Photographs from “China’s Minority Peoples,” China Pictoral Publishing House.

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