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Life after Horseback

Posted Thursday, March 25, 2004




Materials are provided by "Travel China weekly newspaper" by Liu Simin

Horse, which were once so crucial to Mongolian's life are gradually disappearing from the daily lives of this nomadic ethnic group.

Nashun, a herdsman from Ar Horqin banner, in northwest China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, finally presented a saddle handed down through generations of his family to a nearby museum after several months of deliberations and discussions.

Early in the morning, the family of six donned graceful Mongolian clothing and gathered to reverently stoke the silver-inlaid saddle.

"The museum will provide the same care as my relatives, and will offer better conditions to preserve the saddle so that future generations will know that we are the offspring of an ethnic group which once lived on horeback," said Nashun.

The herdsman bade farewell to horse breeding over a decade ago. "It wasn't because I didn't like horses, but simply because raising horses did not produce good economic returns. Tractors and motorcycles are much more efficent," he added.

been described as "people living on horseback," the largest nomadic group in China.

Aldinv, a specialist in Mongolian studies, said:"Horses have been the most important and inseparable working force in Mongolian production for several thousand years. The vast Inner Monogolia Autonomous Region is home to most of China's Mongolian ethnic group, and the Xilin Gol Prairie alone is the size of Britain."

More than half of the herder households no longer raise horses, symbol of the ethnic group. Horses have, in fact, disappeared from the production stage, according to Nashun.

An official with regional Animal Husbandry Bureau said the disappearance of horses from production represents only one aspect of the changes China's ethnic Mongolian people are undergoing in terms of both production and life.

Members of the Mongolian ethinic group in China have abandoned the nomadic life which focused on moving from place to place in search of water and grass, and have instead resorted to permanent homes. Yurts have been replaced by houses made of bricks and tiles.

Mongolian people initially abandoned the use of horses as early as four decades ago, but major changes have taken place in the past 20 years since the household responsibility contract system was introduced to the vast pastoral areas in Inner Mongolia, according to the offical.

"Many of the horse have been transferred to other jobs," said Yun Zhenlong, deputy director of the regional Tourism Bureau. An increasing numerous tourist centers which host over six million domestic and overseas visitors annually.

Herdsmen are still raising race horses for thousands of grand sports fairs, or "Nadam," held in Inner Mongolia each year. Horse races are one of the most popular events during the fairs.

The fact that China's largest nomadic group has abandoned horses for a comparatively stable life is also closely related to improvements in the region's transportation conditions.

Information from the regional transport administration shows the region's highway network stretches over 50,000 km, including some 80 percent constructed over the two couple of decades. Railways link 11 leagues and cities in Inner Mongolia, the sole exception being the Alxa League located deep in the Badain Jaran Desert, the third largest desert in the country. The region's seven airports offer regularly scheduled flights to over 40 cities in China and various major cities in other countries.


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