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The number of nomads in the Mongolian ethnic group decreases to an alarming level. Due to influence of urban lifestyle and severe weather conditions, a number of clans in the Mongol ethnic group lose their herds and move to the city areas. The nomadism reduction means that Mongolian people are at risk of losing their ethnic identity. This paper analyzes the other ethnic markers, which may give the Mongolians a sense of identity if nomadism continues to diminish or stays at its present level of about 15 percent of the population of Inner Mongolia. It explores the Mongolian lifestyle and their culture in an effort to find these ethnic markers.
The Mongolians are very homogenous ethnically. The existing survey claims that a high percentage of Mongolian population speaks one of the several dialects. The Mongol language is also related to Turkish, Kazakh, and even Uzbek (Bulag 30). Other native-speakers also understand all the languages, which people of Mongolia speak. However, there is a segment of Mongols known as Buryat ones who have inhabited the area around Lake Baykal and whose dialect is not easily understood. Therefore, this is one of the ethnic markers that the Mongols still have not fully understandable language to all. The Buryats are the most thorough pastoral group of the Mongols (Borchigud 278). They have also managed to stay clear of the foreign influences. There is the other ethnic marker that the Mongolian people have apart from the nomadism aspect, which is already disappearing due to westernization.
This marker includes the women’s headdresses. This can be recognized as an ethnic marker since women display the culture that they belong to using their attire. Therefore, the headdresses are different from the other communities’ ones, which makes them very significant (Bulag 30). Moreover, the rural Mongolians wear fur coats made with satin during winter while in the summer they prefer loose long sleeved robes. Some of the men’s accessories include a snuffbox and a knife for cutting meat. The Mongolians also wear knee-high boots with corn-shaped hats (Borchigud 278).
This nationality is also known for its love for horses. Mongolians grow up on horsebacks; therefore, horses are vital part of their culture. Consequently, Mongolian men pride themselves on good horsemanship. People say that a Mongolian without a horse is like food without salt. They hold approximately 3 million horses, which can be even underestimated number. This amount is compared to the number of Mongolians themselves by a wide margin. Horses live with people all through the summer and winter searching for food on their own. No other ethnic group in China can be compared to Mongolians in terms of love for horses. Hence, this is a huge ethnic marker (Bulag 32).
The Mongols also have their belief system, which provides a good ethnic marker too. During ancient times, Mongolians believed in Shamanism. Afterward, the red sect of Lamaism started to collect followers from the Mongolian heads. The Lamas got privileges of receiving different titles and ranks. Therefore, they took possession of numerous herds and ultimately gained huge pieces of land (Borchigud 279). The Lamas influence was on the Mongolian tribe was strong and led to the increase of former, which resulted in a serious impediment to the growth of the population.
Monogamy is one of the practices that the Mongolians have. Marriages were usually arranged by parents (Bulag 33). The latter also demanded a lot of gifts as the bride price for a woman in the wedding. They would then proceed to chant Buddhist scriptures seeking for His protection. Aside from these, the Mongolians are mainly associated with music and poetry. They sing loud and passionate songs, which reflect the aspects of their culture. The Mongolians also have their national dances, which are very popular and even have their own names. One of them is known as the Ordos dance, which is consists of energetic choreography and the portrayal of the warmth of Mongolian people (Borchigud 300).
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From the recent findings, it has been noted that the ethnic groups in China have been showing strong feelings of intragroup identity though native language. Moreover, the minorities demonstrated high levels of both perceived ethnic and national identity as compared to their counterparts in the other countries. From the survey, it becomes clear that the hypothesis of national identity connects to the various ethnic groups found in China. Therefore, it one can say that the relationships between ethnic groups in the country are regulated by a pact that they have made with the government and among themselves.
Even though the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongolians is in trouble of being forgotten due to the spreading of western culture, there are some other factors like history, culture, and kinship, which may be used as a basis for identity formation. With regard to history, the Mongolians are a tribe that has a rich heritage (Borchigud 278). One of the factors in their history is that “Mongol” was a name given to a tribe that roamed along a river in the past. They started to settle in Telunen, Onon, and along the river Tula. The Ming dynasty placed Mongolian settlements aunder their rule. Some of the Mongolian tribes pledged their allegience to the Ming dynasty while others did not. During the Qing dynasty governing, which existed during 1645-1911 the Mongol lords dispatched armies to fight it. They were also responsible for a lot of rebellions against their government. The Mongolians managed to break free from the Qing dynasty rule and unite. Due to their rich history, Mongolians gained their identity easily (Borchigud). The history of the Mongolian people has the proper power to detect them in the midst of the other ethnic subgroups in China (Bulag 35).
Another factor that one can use to identify the Mongolians’ culture is their traditions. This component is considered because they have very diverse customs. The Mongols are peaceful and friendly people, and they like visitors. One of the customs that may identify them from the other ethnic subgroups is the presentation of Hada to visitors. Hada is a Mongolian tradition that involves hanging a Holy auspice on the necks of their guests (Bulag 35). This act is to show the latter that they are important. After it the guests are supposed to bend forward to show gratitude. The Mongolian people also identify themselves with some customs like not touching children’s heads, not sitting beside Buddha and also not stepping on the threshold (Borchigud 279).
These traditions among others are the ways in which one can distinguish the Mongolian culture from one of the other ethnic groups. The Mongolians also have great respect for natural resources like fire and water. Therefore, in the Mongol community one should not even think of bathing in the river since it is considered holy. In the Mongolian society, kinship system was patrilineal and sons would establish their households in the same place where their fathers did. Parents also arranged marriages, and there was a bride price that a groom would pay. The bride price usually consisted of animals, an amount of which demonstrated the family’s social status. This issue can also be used as distinguishing factor of the Mongolians and the other ethnic subgroups in China (Borchigud 300).
This culture, however, has been subsequently affected by the modernization, and, hence nowadays Mongolian young people are able to choose partners on their own. However, this form of identification is still in jeopardy as people started to embrace interethnic marriages. There is a low level of them, which means that there is a high rate of awareness of ethnicity around the country. A study of the issue showed that there is indeed a widespread acceptance of the intermarriage system among the different ethnic subgroups in China. This, therefore, shows that it may be harder to maintain the identity of each tribe since once they marry they are likely to integrate each other’s customs (Bulag 40).
In the Mongolian society, the domestic units had the formation whereby some generations of the family would live in the same clan together in a nomadic camp, which was known as Khot ail. This among others ensured that the Mongolians had a way of being differentiated from other ethnic subgroups. Since the Mongol kinship system was not the same as compared to that of the other ethnic groups, it becomes apparent that this can be used to differentiate them from each other.
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Basing on the recent research, it is clear that the nomadism aspect of ethnicity in the Mongol tribe is diminishing as time goes by. It has been established that the reason for this is the western culture spreading, which is covering the world. This, in turn, makes Mongol people feel like they are losing their primary ethnic marker. However, looking deeper at their culture, it becomes clear that they have more than one ethnic marker, which can distinguish them from the other ethnic groups and save their identity.
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