Hohhot, located in northern China, is a renowned city known for its ethnic roots. It is not only home to many places of interest, but also endowed with picturesque landscapes. The culture and its richness is demonstrated through the unique folksongs, dances and Mongolian-style wrestling events. These and more will contribute to a pleasant and unforgettable stay here. Visitors credit their enjoyment to the natural landscapes in Hohhot.They include theHuitengxile grassland, Gegenlata and Xilamuren. The grasslands are filled with rivers glistening under the sky and extend as far as the eye can see. For those from urban regions, the grassland an ideal place to get away from the noise and enjoy what nature has to offer.
Mongol Stringed Instrument
Mongol stringed instrument is the most representative folk musical instrument. Since its end has the shape of a horse head, it’ has been called “horse head instrument” in Chinese. The structure of Mongol stringed instrument is simple, including a thin and long body as well as a fiddle bow. It can be played solo, duet and concerto. Its sound is deep, booming and sonorous.
Yurts are the places where generations of Mongolians live; they are traveling tents. As the Mongolians lead a nomadic life and live in places where there is water and grasses, they invented a convenient yurt that could be taken up or down.
Yurt has a history of more than a thousand years. It was called “Gonglu” or “Zhanzhang” in the past. It is a cylinder with a spike roof. The yurts are generally supported by struts made from willow and camel-hair strings, with 1 to 2 coats of white felts covering the tops and sides. There is a skylight in the middle of the yurt for daylighting and ventilation.
Offering Sacrifices to Aobaos
Aobao is translated as a pile of stones in Mongolian. Aobao is generally built in high hills with piles of stones. It has the shape of a round ball, or it is round on its top and rectangular in its base, resembling a beacon tower. There is a long pole sticking to its top; horns of domesticated animals, flags of scriptures and colorful ribbons are tied to the pole. The items inside the Aobaos are various: some have five cereals; some have bows and arrows; some have Buddhist statures. Most of the Aobaos y stand alone on the hills, but there are groups of Aobaos that amount to between 7 and 13 of them. The Aobao standing in the middle is bigger than its surrounding ones. Once Aobaos are built up, every year, the nearby residents will go there and offer sacrifices to pray for a better life. Offering sacrifices to Aobaos is the most important and prevailing sacrificial activity for the Mongolian people. On May 20, 2006, this custom was placed on the first List of Chinese Intangible Cultural Heritages with the permission of the State Council.
Sacrificial Activities:As the customs and traditions of the herds vary greatly in different regions, not all the time and forms of offering sacrifices to Aobaos are the same. Generally, the time for offering sacrifices is in late May and the beginning of June in Chinese lunar calendar, and sometimes in July and August (in Chinese lunar calendar). During this time, the water is abundant, the grasses are lush and the herds are robust. A single region can offer sacrifices by itself; some regions can jointly do this. The Siklingelei County is the place where the tradition of offering sacrifices to Aobaos is well-preserved.
The scene of offering sacrifices to Aobaos is grandeur. Herdsmen living near the Aobaos would drive their jiggers, ride horses or get on buses to reach the Aobaos with sacrifices such as Hadas, muttons and milk. When offering sacrifices, they offer Hadas and sacrifices first. In some regions, they even ask lamas to recite the scriptures on the spot. Then, they kneel down and perform the kowtow. Afterwards, they add stones to the Aobao or mend the Aobao with willow branches, and hang up new banners of scripture and colorful ribbons. Finally, people that participate in the sacrificial ceremony would walk around the Aobao three times in a clockwise direction and pray for a better life. At the same time, they would offer the milk, wines, creams, snacks and sugars they bring to the Aobao.
After the sacrificial ceremony, the local people hold traditional activities such as horse-racing, shooting, discus-throwing, singing and dancing. Some of the young men and women would sneak out of the crowd and climb hills together. They open their hearts to each other and fall in love with each other. When it’s time to say goodbye, they ask for the next date. This is what dating after offering sacrifices to Aobaos is defined as.
The Three Feats of the Mongolian Men
The competition of the three feats of the Mongolian men is annually held during the Nadam Fair, where they vary from wrestling, horse-racing and shooting.
Wrestling is the most important one in the three feats. After Genghis Khan was elected the khan of Mongolia, he made wrestling an important subject of examination for officials and soldiers. In the folk, wrestling was also designated as the first event of competition during festivities. People adopt one-off elimination system in wrestling. Wrestlers wear high boots, large silk-made wrestling trousers and feather gilets, which are all featured by a unique ethnic style. In the songs of praise, they stride around the round once just like the ancient knights. The wrestler that wins the competition will be awarded with a sheep, several bricks of tea or even a horse with a golden saddle.
Shooting is a recreational competition sport that combinemilitary function and hunting together. There are two types of shooting: standing shooting and horse-racing shooting. When standing shooting, the shape, weight, length and stress of the bows and arrows are various and the distance from the shooting line to the bull’s eye is also different. As to horse-racing shooting, the competitor should shoot while racing with the horse. Excellent shooters are able to shoot with unfailing accuracy, winning over rounds of applauses from the spectators.
Horse-racing is one of the most important festivities and the most compelling event. Children are allowed to be involved in horse-racing. The racers stand in a line with colorful belts tied to their waists and bright kerchiefs bond to their heads. By participating in the racing competition, they show their excellent horses and outstanding racing skills. There are two types of horse-racing, including: the normal horse-racing and galloping horse-racing. In normal horse-racing, up to hundreds of people are involved. The racer who crosses the finishing-line first is the most popular and widely acknowledged athlete. He will be awarded with prizes. As to the galloping horse-racing that entails superb racing skills, only adults are allowed. This racing style calls for steadiness, good movements and high speed of the horses.