Thursday, February 6, 2014

Keeping nomadic traditions alive in Inner Mongolia

Naranmandula's family have been herdsmen on the vast grasslands in China's Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region for decades. Development and urbanisation have brought him benefits, but he also faces fast-disappearing Mongolian traditions and the receding grassland that has been a lifeline for generations of Chinese Mongols.

Since the 1980s, the Chinese government has divided the grassland evenly for each household, ending centuries-old nomadic herding lifestyles.

Now Naranmandula lives in a brick house with heating instead of in a traditional Mongolian yurt, and he owns a motorbike that herds his 400 sheep more efficiently. But many things have been lost, he says, and it is hard to keep marching on the road of progress and still maintain a piece of his childhood lifestyle.

Naranmandula takes great pride in his two sons, both national athletes in wrestling and equestrian events, who live in the cities. He is glad that his sons are catching up with the modern life, but hopes one of them can come back and inherit the traditional way of life on the grasslands. There has always been a fight in his heart, he says, with development on one side and beloved memories of nomadic traditions on the other.

Naranmandula wants his grandchildren to go to college. As for him, he plans to keep working as a herdsman. When he dies, he wants his ashes to be scattered on the land just like his ancestors. It's Naranmandula's way of saluting his roots.

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