Inner Mongolia: A Day in the Life

After traveling from Beijing to Hohhot, Batou, Ordos, and Xilinhot, the ChinaVine team arrived in East Ujimqin in Inner Mongolia. During our stay in this small, relatively remote town, we experienced a brief glimpse into a day in the life of a Mongolian herdsman and his family. 

Traditionally the Mongols of Inner Mongolia lived, and some continue to live, a nomadic life. Mongols respect nature and practice Animism and Shamanism. They revere the sky as Holy Father and the grassland as Holy Mother. The God of Heaven is Tengri. When Mongols gather in celebration, cattle or sheep may be sacrificed to honor Tengri in the hope that Tengri will grant good weather for abundant grasslands and healthy livestock. Not all livestock can be sacrificed. Female animals able to reproduce, head animals, and championship animals cannot be sacrificed.

The Inner Mongolian grasslands are ecologically fragile. The Mongolian nomadic lifestyle respects this fragility. The nomadic way of life, raising livestock, and the grassland as sustenance, promote a balanced and sustainable ecosystem. The video below provides visual examples of how this is currently the case. 

The Mongols are dependent on their livestock for meat. There are rituals and taboos as well as customized procedures for slaughtering cattle or sheep. The following video also shows visual examples of such customized procedures. Honizarha refers to the killing of a sheep. Out of respect for Tengri, the process first involves placing the sheep on its back, head to the north, and making a two inch incision in the chest. As soon as the cut is made, the butcher’s right hand is inserted into the sheep’s chest and cuts the aorta killing the sheep instantly. In this way, the sheep is relatively relaxed and experiences minimal pain and discomfort. The sheep’s soul quickly finds it way back to heaven. It is taboo to vocalize sympathy for the sheep and if it occurs will disrupt the sheep’s ability to return to heaven.