map of Mongolia
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CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE

Mongolian culture has many distinctive features. They are closely connected with the life style. From ancient times on, Mongolian have lived in the vast lands of Central Asia. Raising livestock and nomadic living patterns have found reflection in everyday thinking and the culture.

One of the unique features of nomadic culture is that Mongolian people live in full harmony with Mother Nature. In comparison with settled peoples, the nomadic herders, face nature directly on a day in, day out basis. Through this, the herders are involved in a multifaceted relationship with nature. This is why Mother Nature is the theme of many epics, blessings, and well wishes. There are many traditions, customs, and teachings regarding the protection and care of Mother Nature. Tearing up flowers and grass, allowing filth into water systems, digging up and destroying land, killing of animals and destruction of forests are considered sins and are thus strictly prohibited even today.

Livestock Herding, the main source of the nomadic lifestyle, is another important trait of Mongolian culture. Mongolians have a history of raising and caring for their livestock. Horses, cattle, sheep, goats, and camels are praised as the "five treasures". Horses are considered the "emeralds" and are highly respected among the people. Thousands of teachings, sayings, proverbs, tales, epics, songs, and dances have been created in praise of the "five treasures'.

Shamanism is closely related to Mongolian nomadic culture. The tribes in Mongolia followed shamanism from the times of the Great Huns until the formation of the Uighur Empire. According to the "Secret History of the Mongols", and other historic sources, shamanism was the state religion until the introduction of Buddhism. Shamanism reflects the Mongolian feeling towards Mother Nature. For these reason shamans performed rituals of worshipping the master of mountains, water, sky and land. Some of these traditions, mixed with the Mongolian lifestyle, oral literature, folklore and symbolism, are important components of Mongolian nomadic culture.

Buddhism, introduced in Mongolian in the 16th century, played an enormous role in the development of Mongolian culture. The Mongolians' perceptions, psychology, traditions, thinking, and world outlook were enriched by the Buddhist philosophy and worldview.

An outstanding historical and cultural relic is the Mongol-un nigucha tobichiyan ( The Secret History of the Mongols). This work by an anonymous author dates to about 1240. The Secret History is a fusion of tense historical narration, folklore and old poetry. It is an honest, sincere account depicting Chinghis Khaan without embellishment or laudation. The book is not an apology of annexation campaigns or the conquerors' ambitious claims. All people are described as worthy and only the rulers are depicted as cunning, sly men, evoking feelings of disgust in the simple hearted Mongols.

NOMADS

Nomads: Mongolian population is divided into some ethnic groups. But, they have one thing common: they are nomads, or nomads at heart, even if they are urbanized. About half of 2.3mln Mongolians live in Gers, and 390.000 herdsmen look after 30 million livestock. They are truly nomadic, moving their gers and animals several times a year, constantly searching for better feed, water and weather. The life of a nomad, and therefore Mongolia, is inextricably linked to the nature and animals. Nomads learn to ride as soon as they can walk, they spend half their time looking for stray animals (there are almost no fences in Mongolia), carrying a type of lasso pole called uurga.

STATISTICS OF MONGOLIA

Official name of the country: Mongolia

Capital city: Ulaanbaatar, founded in 1639, over 1 mln inhabitants (2007)

Territory: 1,566,500 sq.km

Location: Northern Asia, between China and Russia (landlocked)

Land boundaries: 8.158 km, with Russia 3,485 km and with China 4,673 km

Population: 2.7 million

Average altitude: 1,580 m above sea-level

Average density: 1 person per 0.5 sq.km