Raw displays of power and poise

By Xu Lin / Yuan Hui ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-08-22 08:14:19

Raw displays of power and poise

A young Mongolian from the club stands on a galloping horse. [Photo by Feng Yongbin / China Daily]

The Mausoleum of Genghis Khan Tourist Area, in common with other regions, holds the Naadam Festival of the Mongolians in summer, with horse races, wrestling and archery contests. At the event, Naadam aficionados from all over the country come to sample authentic Mongolian activities, such as horse riding and archery.

Visitors can stay on grassland farms, in traditional ger homes, and eat authentic local dishes such as lamp chops and dairy products, and enjoy horse riding by day and parties around bonfires by night.

Bayantsengel, 66, a 38th-generation descendant of the guards of the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, rubs shoulders with visitors to his farm, introducing horse culture and sometimes demonstrating his riding skills. On his farm he has 200 horses of seven breeds.

"Horses are just like humans, with all kinds of temperaments," he says. "I can tame any horse. I love them and I don't sell them."

He used to tour the grasslands of Inner Mongolia looking to buy good horses, he says.

"We used to raise horses to cultivate the land, but now we do it to keep our culture alive."

A horse understands human nature and is very honest, he says. It can even find its way home, and if someone who buys a horse fails to tether it, the animal can find its way back to its former owner.

Whenever the talk turns to horses, a broad smile appears and folds of Bayantsengel's wrinkled face seem to retreat. Like a leather saddle, his skin is highly tanned, and his default sitting position seems to be bolt upright. He rides horses every day, he says, even after drinking.

Brandishing a wooden stick about 70 cm long, he says some visitors think it is for hitting a horse, but it is in fact an aid for someone who wants to ride while they are drunk.

Equestrian performances can combine with Mongolian singing and dancing, to draw tourists. Last year a show called In Praise of Horses was unveiled in Xilinhot to showcase Mongolians' bonds with horses and their ethnic culture. There are more than 100 horses, about 80 percent of them Mongolian, in the show, and the rest, such as warm bloods, are from overseas.

The show's marketing director, Ta Na, says: "It helps promote local tourism and gives job opportunities to herders skilled at riding. ... We plan to put on a similar show in cities such as Beijing and Shenzhen."

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