Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Inner and Outer Mongolia?

(first posted on 9/13/12)
by  Charlotte Temple


Mongolia. I just had the vaguest idea of where Mongolia was when I received a brochure announcing a trip that included Mongolia as well as Yunnan province in China. It sounded so foreign and so inviting. I'd be learning more about Genghis Khan and the Gobi Desert. I'd be sleeping in gers (the age-old nomad dwellings), eating traditional foods, meeting the people, seeing the landscape and finally learning about Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia.

After many hours in flight -- more than 22 from Boston! -- I finally arrived at the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. To my surprise, it was a bustling, very Western looking capital with all the cars, traffic, restaurants and high-end shops one would see anywhere in the world. 

Mongolia is a landlocked country with Russia to its north and China to its south. It is the 19th largest country in the world (slightly smaller than Alaska) with just fewer than 3 million people, half of whom live in the capital. It's a young country, with 34% of its population under the age of 15. Outside of the city, most Mongols are nomads and horses are at the center of their lives. They are the main mode of transportation in the countryside and children as young as three are taught to ride. We hoped to have a taste of the traditional national beverage of Mongolia called airag which is fermented mare's milk, but unfortunately there was none available. A reason to return?

There are very few actual "sights" in Mongolia, but there is much to see. To visit Mongolia is to have the rare chance of seeing a nomadic society in action. The traveler to Mongolia must re-adjust her or his expectations to see what is distinctive about the culture and geography and not to expect what isn't there. Unlike other countries where you travel to see museums or landmarks, Mongolia is a country where you go to see the scenery and the people and experience the beautiful unspoiled countryside. It is dramatic, vast and open with gers materializing in the horizon, an occasional galloping herd of horses or flocks of sheep and goats wandering across the road or into the cemeteries. 

Gers are white round felt-lined tents that dot the Mongolian landscape. They look identical from the outside but can be quite elaborate and customized on the inside. Gers are perfect for the nomads since a family can assemble and disassemble them in under an hour. I was looking forward to spending some time in the gers, and on this trip we spent nine days in three separate ger camps in different parts of the country.
Because the places we wanted to see were so far apart, we spent a great deal of time traveling by bus. 

My first impression was that the countryside was uninteresting -- gray and fairly indistinguishable in every direction. But as we spent more time on the road, I began to see subtleties in the sweeping landscape -- shades of gray turned into pale green which then turned into light brown, patches of shrub grass appeared and just as quickly disappeared. Some areas were quite mountainous, and some were so flat that I felt as if I could see the curve of the Earth in the distance. 

I was quite curious about the types of food we would get in Mongolia and was pleasantly surprised at the variety, bearing in mind that this was Mongolia, not Italy. The meat was "meat," and we were never quite sure whether we were eating mutton, beef or yak, but it was all nicely spiced, marinated and appetizing. The vegetables served were limited, but quite ample consisting mainly of carrots, potatoes and onions. We also had lots of flavorful yogurt and yogurt cheeses. We met a retired chef from Germany who volunteers his time at various ger camps training the kitchen staff on ways to make their foods tastier and presentations more eye appealing.

But probably the most fascinating part of Mongolia was the Gobi desert. It was endless. We watched the sun rise and the sun set in the Gobi. We rode the two-humped Bactrian camels. We explored Vulture Valley and the Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag where dinosaur eggs and velociraptors were first found. We watched a sand storm approach and marveled at how half the sky was still blue and clear while the other half turned brown. The wind picked up and in seconds, the blue sky was gone... turned to sand. Some of us felt like it was a magical place. As we walked around our campsite, it seemed as if it was just miles and miles of miles and miles.

The difference between Inner and Outer Mongolia? Inner Mongolia is actually in China whereas Outer Mongolia refers to the actual country of Mongolia. Mystery solved.

Source:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charlotte-temple/photos-trip-to-mongolia_b_1850847.html#slide=1464103


Clarification and some explaining:

A word to those who wonder how come there are two Mongolia. Even for those who travel a lot like the author of the article above, it was a "mystery" what is all about "Outer" and "Inner" Mongolia, and it is still confusing for many more. I will try here  to explain it in a  few sentences.

1. First statehood on Mongolia's territories was formed  in 3rd century BCE ("Before Common Era" or BC-Before Christ,  if you will). It was called Khunnu Empire (also spelled as Xiongnu). So the Khunnu's were our ancestors.

Khunnu Empire (209 BC- 93 ), aka Xiongnu empire

2. In 198 BCE, Emporer of Han Dynasty of China  was defeated when he attempted to invade Khunnu territories.  He signed a treaty recognizing that all the territories to the north of the "Great Wall of China" belong to the Khunnu Empire  while the territories to the south of that wall should belong to Han dynasty of China. With that treaty the borders between Mongolia and China were set. Officially, so to speak.

3. In all other times except the above mentioned Khunnu Empire and  the Mongol Empire under Chinggis Khaan, Mongolic tribes used to maintain separate independent kingdom/confederations dividing the Mongolian territories. Since they suffered from constant struggle to gain the power over the entire territories and fought against each other often, those kingdoms became weak to defend themselves on their own against  foreign invaders, and even failed often to unite to fight against their common enemies. That is how Mongolian territories were divided in many parts, including the Southern Mongolia (aka "Inner"  Mongolia), Western and Eastern while the Central Mongolia  was  considered as the core.

4What is now "Inner" Mongolia was inhabited by Mongolic tribes and some non-Chinese people for a long time. They were all nomadic people. The history tells us that Chinese from the south tried to occupy this region and settle down during different time periods beginning  from as early as 340 BC. When they succeed migrant Chinese would move in and settle down and that is how they grew in numbers slowly. Especially during the Manchu Empire (Qing dynasty) period ,  lot of Chinese migrants moved to this region (Inner Mongolia).

5. The terms "Inner" and "Outer" originate from the Manchu  dynasty (aka Qing dynasty) period (1644-1912)  in China. Manchu people who were also nomadic  and called the Manchuria as their home , became powerful  and managed to bring Mongolian kingdoms under control and then  the Chinese territories as well.  The Manchus ruled the southern ("Inner") part of Mongolia directly while giving the northern (called "Outer") part  a special status by letting it just  pay tributes while  not interfering with its domestic matters.

Manchu Empire (aka Qing Empire)
6. Calling the Manchu Empire (or dynasty if you will) as "Chinese" Empire is totally wrong. But unfortunately it was and is still considered as a Chinese state internationally thanks to the confused scholars and their messages brought to the other world.  The thing is that Manchus have founded (not the Chinese) this Empire after they invaded Southern Mongolia (they called it "Inner" Mongolia because it was under direct control of Manchu Empire), Northern Mongolia (they called it "Outer" Mongolia because it was out of their "jurisdiction" if one excludes the paying tributes to them), Xinjiang (aka East Turkestan),  China and Tibet.
7.The fact that the Manchus made Chinese capital (Beijing) as its own and moved their government to this city should not be the reason to call  this Empire as Chinese.  The Manchus were foreign occupiers who ruled over  vast territories with the size of  13 million square kilometer (5 million square miles), including all the countries listed above, and were forced to end  their "career"  after a successful Chinese uprising in 1911. Of course there were many revolts and uprisings during the Manchus' rule but all were ended  unsuccessful  with the loss of tens and hundreds of thousand Chinese lives. Adopting Chinese style of governance and employing many Chinese officials shouldn't make this state "Chinese". Assimilation into the Chinese culture and lifestyle, or absorption into Chinese  as a nation during this time period and thereafter is a different question. As of today there are not  many Manchus of pure blood left in Manchuria.

8. China was ruled twice in  its history by foreign invaders. First the Mongols came and ruled there for about 100 years (1271-1368) and later the Manchus came (1644-1912) to rule for almost 270 years.
Ironically both invaders chose their capital to be on Chinese territory. Maybe they did it so because of the convenience of the  location and the mild weather which they liked. After their collapse both were kicked out of China but the Mongols kept their territories, even divided among their nobles when Manchus (i.e. Manchuria) were immediately became a part of China. So the claim by some  Chinese today that Mongolia used to "belong" to China (meaning  "Inner" and "Outer" Mongolia back in times of Manchu Empire) and therefore both should be part of China is absurd.  The answer is clear: The Chinese have never ruled in Mongolia and Manchu Empire (aka Qing dynasty) was not Chinese. So their claim is a pure nonsense.
On the contrary, we (Mongolia) should be claiming for our territory (of Southern Mongolia, aka "Inner"  Mongolia).

9. In 1634, after  "de  jure" King of Mongolia ( Ligden Khaan)  passed away, Manchus occupied the region what is now called "Inner" Mongolia, and that was the begin of Manchu's rule over that area while the northern part of Mongolia (current Mongolia proper) remained independent until 1691 when the Manchus finally brought it under their control. 
There was some uprising against the Manchu rule in "Inner" Mongolia but failed.

10. In 1911 "Outer"  Mongolia has declared its independence from Manchu Empire (Qing  dynasty) after its  collapse. Most of the noblemen of "Inner" Mongolia expressed their willingness to join  and be part of their northern  brothers but it didn't work out because of the conspiracy by  Russians and Chinese.
(In 1913-1914 "Outer" Mongolia has even sent  troops  to "Inner" Mongolia to free it from Chinese troops.)

In 1912 the Mongolian Government met with Russians to get their support in creating the Great  Mongolia including Mongolia proper and  "Inner" Mongolia  but  Russians didn't like the idea and refused to support. They preferred the Chinese request of giving  "Outer" Mongolia only a status of autonomy and "Outer" Mongolian officials were forced to sign the Three parties treaty in 1915. According to this treaty  "Outer" Mongolia became an autonomic region of China until the revolution in 1921 when Chinese were kicked out of the country.
"Inner Mongolia" bordering Mongolia 

"Inner" Mongolians meanwhile fought for their independence and  led a war against Chinese for 36 years until 1947 when it was given an autonomy  status and officially annexed to China, approved by major world powers. That is how it stayed, against the will of the native Mongols living in that region. The population consists now of 18 million Chinese and 4 million Mongols with the Mongols becoming the minority on their own soil.
The worse is that those Mongols were being pushed and discriminated by the migrant Chinese and Chinese policy, and their lands were becoming converted to mining objects, forcing the native herders to give up their traditional lifestyle more and more.

Buryat Mongolia (red) borders Mongolia
Their future is becoming very identical with the one of Buryat Mongols (a Mongol tribe) who live in Buryat  republic (borders  Mongolia in the north, a region annexed to Russia; used to have an official name Buryat Mongolian Republic but  the word Mongolia is no more included ) and becoming more "Russian", losing their original identity and language. The youngsters don't speak Mongolian at all and chasing after Russian girls to marry them while the older generation speaks still Mongolian (with Buryat accent) somewhat.

So "Inner" Mongolians (or southern Mongolians) and Buryat Mongolians (or northern Mongolians) are awaiting the same fate  in the future. Mongolia proper ("Outer Mongolia") remains as the mainland and the home of the Mongols, and  the magnet for  all Mongols in the world and will always welcome them.

1 comment:

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