Inner Mongolia, green steppe, arid desert and lengthy sections of the Great Wall of China

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Inner Mongolia is a vast territory that stretches in a great crescent for some 1,490 miles (2,400 km) across northern China. Its capital is Hohhot (Huhehaote).

Han (Chinese) constitute the bulk of the population, and the largest minority population is that of the Mongols. Minor groups include the Hui (Chinese Muslims), Manchu, Daur (Dawo’er) Mongols, Evenk (Ewenki, or Ewenke), Koreans, and Oroqen (Elunchun) peoples.

In Chinese, the province is known as “Inner Mongolia”, where the terms of “Inner/Outer” are derived from Manchu dorgi/tulergi. Inner Mongolia is distinct from Outer Mongolia, which was a term used by the Republic of China and previous governments to refer to what is now the independent state of Mongolia plus the Republic of Tuva in Russia.

After Genghis Khan unified the Mongol tribes in 1206 and founded the Mongol Empire, the Tangut Western Xia empire was ultimately conquered in 1227, and the Jurchen Jin dynasty fell in 1234. In 1271, Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan established the Yuan dynasty.

Soon after the Tumu incident in 1449, when the Oirat ruler Esen taishi captured the Chinese emperor, Mongols flooded south from Outer Mongolia to Inner Mongolia. Thus from then on until 1635, Inner Mongolia was the political and cultural center of the Mongols.

Land, Climate and Economy

Inner Mongolia is essentially an inland plateau with a flat surface lying at an elevation of about 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) above sea level and fringed by mountains and valleys.

Inner Mongolia largely consists of the northern side of the North China Craton, a tilted and sedimented Precambrian block. In the extreme southwest is the edge of the Tibetan Plateau where the autonomous region’s highest peak, Main Peak in the Helan Mountains reaches 3,556 metres (11,670 ft), and is still being pushed up today in short bursts. Most of Inner Mongolia is a plateau averaging around 1,200 metres (3,940 ft) in altitude and covered by extensive loess and sand deposits. The northern part consists of the Mesozoic era Khingan Mountains, and is owing to the cooler climate more forested, chiefly with Manchurian elm, ash, birch, Mongolian oak and a number of pine and spruce species. Where discontinuous permafrost is present north of Hailar District, forests are almost exclusively coniferous. In the south, the natural vegetation is grassland in the east and very sparse in the arid west, and grazing is the dominant economic activity.

Much of the western territory is barren, characterized by shifting sands and sparse vegetation. Some drought-resistant grasses and shrubs grow in areas of higher precipitation, and the central government has pursued a program of planting millions of trees on the southern and eastern edges of the arid region.

In the centre and the north, rainfall and snow are absorbed by the desert.

Due to its elongated shape, Inner Mongolia has a four-season monsoon climate with regional variations. The winters in Inner Mongolia are very long, cold, and dry with frequent blizzards, though snowfall is so light that Inner Mongolia has no modern glaciers even on the highest Helan peaks. The spring is short, mild and arid, with large, dangerous sandstorms, whilst the summer is very warm to hot and relatively humid except in the west where it remains dry. Autumn is brief and sees a steady cooling, with temperatures below 0 °C (32 °F) reached in October in the north and November in the south.

The seasons are marked by sharp fluctuations in the climate. Spring arrives in May and lasts for two months. The development of farming is handicapped by a frost-free period that lasts only from 60 to 160 days and by droughts, which occur almost annually.

Inner Mongolia, with almost one-third of China’s grassland and about one-fourth of its pasture area, has been traditionally renowned for its livestock.

Sheep are the main livestock raised, and cattle, horses, pigs, and camels are also important.

Inner Mongolia’s industry is based on the territory’s great and varied mineral wealth: some 60 different types have been found in the region. There are rich iron-ore deposits at Bayan Obo (Baiyun Ebo), about 75 miles (120 km) north of Baotou, and Inner Mongolia has one of the world’s largest deposits of rare-earth metals—some two-thirds of known reserves. Coal, mined near Baotou and at other locations, is in thick seams and easy to extract, thus providing a ready energy source for industrial development.

The rail system links the region to the remainder of China. Major railway junctions are Baotou, Hohhot, and Jining. With the advent of industrial development, several new railways were constructed in Inner Mongolia. The Jining and Ulaanbaatar International Railway (completed in 1955) connects China with Mongolia and with Russia.

Culture

Inner Mongolia’s culture bears the deep imprint of Tibetan Buddhist influence. In liturgical music, monastery and temple architecture, scriptural learning and commentary, and religious arts, the Mongols accepted the forms of Tibet. Though the specific content and emphasis of Mongol folk legends vary somewhat with the location and with tribal or clan history concerning their origins, most clans have legends of their founders as either a mythical animal or a hero; others preserve legends about historical figures once prominent in the life of their clan.

The subjects and themes of Mongol folktales and other forms of vernacular literature tend to be standard among all the tribes. A large number concern lamas and religious life. Legends and songs as well as riddles and jokes occupy the leisure time of the night camp and its fireside circle, which form a major aspect of traditional Mongolian life.

With the increasing Sinicization of the region—in terms of both numbers and influence—many Han cultural forms have become prominent.

Inner Mongolia traditionally has been an area of mixture and contact between the agrarian Chinese and the pastoral and nomadic Mongolians. The continuous territorial changes that have affected it have therefore signified the contradiction of diverse cultures and conflicting loyalties. Inner Mongolia has thus served as a testing ground for Chinese efforts to integrate Han and Mongols into a single unified political entity.

Travel Guide

Inner Mongolia has a peculiar natural scenery, long history and brilliant culture. There are many attraction sites in this area. Some of the key attraction sites are:

Wudangzhao Monastery in Baotou is a vast complex and used to be the residence of the highest ranking lama in Inner Mongolia and now it is the only intact Tibetan Buddhist monastery there.

Inner Mongolia is the hometown of Genghis Khan (1162-1227), the great leader of Mongolians. Genghis Khan’s Mausoleum, located 185 kilometers (about 71 miles) south of Baotou, holds his clothing buried in his memory.

Dazhao Temple is one of the biggest and best-preserved temples in Hohhot. Xilituzhao Palace is the largest surviving Lama temple in Hohhot.

Zhaojun Museum, six miles to the south of Hohhot, is located on one of the most beautiful scenes of ancient times. A legend says that each year, when it turned cold and grass became yellow, only this tomb remained green and so it got the name Green Tomb (Qing Zhong).

Wanbu Huayanjing Pagoda, also called White Pagoda, used to be a place where nearly ten thousand volumes of Huayan Scripture were preserved. It is an exquisite and magnificent brick-wood structure about one hundred and fifty feet tall.

Arxan National Forest Park, located in the southeast of the Greater Hinggan Mountains, is covered with primeval forests. Visitors can appreciate the beautiful landscape formed by solidified lava, including Heavenly Lake and Shitanglin Forest. Besides, tourists can also find mineral spring and all kinds of wildlife there.

Populus Euphratica Forest in Ejina, located in the northwest of Ejina, Alxa of Inner Mongolia, is known as one of  only three surviving populous euphraticas forests in the world and has over 20 scenic spots, such as Taolai woods – young populus Eeuphratica, paddle populus euphratica – best spot for photography, welcoming populus euphratica, hero woods – over 1,000-Year-Old Euphrates Poplars, etc.

But what is most attractive about Inner Mongolia is its vast grasslands, including the Hulunbuir Prairie, Xilamuren Grassland, Gegentala Grassland, Xilingol Grassland and Huitengxile Grassland are  all good places for a grassland experience. The mushroom-like yurts, bright sky, fresh air, rolling grass and the flocks and herds moving like white clouds on the remote grassland, all contribute to make the scenery a very relaxing one. While visiting the place you may try different activities such as Mongolian wrestling, horse & camel riding, rodeo competitions, archery, visiting traditional families and enjoying the graceful Mongolian singing and dancing. The best time to visit the grassland is definitely during the traditional Mongolian Nadam Festival period when there is a better chance to both participate and feel the lively atmosphere of the grassland life.

You can also visit deserts in Inner Mongolia. The deserts are located in the western part of the province: the most famous and visited ones are Badain Jaran Desert, Tengger Desert and Kubuqi Desert. Early autumn (from the middle of August to the end of September) is the best time to explore the desert as the temperatures are very temperate.

Edited by staff

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