April 19th, 2012
11:10 AM GMT
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Inner Mongolia, China (CNN) - The Mongols once dominated China, just part of their vast empire stretching from Moscow to Guangzhou. Eventually, the Chinese chased out their conquerers and claimed Mongol land - an area now known as Inner Mongolia.

Today, only one in five of the autonomous region's near 20-million people are ethnic Mongolian, leading to fears their culture could disappear.

Anda Union, a traditional Mogolian folk singer, told CNN’s Eunice Yoon: "It is very difficult for us to preserve our Mongolian culture in this big cultural environment because there are so many different cultures all competing with each other.”

In the regional capital Hohhot, it appears the Han Chinese are winning that competition. Many Chinese have been moving here, attracted by government policies to modernize Inner Mongolia.

Baocheng - who like many Mongolians goes by one name - has seen his street, once a trading area for livestock, transformed over the past five decades.

"It used to be a bustling area, it was like a festival," he said.  "Back then we were all wearing traditional Mongolian clothing."

To preserve his culture, Baocheng collects saddles - 400 of them so far - worn and weathered over centuries on the steppe. They are now cultural relics.

"Mongolians are now reluctant to sell their saddles," Baocheng said. "We all want to preserve the treasures that our ancestors left us."

The government is encouraging herdsmen to hang up their saddles by providing subsidies to relocate to the cities - a move authorities say will help protect the grasslands from overgrazing and environmental degradation.

But the decade-long effort has fueled anti-government sentiment among an ethnic minority frustrated as mining and development continue to encroach on grazing land, and who, despite massive government investment in the economy, feel left behind.

Last year, that anger erupted into protests. Demonstrations swept a number of cities here after a Chinese truck driver for a coal mine struck and killed a Mongolian herder.

In response to the protests - and in an effort to create a peaceful mixed community - the government vowed to shut illegal mines and is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in education and programs to promote Mongolian culture.

The two peoples do manage to live side by side, even as more Chinese flock to the plains.

Mongolian herder Erden says he understands the government's predicament. He says life is more comfortable for him now, though he's nostalgic for the nomadic traditions of his childhood.

"We Mongolians used to have a big population here, but now our numbers are getting smaller and smaller," he said.

He added: "There are things I miss about that way of life, but there is nothing I can do about it now."

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. warrior

    The situation in Inner Mongolia is worse than that in Tibet and Xinjiang because 20 million Han illegal immigrants are ruthlessly exploiting the fragile steppe land. The main reason for over-grazing and desertification are happenning because Han immigrants have taken over much of the Inner Mongoliand land, and pushed Mongolian herders to little land where they have graze their livestock. Of course, the over grazing and desertification are occuring because of the Chinese take-over the land. In contrast, the democratic and economically successful (it had highest GDP growht in the world in 2011) Mongolia in the north does NOT suffer from over grazing and desertification simply becuse they are no Chinese there to exploit the resources.

    Another important reason why Inner Mongolians are more active now is that Mongolia is a successful democracy with the fastest growing economy, and Inner Mongolians wish to join their brethrens in the North.

    Ultumately, the Mongols will defeat the Chinese and kick them out of Inner Mongolia because the Mongolians are toughest warriors in history. In contrast, the Chinese can not fight! This is reason why China was bullied by the Mongols for many thousand years, and forced them to build the Great Wall!

    April 19, 2012 at 11:44 am |
  2. jan

    warrior, what a crap you written here.

    April 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  3. That'snotTrue:[

    @ Warrior
    Are you Shadowsnw, John H Davis ect...? The only one that believe your imaginitive history/ lie is you...

    April 19, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  4. IPman

    If the Mongolian culture was so attractive, the entire world would have been speaking Mongolian by now.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  5. S

    How can a nomatic cutule stand still and win a modernized culture. Too many traditional cutule has disappeared while all human developing.It's not a falth but only a trend.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:31 am |
  6. jay

    @warrior, what's the f@#&%$#!! are you talking about? If that's the case, you should complain, everyone should complain about western influence even Chinese. Han illegal immigrants? In China? What's the f%$#@!@#$%!!!!

    April 20, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  7. warrior


    Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia was invaded by China in 1949-1951. Therefore, according to the UN resolutions , the Chinese immigrants are illegal immigrants who should be subject to forced deportations! This is the international law! Hopefully, USA and NATO will implement this law and liberate Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia from the Chinese one day!

    April 20, 2012 at 9:51 am |
  8. jay

    @warrior, you won!!! I admire you and I salute you!!! According to Genghis Khan, there are many illegal countries stretching from Moscow to Guangzhou, of course including China. So please demand UN, USA, NATO and all craps to ask China to disappear. Case rest. Amen.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  9. Marco Hsiao

    My ANU (Australian National University) senior friends are teaching at Jiangxi Normal University on Nanchang in Mainland China from Australia. I been to Nanchang of Jiangxi province to see them. On Friday we enjoyed a wonderful dinner at a restaurant of Nanchang.

    Now Nanchang is prosperous, lots of new businesses are operating, Wal*Mart is close to "Square of Eight One", and surrounding with 3 KFC Fried Chicken, their businesses are all nice. Nanchang also has 4 big beautiful lakes with wonderful garden. On Saturday many parents bring their happy children playing on "Park of Eight One" with interesting devices of children playing.

    I also visited magnificent "Pagoda of King Teng" 滕王閣 on Gang River (贛江). King Teng is son of great Emperor Tang Taizong. Possibly Emperor Tang Tzizong has a little blood of Inner Mongolia. Certainly from third emperor to last emperor of the Qing Dynasty have Mongolian blood.

    April 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  10. Marco Hsiao

    Along Gang River, 20-30 skyscrapers have been built or are building. China (Mainland China + ROC Taiwan + Hong Kong /Macau) is rising, and moving to prosperity and harmony. "Culture clash in Inner Mongolia" is a wrong topic.

    No clash, that is illusion of US media, the US media must face fact; (making wrong report to prompt US military budget is immoral, and would let the US to decline faster.)

    In about 2025 China's GDP and military will surpass the US, and after 2050 China will dominate the world for a long time possibly. Wrong report would mislead the US strategy and influence the commercial opportunities of the US.

    (22 April 2012, This comment is sent from Shenzhen in Guangdong province, yesterday I was in Jiangxi province.)

    April 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  11. warrior


    Nobody is trying to rebuilt the Mongol Empire – from the Pacific to Hungary and from Arctic to Vietnam. But modern Mongolians are willing to recover their lost land (50 percent of historic Mongol land ) and peoples – more than 4 million Mongols from the Chinese colonialists. In modern China, Inner Mongolia, northern and western Heilongjiang, western Jilin, large parts of Liaoning, northern Hebei, Northern Gansu, and Eastern Xinjiang are historic Mongol lands.

    I hope one day USA and NATO defeat China and free Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia from EVIL China!

    April 23, 2012 at 6:30 am |
  12. raj_mumbai

    For all the americans here. You already destroyed a whole civilization when you invaded north america, so please you have no right to say anything to the chinese

    April 27, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  13. Luther

    nice try Raj... come back when India doesn't have a class (caste) system worse than jolly 'ol England!

    gimme a break.. the USA and us Canadians and other former 'colonists" are not guilty of the crimes of our forefathers. At least we recognize them. It was over a hundred years ago... I say we demand a Pre-Roman map of Europe next...ya! I want reparations from Italy!

    May 1, 2012 at 1:30 am |
  14. 魏俊甫

    Iam a chinese young ,i love my country .we have a long history ,and gental culture .our goverment love and work hard for my country .please don't insult my country,gental man .and i know amercia ever be a cure social ,white enslave black ,regard them as a animal .i respect your country as you did lot of contribution to the world ,but please don't break other's life.

    June 30, 2012 at 4:09 am |
  15. Doug

    I don't know much about the history of Inner Mongolia but under Luther's argument and warrior's claim that this was done in 1949-1951. Then all of this happened under our forefathers direction. The people in power in 1949 have all passed (even if you were a 20 year old government official in 1949 (who wouldnt have had much say anyways) you would be over 80 now and wouldnt be able to do anything even if you wanted to). So, the current generation of leaders in China are not subject to the 'crimes' of our forefathers. I'm ABC by the way. I try to see both point of views. I believe that western media is often overly critical of China. At the same time, although i see China as getting better (I live in the US and spend a lot of time in China, the gov blocks they have here aren't as debilitating as you might think. Yeah, i believe they should be removed but its very easy to live here without the likes of facebook and youtube. There are actually chinese equivalents like renren amd youku) I believe it can go farther, faster. You must all realize that the current Chinese government is still very young. In the first 63 years of the American government, how many mistakes were made. what about the countless errors of european governments until they finally 'got it right.' The PRC has come far since its establishment in 1949. Could you imagine the economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping during the first years after the civil war? Stop slamming China just because you may feel threatned by their rise to economic power. There are problems, but given time, i'm sure they will be righted. Even if it will be a difficult and long journey.

    July 6, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  16. Trey


    This article is nonsense. There are so many things wrong this article and people who side with this. However, the problem with this article and the people who side with this is the lack of acknowledgement that this is nothing new in this world. Most of the time, it has been the Western so called democratic countries that have done this. France, UK, Belgium, Portugal, Spain,....they all did it to countries in Africa, Latin America, U.S. In the case of the U.S., look at the almost 200 year genocide that was done to the Native Americans. Not saying what China is doing is ok but at least they are trying to promote and sustain the culture whereas a lot of the so called "democratic" countries didn't then nor now try to preserve any native culture of a country. All China is doing is copying what the Western countries did to them and others and Western countries fail to realize that they started all of this. He who throws a rock at someone gets a thousand rocks thrown at them.

    July 9, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
  17. 寻找小王子

    warrior,i think you wrong .
    The law of the jungle

    July 10, 2012 at 1:45 am |
  18. 寻找小王子

    law of jungle

    July 10, 2012 at 1:47 am |
  19. James

    This will be a repeat of what the Europeans did to the Native Americans except the Europeans are now the Chinese and the Mongolians are Native Americans. I guess I can't blame them since the Mongol way of life is obsolete. It needs to be replaced.

    July 20, 2012 at 3:32 am |
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