Nadam Fair: A Grand Gathering in Winter

April 21, 2015
By Yu DelongEditor: Eileen Cheng
Herdsmen on Hulunbuir Grassland, in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, hold the Nadam Fair twice a year, the second time during the 12th lunar month. [Yu Delong]

Herdsmen on Hulunbuir Grassland, in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, hold the Nadam Fair twice a year, the second time during the 12th lunar month. Given the unique cultural elements of the fair, China in 2006 added the event to the list of the country's items of intangible cultural heritage.

Many banners, counties, towns and villages in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region hold the Nadam Fair twice a year, the first time during summer and the second time during winter. "Nadam" means both "entertainment" and "game" in the Mongolian language. During the fair, the Mongolians hold traditional sports competitions, such as horse racing, archery and wrestling. Residents, in splendid attire, gather on the grassland to dance and sing, and to pray for an abundant harvest and good fortune.

The predecessor of Nadam Fair was Ji'aobao, a traditional festival celebrated by the Mongolians on the 13th day of the seventh lunar month to worship Buddha and God, and to pray for good fortune during the coming year. In addition to singing, dancing and competing in sports, the Mongolians organize various recreational activities, including a food festival, a poemchanting competition and the showing of Mongolians' traditional clothes, during the fair. Through such activities, one can catch a glimpse of the unique charm of traditional Mongolian culture. Some residents also trade agricultural and livestock products during the fair.

Hulunbuir's Chen Barag Banner since 2000 has held the fair during the 12th month of every lunar year. Countless people, from all over the world, have visited the banner around that time, despite the freezing temperatures. Many of the tourists have taken delight in watching the sports competitions and recreational activities.

Events include a ceremony (to offer sacrifices to Buddha and God), the Mongolians' winter games and singing and dancing. In addition to the traditional sports, the Mongolians hold various competitions, including football, hunting and sleigh pulling. Visitors can also participate in activities such as skiing, riding horses and/or camels, motorcycle riding and tug-of-war.

As they sing and dance, the Mongolians express their gratitude to God for granting them winter, the most beautiful season during the year, so they can display the unique charm of the vast, snow-covered grassland to the world.

"If you visit our city during its 'ice period' (from October to the following year's April), you will no doubt be impressed by the beautiful views of the snow-covered forests and grasslands," says Tuo Ya, Director of Hulunbuir Tourist Administration. "You will surely take delight in learning about our folk customs."

 (Source: Women of China English Monthly December 2014 Issue)

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