Naadam Festival: the Mongol’s Annual Olympic, Carnival and Trade Festival
The Picturesque Inner Mongolia Grassland
Naadam means “amusement and entertainment”. With history dated back to 1225AD, it is initially known as "the three manly sports" (Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery), among which only wrestling is man’s “privilege”. It is held by the Mongols each July to August when the pastures are lush and the horses well-fed.
the Majestic Marching on the Opening Ceremony of Naadam Festival
The Mongols dress up for this festival
The Mongolian Grils in Traditional Costume
the Young Musicians
In general, the festivities kick off with a colorful parade of athletes, horse riders, monks, soldiers, musicians and dancers marching in perfect uniformity, musicians performing mighty military tunes, and Mongolians dressed in warrior uniforms or uniforms which representing Mongolia's numerous ethnic groups. In Northeastern China’s Da Xing’An Ling area, the traditional open ceremony customs and contents of Naadam festival are well preserved. Naadam epitomizes the Mongalian culture, customs from multi-dimension and enhances the cohesion of ethnic groups as well as fosters the patriotism spirit.
Nadam falls into three category: the big-sized one, the medium-sized one and the small-sized one. 512 wrestlers and 300 horses qualify for a big-sized Naadam which usually lasts 7-10 days; 256 wrestlers and 100-150 horses qualify for a medium-sized Naadam, which usually lasts 5-7 days. 64 or 128 wrestlers and 30 or 50 horses are necessary for a small-sized Naadam, and it will last 3-5 days. Everyone can apply to compete in Nadam, regardless of his or her ethnic origin and religious belief.
Festivities of Naadam Festival :The Three Manly Sports
“The Three Manly Sports” – horse racing, wrestling and archery are the prevailing and dominating part of Naadam. Another popular activity held in Naadam Festival is the playing of games using sheep anklebones that serve as game pieces and tokens of both divination and friendship. In the larger Nadaam festivals, tournaments may take place in a separate venue. Here follows the detailed introduction:
The Wrestlers Dance before the Contests Kick off
At Ulaanbaatar, a number of 512 or 1024 wrestlers will make a grand entrance to fight in a no weight-classes single-elimination tournament that lasts nine or ten rounds in the stadium, for the ultimate title “State Titan”. The participants usually wear two-piece costumes consisting of a tight shoulder vest made of cow leather (zodog) and shorts (shuudag) which outline their well-built body. The special tight-fitting costume leave their chest bare, proving the wrestler is male. Legend has it that long ago many men were once defeated by a woman, thus the costume had to expose the chest. They also put on the Mongolian boots reinforced with leather strings around the edges, and wearing the red-yellow-blue silk ribbon around the neck. Assuming an air of pride and confidence, they perform the eagle dance, and sing the inspiring march song before they spare no efforts to win the contest. The whole scene is a marvelous and stunning one.
special tight-fitting costume ensuring participants are male
In Inner Mongolia wrestling, any part of the body other than the feet touches the ground will lose in the game
Archery follows wrestling as an essential part of the Naadam festival, it enjoys long history. Since ancient times, the bows and arrows were the dominant weapons used by their forefathers to hunt animals (the Mongols hunted hares with bows and arrows while riding at full speed in sixth century) and to fight in the endless tribe wars (Thanks to the unparallel archery skills of his formidable armies, Genghis Khan united all the scattering tribes and established a great kingdom.). Thus the Mongols feel emotionally attached to the bows, and deem it as the token of man, a sign of social status. They carry it around, not just as a weapon, but as a mascot meanwhile.
Archery on horseback
The rule in nowadays’ Naadam festival varies slightly. Different with archery elsewhere which has only one target, the Mongolian archery has hundreds of targets or “surs” on a huge wall. The team consists of ten men or women has to hit 33 "surs". Men stand 75 meters away from the target while women from 65 meters away. The judge will utter hooray when the archer hits the target. The team, winning over first all archers qualifies for the next round. Only the top three archers can compete in the final round. During the championship, judges will stand next to the target and sing a song called Uukhai before the archer is ready for a shot. As soon as the arrow hits the target, the song's melody changes and an experienced archer immediately learns about how many cylinders were hit. The winners of the contest will be honored the titles of "national marksman" or "national markswoman".
The Mongol horses roam around the grassland and forest, surviving and thriving in the harsh environment with temperature ranges from 30°C in the summer to -40°C in the winter and feed on their own, famous for their duration and strength. The Mongols, esteemed as “race on the horseback”, has live a Nomadic life style for centuries and depends on horses on various aspects deeply. They ride to hunt, to fight, to trade, and horse is their key transportations means, they also associate horses with power, strength and loyalty and value excellent horsemanship as one of the necessary skills of a man. Nowadays “the three manly sports” have enriched the Naadam festival, making it more charming. Colorful silken tunics, fresh-faced nomads, thundering hooves, flying arrows, wrestling bouts, thousands of thrilled spectators is the common scene typical of Naadam festival, big or small.
The horse racing is heating up
Several months before the Naadam, the training of both horses and their riders (jockeys) begins. (Though riders are an important part of this contest, the aim of the contest is to test the ability of horses). The horses are fed on a special made diet, and trained to get used to hungry and high heat situation. They young riders are trained to handle various problems probably occur during the contest. The distance of horse racing varies with the age of the horses. Two-year-old horses race for 15 km, three-year-old for 20km, four-year-old for 22km and horses older than five years old 30km. Regarding the number of participating horses, there is no limit. In each race, usually a mass of 200 to 1000 horses are chosen to compete.
According to history record, this festival came into its own in 13th century. In year 1225 AD, Genghis Khan mounted an expedition to the west and conquered Khwarezm after a bloody and fierce battle. To celebrate the painstaking victory, they held a magnificent archery contest, the prototype of today’s Naadam. Since then, the thriving Mongolian tribe holds the Naadam Festival on various occasions include selection of chief generals, celebrating war victory, the inauguration of a clan leader, the enthronement of a khan or on the Banner tribes’ gathering. Gradually, “the three manly sports” integrated into the traditional Naadam Festival and became its indispensible part. Since the Mongolian’s emperor Kublai Khan had established the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), Naadam took deep root and gained more popularity. In Qing Dynasty (1636-1911), Naadam became a government-run and organized event, its content and forms had undergone dramatic changes. It is held twice per year, or annually or every two years. The winners are awarded with horses, camels, cows, sheep or tea and silk as prizes. Nowadays, with activities such as horsemanship, Judo, motorcycle performance, marksmanship, chess, reciting epics, polo, film, drama, singing, dancing, track and field competitions like basketball, volleyball integrating into the festival, it has evolved into a grand and comprehensive event catering to celebration, sacrifice ritual, sports competition, cultural entertainment, domestic and cross border trade needs perfectly. In a word, it is a mass artistic, sports and trade event participated in by people of all ages. Boys and girls also take the opportunity to show their love, i.e. the so-called "meeting at Aobao".
Passed down from generation to generation in the past 800 years, the Naadam Festival gains popularity among the Xilingol Grassland and spreads to other areas. It is adorned by people of all ages and is the most important transmitting channel of the Mongolian traditional culture. The festivities typical of Naadam embody beauty, strength and intelligence of the Mongols, mirroring their mentality, culture, philosophy in an all-round way. Characterized by profound and expansive culture content, the Naadam Festival showcases and represents the Mongolian ethnic group’s value orientation and aesthetic taste, To explore, protect and preserve the Naadam Festival’ s customs ,contents and forms is of significant value to the enrichment of sport history of both China and worldwide.
Yammy roasted lamp
well cooked lamp
Cannot wait to experience the Mongols’ annual Olympic, Carnival and trade event? Join the Naadam with us to immerse yourself with its culture, to indulge yourself in the pleasure it will bring, to feast your eye on the marvelous dancing and sports competition scene, to stay in the local herdsmen’s’ family or a well-decorated 5 star Mongolian yurt overnight and watch the stars in the crystal dark blue sky, to taste the delicious specialty food like milk tea, finger mutton, roast lamb, cheese ,to breathe the most fresh air and let your mind wonder freely around, in the place, bridges paradise and earth, soothing your nerves and purifying your soul.
1-888-414-0686 (US & CA)
Many people are looking for travel deals before their trip to China. We believe you may find a good China travel deal here that suits you best.
If you're looking for a great guide to the best and most interesting tourist attractions in China, then allow us to show you China from the inside.