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  Social and Political Transformation of the Mongols in China in the 20th Century

March 27-30, 2003, New York City

The Mongolia Society Annual Meeting

Organizer and Chair: Uradyn E. Bulag, City University of New York

Discussant: KONAGAYA Yuki, National Museum of Ethnology, Japan



Mongols in China underwent tremendous political, economic and cultural upheavals throughout the twentieth century, from struggles for independence or autonomy to environmental degradation. This panel aims to discuss four areas of inquiry: 1. the name “Inner Mongolia” given to the territorial institution called Inner Mongolia Autonomous Government (later called Region) in 1947 and its implication for the identity of Mongols in China and beyond; 2. the Chinese massacre of the Mongols in the Jindandao Incident of 1891 and the social changes brought to eastern Inner Mongolia by subsequent Mongol and Chinese migrations; 3. the rapid desertification of Inner Mongolia pastureland in recent years, and issues of Mongolian philosophy regarding nature and man; and 4. how the Tibetanized Mongols in Qinghai province have been developing strategies to survive as a group in relation to the state, neighboring Tibetans and Mongols. The presenters, all Mongols hailing from China, but trained and now teaching in Japan, will bring in new perspectives to understanding the cultural and political processes of the Mongols in China.

Panel Papers:

The History and the Politics of “Nei Menggu” (Inner Mongolia)

Huhbator, Showa Women’s University, Japan


After the independence of “Outer Mongolia” in 1911, and especially after the founding of the Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924, “Outer Mongolia” (Gadaad Mongol in Mongolian or Wai Menggu in Chinese) became a historical term. Inner Mongolia, on the other hand, became the focal point of the so-called “Mongolian Question”, and its name Dotood Mongol (M) or Nei Menggu (C) remained sinocentric, denoting direct rule as it did in the Qing geographical-administrative demarcation of the Mongols. The question of naming Inner Mongolia in both Mongolian and Chinese has thus become not only significant for the Mongols in China, but also for Mongols in the independent state of Mongolia. The founding of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Government in 1947 introduced a new name in Mongolian: instead of Dotood Mongol, it is now called Ubur (the sunny side of mountain) Mongol, thereby forming a geobody with Ar Mongol (formerly Outer Mongolia), and it no longer connotes internal administration within China. However, this change has not been reflected in Chinese translation, as Inner Mongolia continues to be called Nei Menggu and historist Chinese continue to refer to Mongolia as Wai Menggu. In recent years, some Mongols began to call Inner Mongolia “Nan Menggu”, and with it came the change of English translation from Inner Mongolia to Southern Mongolia.

This paper will discuss this confusion in naming Inner Mongolia both in Mongolian original (Dotood Mongol vs. Ubur Mongol) and in Chinese (Nei Menggu vs. Nan Menggu). A historical scrutiny of the naming of Inner Mongolia in the 20th century is important for understanding the political significance of the existence of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in China and the challenges it faces.

Peasant Uprising or Ethnic Conflict? Reexamining the Jindandao Incident in 1891

Burensain BORJIGIN, Waseda University, Japan

In 1891 a Chinese secret society called Jindandao massacred numerous Mongols in the eastern part of Inner Mongolia. In China, this massacre has been appraised as an “anti-imperialist, anti-feudal peasant uprising”, disguising the nature of ethnic conflict between Mongols and Chinese. In the 1990s, however, Mongol victims of the Jindandao incident began to demand re-evaluation of the incident, thereby setting off a heated debate around the issue.

Up to now, most studies of the Jindandao Incident have relied on memorials prepared by Chinese county and prefectual magistrates, ignoring the memorials presented by Mongol victims. Based on new data published in the 1980s and fieldwork in recent years, this study intends to reexamine incident and to discuss historical circumstances and the consequences of this massacre for the social change in Inner Mongolia in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Towards the end of the Qing dynasty, the region of Inner Mongolia became the main destination for bankrupt Chinese peasants from interior China. With the increase of Chinese immigrants, conflicts between Mongols and Chinese intensified as Chinese struggled for more benefits and Mongols tried to maintain their traditional social order. The Jindandao Incident happened in the mixed Mongol-Chinese regions under such historical circumstances. Tens of thousands of Mongols were massacred in this incident, and the survivors fled to the pastoral areas south of the Hinggan mountains, propelling the agriculturalization of these regions and the refiguration of the local societies.

Relationship Between Man and Nature - A Hermeneutical Approach to Interpreting the Affective Thinking of the Mongolian People

TELENGUT Aitor, Hokkai-Gakuen University, Japan


In the traditional nomadic culture of the Mongols, their philosophy does not center around people when it comes to relating to the environment. Instead, sky and nature are worshipped as having the significance of a spiritual being with a Divine soul. This way of worship manifests itself not only in their daily greetings – Hoorhii amitang, for example - but also is reflected in their literature, their rituals regarding life and death, and in historical events. Their philosophy allowed them to protect their natural habitat, and to live in harmony with nature for centuries; it brought them an inner world of profound peace and tranquility. In this modern world, their natural environment is facing destruction, and their cultural environment is being contaminated. It is important for us to re-evaluate these issues and redefine traditional Mongolian worship and its meanings.

The Ethnic Reality in “Homemade Narration”

Shinjilt, Hitotsubashi University, Japan
4-25-1-311 Nishishidzu, Sakura-shi,
Chiba 285-0845, Japan
tel&fax 043-461-9610

This paper intends to analyze the variegated narratives by “minority nationalities” in China, hoping to understand the dynamics of their ethnic consciousness. I focus on the Mongols in Henan Mongolian Autonomous County of Qinghai Province(hereafter Henanmengqi) where “Tibetanization” has been longstanding in culture and language. In recent decades, they have been subject to the state’s ethnic classification and thus have been conscious of their relationship with the neighboring Tibetans and other Mongols in and out of Qinghai. In this paper the following themes on their daily experiences are discussed: What significance does the nationality category of Sogpo(“Mongol” in the Tibetan)hold for the Henanmengqi people? Who (which group) should or should not be included in Sogpo? In what situation does the semantic content of Sogpo change? The Henanmengqi people are not free to choose their nationality category, and are often caught in the conflicting categorizations by the state administrators, scholars, other Tibetans and Mongols. I pay particular attention to the power dynamics in such relationships and the strategies taken by the Henanmengqi people to negotiate with external powers to form their nationality behaviors. Finally, I will discuss in general the characteristics of what may be called the grammar or reality of “homemade narration” by minority nationalities.


From Yeke-juu League to Ordos Municipality: settler colonialism and alter/native urbanization in Inner Mongolia

Close to Eden (Urga): France, Soviet Union, directed by Nikita Mikhilkov

Beyond Great WallsBeyond Great Walls: Environment, Identity, and Development on the Chinese Grasslands of Inner Mongolia

The Mongols at China's EdgeThe Mongols at China's Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity

China's Pastoral RegionChina's Pastoral Region: Sheep and Wool, Minority Nationalities, Rangeland Degradation and Sustainable Development

Changing Inner MongoliaChanging Inner Mongolia: Pastoral Mongolian Society and the Chinese State (Oxford Studies in Social and Cultural Anthropology)

Grasslands and Grassland Science in Northern ChinaGrasslands and Grassland Science in Northern China: A Report of the Committee on Scholarly Communication With the People's Republic of China

The Ordos Plateau of ChinaThe Ordos Plateau of China: An Endangered Environment (Unu Studies on Critical Environmental Regions)
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