The herdsmen of Inner Mongolia have freely roamed the plains for many centuries with their livestock grazing on fertile grasslands stretching across the horizon. But now their age-old customs are being stamped out because of the relocation the Chinese Government claims will help curve environmental damage. In 1949, the ratio of Mongols to Han Chinese in this northern province of China was reported to be 5:1. Now, there is only 1 Mongol in every 6 Han Chinese. Along with mass migrations came assimilation as the Mongolians were required to give up their nomadic life-styles and to move to permanent settlements.

Badamsuren (traditional herdsman): It was better before when we were free to roam the grasslands. Now, we have ventured other peoples’ grassland, and our sheep would be confiscated. Things are controlled now.

Han Chinese are cultivating crops and raising animals here, competing with the Mongolian herdsmen. Modern technology has also impacted the grasslands in a profound way. While some do ride motorcycles rather than horses, and others have more modern conveniences, other reports claim that it is the Han Chinese agricultural practices that are causing the most damage. The Chinggis Khan Mouseleum in Ordos City serves as a cultural reminder for the Mongolian proud heritage before the Chinese Government exercised this control. The Mongolians have long and unique history and multi-fašade culture.

Sarangerel (Central University of Nationalism): During Chinggis Khan era, he used people’s different religious faiths. He didn’t discriminate different races and religious beliefs. I think they have the ability to assimilate and adapt well to the different environments. Mongolian cultures are very open and embracing.

Climate change and over-grazing have rendered huge swaths of land barren, and caused frequent sandstorm in Inner Mongolia and its neighboring provinces.

Chagaan-boor (former herdsman): I think it will take bearly 7 to 8 years before all this will be gone. We will be like everyone else, and this will be like every other city. Our culture and tradition will disappear.

Signs of disquiet are creeping into the grasslands. But the herdsmen know that they can not stop change, nor can they run from it. These days, in the wide and unending grassland of Inner Mongolia, there is just no place left to go.

-- Transcription by SMHRIC