By Richard Spencer
in Ordos, Inner Mongolia
The Daily Telegraph (London)
November 12, 2004,
Chinese plans to redevelop and privatise Genghis Khan's
mausoleum have aroused furious opposition from the Mongolian
warrior tribe who protect it and prompted new fears over China's
relations with ethnic minorities.
The Darhads are scattered throughout both Inner Mongolia and the
independent (Outer) Mongolia to the north, and some are still
employed to guard the relics, which include Genghis's saddle and
black wooden bow.
They are furious that a new mausoleum developed by the ethnic
Chinese Han to boost tourism revenue will rob them of their
The government has moved quickly to quash possible protests. A
concert by a popular rock group in Hohhot, the capital of
Chinese Inner Mongolia, has been banned and students put
Genghis's mausoleum is contained within a three-domed building
on Inner Mongolia's Ordos plateau. Although the building is
recent, tradition has it he chose the spot himself as he passed
through on the way to his final war in 1227.
The Darhads keep Genghis's ceremonial butter lamp lit and every
year perform the ritual filling of his wooden bucket with mare's
milk. The bucket, it is said, leaks in the direction that will
bring the Mongols prosperity.
Towering over this scene to the south are two enormous concrete
plinths topped by rearing white concrete horses, a half-built
The two plinths are joined by a metal chain symbolising Genghis
Khan's union of Asia and Europe, according to the private
Donglian Construction Corporation which has been contracted to
develop the site to boost tourism.
Hugejiletu, a 39th-generation Darhad who seems more nervous than
a Mongolian nobleman should, said: "I just want my nine-year-old
son to be able to inherit my position after me."
A woman from a Darhad family - only men can be guardians
themselves - was more open. "We are all strongly opposed. We are
angry about Han [ethnic Chinese] building a mausoleum for
Mongolians. We are also angry about Han people using the
Mongolian name and Mongolian traditions to make money."
Many Mongolians remember the Cultural Revolution, when they
suffered particular persecution. According to reports, between
10,000 and 17,000 Mongolians died in the terror, 87,000 were
crippled and 346,000 persecuted.
After the Darhads wrote recently to the New York-based Southern
Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre to protest about the
mausoleum's redevelopment, the government moved again.
Hurd, a popular group from the Outer Mongolian capital Ulan
Bator, was banned from performing at a university on Oct 29,
even as 2,000 students gathered for the concert. According to
the human rights group, protest ringleaders were detained.
"We were told it had been cancelled and we could not leave the
campus that day," said one student. "During the day, if there
were gatherings of people the police or security guards would
break them up."
After waves of immigration, the region's four million Mongolians
are vastly outnumbered by 19 million Han.
Only half still speak the language, and just a quarter write it.