Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia
an administrative division in NE China, adjoining the Mongolian People's Republic. 8,500,000; 174,000 sq. mi. (450,660 sq. km). Cap.: Hohhot. Also called Neimenggu, Nei Mongol. Official name, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

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Chinese Nei Monggol or Nei-meng-ku

Autonomous region (pop., 2000 est.: 23,760,000), China.

Stretching some 1,800 mi (2,900 km) across north-northeastern China, it has an area of 454,600 sq mi (1,177,500 sq km); its capital is Hohhot. Mongols and Chinese make up the bulk of the population, most of which is concentrated in the agricultural belt near the Huang He (Yellow River). Inner Mongolia is an inland plateau lying at an elevation of about 3,000 ft (900 m); it is fringed by mountains and valleys. Its northern portion lies within the Gobi Desert, and its southern border is partly marked by the Great Wall. Inner Mongolia was separated from Mongolia (Outer Mongolia) in 1644 and was established as an autonomous region in 1947. Its harsh climate restricts intensive agriculture; some industrial development has occurred there.

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▪ autonomous region, China
in full  Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region,  Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Nei-meng-ku Tzu-chih-ch'ü,  (Pinyin)  Nei Mongol Zizhiqu,  

      autonomous region of China. It is a vast territory, with an area of 454,600 square miles (1,177,500 square kilometres), that stretches in a great crescent for some 1,700 miles (2,700 kilometres) across northern China. It is bordered to the north by Mongolia (formerly Outer Mongolia) and Russia; to the east by the Chinese provinces of Heilungkiang, Kirin, and Liaoning; to the south by the provinces of Hopeh, Shansi, and Shensi and the Hui Autonomous Region of Ningsia; and to the west by the province of Kansu. Its capital is Hu-ho-hao-t'e (Hohhot).

Physical and human geography

The land
Relief and drainage
      Inner Mongolia is essentially an inland plateau with a flat surface lying at an elevation of about 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) above sea level and fringed by mountains and valleys. Its southern boundary is formed by a series of high ridges with an average height of between 4,500 and 6,000 feet. To the northwest the land falls away toward the centre of the Gobi (Desert), an arid zone with low summer rainfall, strong evaporation, almost perpetual sunshine, and constant northwesterly winds. The Huang Ho (Huang He) (Yellow River) makes a great northward and southward loop through south-central Inner Mongolia, delineating the Ordos Desert and providing irrigation water for the area. In the centre and the north, rainfall and snow are absorbed by the desert.

      The eastern third of the region is dominated by the Greater Khingan Range (Da Hinggan Range), which rises from the plateau to elevations of 4,000 feet and more. Glaciation has cut many U-shaped valleys in the mountains, through which run tributaries to the Argun (O-erh-ku-na) River; the Argun forms most of Inner Mongolia's border with Russia.

      Soils in the western areas are largely gray-brown or sandy desert. In the central regions, chestnut-brown soils are common, in which cereals can be raised by dry farming once every two or three years after sufficient moisture has accumulated in the soil. Soils in the higher elevations of the eastern mountains are podzolic (leached), while rich black soils and dark brown soils are found on the lower western and eastern slopes, respectively. The prairie on both sides of the great bend of the Huang Ho is known as the “granary of the frontier.”

      The seasons are marked by sharp fluctuations in the climate. Spring arrives in May and lasts for two months. Summer temperatures are relatively uniform. The July average is about 72° F (22° C) at Hu-ho-hao-t'e in the west-central part of the region; the yearly variation, however, is about 63° F (35° C). The two hottest months are July and August, when almost three-fifths of the annual precipitation occurs. Winter, which arrives after mid-September and lasts until March, is bitterly cold, with strong, icy winds blowing out of Siberia. Precipitation is meagre. In the Gobi areas the yearly total is less than four inches (100 millimetres), the plateau area receives only about 12 inches, while about 20 inches fall in the eastern mountains. The development of farming is handicapped by a frost-free period that lasts only from 110 to 160 days and by droughts, which occur almost annually.

Plant and animal life
      Much of the western territory is barren, while the mountains in the northeast are forested. Large areas of the central region, however, consist of grassland, which provides pasture for sheep, goats, cattle, and the famous Mongolian horses and Bactrian camels. Sheep and goats (roughly in equal proportions) are by far the most important, the most ubiquitous, and the most numerous of the animals raised on the grasslands.

Settlement patterns
      The region is primarily agricultural and pastoral, with few industrial centres. The three major urban areas are located in the centre of the region: Pao-t'ou (Baotou), a large industrial complex and transportation hub; Hu-ho-hao-t'e, the region's political and cultural centre; and Chi-ning (Jining), a commercial and transportation centre. Also important is Ch'ih-feng (Chifeng), a commercial centre and transportation hub at the southern end of the Greater Khingan Range.

The people
Ethnic distribution
      Han (Chinese) constitute the bulk of the population, and the largest minority population is that of the Mongols (Mongol). Minor groups include the Hui (Chinese Muslims), Manchu, Daghur (Ta-wo-erh) Mongol, Evenk (E-wen-k'o), Korean, and O-lun-ch'un peoples. The population is unevenly distributed, with most people concentrated in the agricultural belt south of the Ta-ch'ing Mountains escarpment of the Mongolian Plateau (near the Huang Ho) and on the eastern slopes of the Greater Khingan Range.

      Because the Han greatly outnumber the Mongols (Mongol language), the most widely used language is Chinese. The Mongolian dialects belong to the eastern branch of Mongolian languages; they are phonetically, morphologically, and syntactically almost the same as the Khalkha Mongol dialect of Mongolia to the north. A writing system of the Mongol language, using the Cyrillic alphabet, was introduced in 1955. The system also is used in Mongolia.

      In addition to ancestor worship, most of the Han in the region follow a religion formed of elements of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. The Mongols are mostly followers of Tibetan Buddhism, with almost every Mongol family having at least one son in a monastery.

      Despite the prevalence of a form of Buddhism marked by ritual and a dominant, hierarchical monasticism, there are some aspects of shamanism. The stronghold of shamanism among the Mongols is the Hu-lun-pei-erh league (meng). The Hui, centred on Hu-ho-hao-t'e, are adherents of Islām.

The economy
      Inner Mongolia, with almost one-third of China's grassland, has been traditionally renowned for its livestock. The condition of the livestock industry improved markedly after 1950 through the use of such measures as large-scale wolf hunting to reduce herd predation, the immunization of cattle, and improved pasturage and animal husbandry. Weather stations were established to forewarn herders of major storms. Crossbreeding by artificial insemination, such as between domestic and Tsgaisky pedigreed sheep, greatly improved stocks. Sheep are the main livestock raised, and cattle, horses, pigs, and camels also are important.

      The harsh climate severely restricts intensive agriculture. In some areas, particularly around the great loop of the Huang Ho, oats, spring wheat, kaoliang (a variety of grain sorghum), millet, and other grains are cultivated. In irrigated areas sugar beets and oil-bearing crops such as linseed, rape, and sunflowers are important. Measures to improve agricultural output have included greater implementation of water conservation and irrigation programs and the use of chemical fertilizers.

      Inner Mongolia's industry is based on the territory's great mineral wealth. There are rich iron-ore deposits at Pai-yün-o-po, about 75 miles north of Pao-t'ou, and Inner Mongolia has one of the world's largest deposits of rare earth metals. Coal is mined near Pao-t'ou and at other locations. The inland drainage of the Mongolian Plateau once contained a number of salt lakes; most have dried up, leaving behind deposits of salt and natural alkali (soda). These resources are important for the chemical industry, especially for the manufacture of chemical fertilizers.

      Industrial development is centred around Pao-t'ou (Baotou), which is one of the major iron-and-steel producers in China. The city has numerous plants, including those for ceramics, cement, machine building and repairing, textiles, and chemical fertilizers. Other major industrial centres include Hu-ho-hao-t'e, Ch'i-feng, and Wu-hai.

      The rail system links the region to the remainder of China. Major railway junctions are Pao-t'ou, Hu-ho-hao-t'e, and Chi-ning. With the advent of industrial development, several new railways were constructed in Inner Mongolia. The Chi-ning and Ulaanbaatar International Railway (completed in 1955) connects China with Mongolia and with Russia. This route shortened the rail distance between Peking and Moscow by some 700 miles. The most important line constructed since 1949, however, is that from Pao-t'ou to Lan-chou in Kansu Province, which completes the rail link between northern and northwestern China.

      In addition to the rail network, thousands of miles of highway link most areas. Inland waterway navigation is somewhat limited. Only the upper course of the Huang Ho, from Lan-chou, in Kansu, to Ho-k'ou, in Inner Mongolia, is navigable.

Administration and social conditions
      The administration differs in name and composition from those in other parts of China. The region is divided into eight leagues (meng), similar to subprovincial units in China proper, and four prefecture-level municipalities (shih). The local administrative units are banners (ch'i) in the Mongolian areas and counties (hsien) in the predominantly Han area. In the Mongol areas the banners are subdivided into administrative villages (gatsaa) or aimak (units of two or three villages); in the nomadic region the banners are subdivided into sumun, which are divided into bag (groups of nomad farmers), khoto (towns), and ail (settlements of a few families of nomads).

      In accordance with the policy of fostering unity between the nationalities, an effort has been made to set up “democratic coalition governments” in localities where both Mongols and Han are represented in substantial numbers.

      Education was introduced after 1949, mainly through mobile schools and a “half-study, half-work” scheme in which study time varied according to the requirements of agriculture. More than three-fifths of the population has received at least a primary-level education, and illiteracy has been reduced. A number of vocational schools, colleges, and universities are also in operation.

Health and welfare
      Most of the Mongols (Mongol) live in tentlike structures called yurts (yurt), or ger, that are inadequately ventilated. This, added to chronic shortages of drinking water and traditional hygiene patterns, contributed to the spread of epidemic diseases. syphilis and bubonic plague caused a continuous decline in the Mongolian population in the mid-19th to mid-20th century. In 1947, for example, more than three-fifths of the pastoral population suffered from syphilis, and the infant mortality rate in 1949 was as high as one in three live births. Public health has since greatly improved, and the spread of infectious diseases has been brought under control. Energetic promotion of new midwifery methods significantly reduced the rate of infant mortality, and the population began increasing.

Cultural life
      Cultural life bears the deep imprint of Tibetan Buddhist influence. In liturgical music, monastery and temple architecture, scriptural learning and commentary, and religious arts, the Mongols accepted the forms of Tibet. Though the specific content and emphasis of Mongol folk legends (legend) vary somewhat with the location and with tribal or clan history concerning their origins, most clans have legends of their founders as either a mythical animal or a hero; others preserve legends about historical figures once prominent in the life of their clan. The subjects and themes of Mongol folktales and other forms of vernacular literature tend to be standard among all the tribes. A large number concern lamas and religious life. Legends and songs as well as riddles and jokes occupy the leisure time of the night camp and its fireside circle, which form a major aspect of traditional Mongolian life.

      Mongolian music is not an independent art but serves solely as accompaniment to songs, dances, and rites. Singing is a form of entertainment, communication, historical recollection, group fellowship, and exuberant expression, and it demonstrates the close affiliation of individual Mongols with their culture and traditions. Mongol singing is generally a gregarious activity, mostly taking place around campfires, after the evening meal.

      The Mongols observe seasonal celebrations: the New Year, the celebration of the White Month (signifying rebirth) in spring, the Midsummer Festival on the 12th day of the sixth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the Autumn Festival (Festival of Fire) on the first day of the eighth lunar month, and the Great Sacrificial Feast to the Fire God on the 23rd day in the 12th lunar month.

      Besides the temple festivals, there is the Obo (shrine) Festival, held in the fifth month of every year. Toward the end of the ceremonies the festival takes a joyful course without restraint. There are wrestling and archery competitions, and a race is held in which the young men of the tribes ride their best horses. This is the time for a dashing display of the talent and vigour of the Mongol nomads.

      With the increasing Sinicization of the region—in terms of both numbers and influence—many Han cultural forms have become prominent. Minority national troupes and a number of regional institutes seek to encourage and preserve the indigenous cultural traditions.

      Farming was carried out on the marshes near the present boundary of Inner Mongolia and the provinces to the south in early times. The area was the limit of expansion of intensive agricultural settlement and was thus the scene of frequent confrontations between nomadic steppe dwellers and settled agriculturalists. In 658 BC several states of the North China Plain combined their efforts to build a wall defending what is now Hopeh from nomadic incursions and annexed part of Inner Mongolia to their agricultural territory. This part of Mongolia was inherited by the rulers of the Ch'in dynasty when they unified the Chan-kuo (Warring States) into an empire in the 3rd century BC.

      Emperors of the succeeding Han dynasty waged war against the powerful Hsiung-nu (Xiongnu), who were based in the valley of the northern bend of the Huang Ho. After pushing the Hsiung-nu north of the river, the Han settled the Ordos Desert region. The decline of the Han dynasty in the 3rd century AD brought a series of nomadic rulers to northern China. Later the T'ang dynasty (618–907) again asserted control over China's northern border, constricting trade and prompting border raids.

      The establishment of the Mongolian Empire by Genghis Khan in the 13th century brought prestige and expanded trade to Inner Mongolia. Old raiding patterns returned with the Ming dynasty in China, but peaceful relations with China were reestablished when the Manchu rulers of the Ch'ing dynasty (Qing dynasty) reorganized the tribes into banners and leagues and promoted trade through itinerant Han merchants.

      During the 19th century, population pressure to the south brought many Chinese farmers into Mongolia in search of land to cultivate. This caused conflicts with herdsmen that culminated in independence for Outer Mongolia in 1912 and administrative autonomy for Inner Mongolia in 1932. Eastern Inner Mongolia was occupied by the Japanese from 1933 as part of the state of Manchukuo, and Japanese rule extended westward after 1937 during the Sino-Japanese War.

      The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region was founded by the Chinese Communist (Chinese Communist Party) regime in 1947, more than two years prior to the establishment of its national government at Peking in 1949. In its first configuration, it consisted of the former Chahar and Suiyüan provinces and sections taken from western Heilungkiang and northern Liaoning provinces. In a series of annexations in the 1950s, Inner Mongolia was greatly expanded to the northeast and east, west, and south; from 1956 to 1969 it extended in a great 1,700-mile arc from east of the Greater Khingan Range, then dipped to the southwest and west to the Pa-tan-chi-lin Desert in north-central China proper. During this period more than half of China's frontier with Mongolia was the Inner Mongolian border; in the northeast, a considerable section of China's international boundary with the Soviet Union—that along the Argun River—was in Inner Mongolia. In 1969 the Peking government reversed its previous policy by sharply cutting down the area of the autonomous region, transferring territory to the surrounding provinces and regions in all directions (especially to the Hui Autonomous Region of Ningsia in the west and Heilungkiang in the east). Only the international frontier with Mongolia remained unchanged. The areas transferred constituted about two-thirds of the former area of the region and contained almost half of its former population. In 1979 this reorganization was terminated, and the territory detached in 1969 was restored to Inner Mongolia.

      Inner Mongolia traditionally has been an area of mixture and contact between the agrarian Chinese and the pastoral and nomadic Mongolians. The continuous territorial changes that have affected it have therefore signified the contradiction of diverse cultures and conflicting loyalties. Inner Mongolia has thus served as a testing ground for Chinese efforts to integrate Han and Mongols into a single unified political entity.

Chu-yuan Cheng Victor C. Falkenheim Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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