Inner Mongolia [ 内蒙古] • 21 AUGUST 2014
The Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, bordering to the north with both the Republic of Mongolia and Russia, is the widest province in China (by its latitude). It is the third largest Chinese province (over 1.1 million square kilometers or 424,736 square miles) but not very populated. The province has about 24 million inhabitants. Many ethnic groups are living in this area including Mongolian, Daur, Oroqen, Ewenki, Hui, Han, Korea and Manchu. Hohhot is the capital of Inner Mongolia.
Inner Mongolia has a peculiar natural scenery, long history and brilliant culture. There are many historic sites in this area. Some of the key historic sites are:
Wudangzhao Monastery in Baotou is a vast complex and used to be the residence of the highest ranking lama in Inner Mongolia and now it is the only intact Tibetan Buddhist monastery there.
Inner Mongolia is the hometown of Genghis Khan (1162-1227), the great leader of Mongolians. Genghis Khan's Mausoleum, located 185 kilometers (about 71 miles) south of Baotou, holds his clothing buried in his memory.
70 kilometers (approx. 43 miles) northeast of Baotou, near a valley named Wudang Gou, lies the Wudangzhao Monastery which is a large Tibetan Buddhist monastery. It is the biggest and the best preserved lama monastery in Inner Mongolia's Autonomous Region. 'Bada Gele Monastery' is its Tibetan name, meaning white lotus. 'Wudangzhao' in Mongolian means 'willow'. Willows are prosperous in the valley, thus the name.
The monastery was built in the Tibetan style. It is a group of white architectures built on the hills according to the principles of physiognomy. The white monastery stands out against the background of the green trees, making it appear very majestic.
The main buildings in the monastery are composed of six halls, three living Buddha residences, and a funeral hall where the relics of several living Buddhas are preserved.
The six halls are Suguqin Hall, Dongkuo'er Hall, Queyiri Hall, Dangge Xide Hall, Ahui Hall and Ribenlun Hall. The Suguqin Hall is the uppermost one where all the lamas in the monastery gather to recite the lections. The floor is covered with red carpet, and the walls are covered with the colorful paintings depicting Buddhist stories.
Queyiri Hall is situated to the west of Suguqin Hall. The Laughing Buddha is worshipped here. The hall is in fact a department where the Buddhist sutra and the religious philosophy are studied. Dangge Xide Hall is also named Jingang Hall, for several Jingang Buddha statues are worshipped there. Dangqi Xide Hall is the smallest hall in the monastery. In it are several Buddhist statues, among which the most notable one is a Buddha, named Daweide, who has nine heads, 34 arms and 16 feet.
According to statistics, there are some 1,500 Buddhist statues and abundant fine murals which reflect the historical characters, customs, myths and beautiful landscape. All the collections in the monastery are precious materials for studying the history and culture of minorities.
Genghis Khan is a Mongolian hero. He reunified the chaotic Inner Mongolia prairie and led his people to be a great civilization. He made great contributions to the founding of the powerful Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and the unification of China which enhanced greatly the interactions of the peoples of China. Due to this great feat, he was named 'Genghis Khan' by Mongolian tribes, meaning 'powerful king' in Mongolian. Today, Genghis Khan is still worshipped and remembered by his people.
The present Genghis Khan's Mausoleum was built in 1954 in Erdos City, Inner Mongolia, about 185 km (around 115 miles) from Baotou City. Most people, however, believe that this mausoleum is not where he was really buried but is rather a gathering place for Mongolians to offer sacrifice. Whether this is true or not, the mausoleum remains a sacred place with great significance for Mongolian people.
The main structures of the mausoleum are three grand halls, which are shaped like Mongolian yurts, and the corridors which link the three halls. In the middle is the Main Hall, which is also the Memorial Hall. In the center of this stands a white marble statue of Genghis Khan with a height of over 4 meters (around 13 feet). Behind the statue is the map of the vast territory of the Yuan Dynasty. On either side of the Main Hall are the East Hall and the West Hall. In the East Hall, coffins of one of Genghis Khan's wives and his fourth son are laid. In the West Hall, Genghis Khan's arms are exhibited. Along the corridors frescos depict the life of Genghis Khan and the great deeds of his grandson-Kubla Khan, who was as great as his grandfather.
Dazhao Temple, 'Wuliang Si (Infinite Temple)' in Chinese, is the oldest building and the largest temple in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia. Locally, people usually refer to it as the Silver Buddha Temple (Yinfo Si) for it is here that there is a rare silver statue of Sakyamuni that measures 2.5-meter-high (8.2-foot-high).
The construction of the temple was completed in 1580 during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and it is therefore the oldest Lamaist Buddhist temple in Inner Mongolia. There was a major reconstruction in 1640 although much of the original architectural style was retained.
Dazhao Temple owns its fame to a visit by the third Tibetan Dalai Lama in 1586, when he came to dedicate the Silver Buddha statue. As a consequence Hohhot became a religious center for people from all over Mongolia who came to worship. Another notable event in the temple's long history was a visit by Emperor Kangxi during the early part of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The temple is now a well-known tourist attraction because of the impressive buildings, splendid statues, delicate frescos, musical instruments and fine collection of Buddhist scriptures. Of its abundant religious relics perhaps the most notable are the 'Three Marvelous Treasures', a title given to the Silver Buddha, the carved dragons on the huge golden pillars on either side of the statue and the murals commemorating the Emperor's visit.
Zhaojun Tomb is situated nine kilometers (approx. 6 miles) away from Hohhot, on the plain extending from the northern bank of the Dahei River. Also called 'green tomb' after the green grass that grows on it, it is listed among the eight most popular scenic spots in Hohhot. The tomb is a large man-made earthen mound, which is 33 meters (approx. 108 feet) high. It was built to commemorate a great woman named Wang Zhaojun, who was one of the four most beautiful ladies in ancient China, and who sacrificed herself for the unity of China by marrying Khan.
In front of the tomb, bronze statues of Wang Zhaojun and her husband (Khan), depict a vivid picture of them riding horses and talking to each other intimately. The statues are the symbol of the friendly relations between the Han nationality and the Hun nationality, which was greatly promoted by Wang Zhaojun.
Behind the statues, there are several steles displaying the praises bestowed upon Wang Zhaojun. Among them, the stele marked with the poems of Dong Biwu (a modern revolutionary and a politician) is the most notable one.Tomb of Wang Zhaojun, Hohhot
Zhaojun Tomb, Hohhot, Inner MongoliaBehind the steles, stone stairs and a stone platform are connected with the Zhaojun Tomb. Upon the stone platform you can find a pavilion. The pavilion offers visitors a good position from which to overlook the scenery surrounding the tomb and the far away Mt. Yinshan.
Wanbu Huayanjing Pagoda, also called White Pagoda, used to be a place where nearly ten thousand volumes of Huayan Scripture were preserved. It is an exquisite and magnificent brick-wood structure about one hundred and fifty feet tall.
Five-Pagoda Temple (Wuta Si), which is also called Jingangzuo Sheli Baota, is located in Hohhot City. As there are five small dagobas on the pedestal of the site, it is named Wuta Si. Wuta was originally a building of the temple constructed during 1727-1732. Now the temple has disappeared, but the pagoda has remained.
The pagoda is 16 meters high (about 51 feet) and it is composed of three parts: the base, the seat and the top (five dagobas). The lower part of the seat is inlaid with inscriptions of Diamond Sutra written in Mongolian, Tibetan and Sanskrit. The upper part is niches holding gold-plated statues of Buddha. The body of the pagoda is glazed in greens and yellows.
On the northern wall of the pagoda, three sculptures are inlaid. The Mongolian Astronomical Map is the only one labeled in Mongolian so far in the world and it is of great importance to scientific research.Compared with other pagodas, Five-Pagoda Temple is unique in at least two aspects: its special structure, pagodas over pagoda, and the green and yellow colored glazes on the short eaves and tops of pagodas. Those make Five-Pagoda Temple quite special, a treasure of Hohhot City.
Inner Mongolia belongs to temperate continental and monsoon climate. The best time to visit Inner Mogolia is summer from June to September. The other five monthes from December to April are long and cold, not suitable for travelling. Accompanied with blizzards, the temperature often dips below the freezing point at night. So the weather in summer (from June to August) is more comfortable, the change of the temperature between days and nights can be great too. In the evening you are often advised to put on warm clothing when you travel on the grasslands even in summer time.
Food in Inner Mongolia
You may have difficulty with the local food, which is focused on diary products, Lamp and cattle. Favorite dishes include Roast Lamb, Butter, Shaomai, Instant-Boiled Mutton, Cheese, Naked Oat Flour, Cooked Mutton, Sour Milk, Buckwheat Flour, Finger Mutton Milk Tea. Mongolian milk tea is distinctive to this region and frequently served in hotels along with breakfast.
What to wear and take during the tourist season
Casual clothing and comfortable walking shoes are the must for your trip to Inner Mongolia. Make sure to take warm clothing as it is quite chilly and cold during the nights and early morning. You are advised to take sun hat, sunglasses, water bottle, snacks on your trip, your personal medical kit, sun screen lotion, toilet paper, camera and all possible personal things such as necessary medicine, cosmetics etc. Very often you cannot find them during your trip to Inner Mongolia.