Inner Mongolia is a Chinese Province, but Mongolia is an independent country, formally called Outer Mongolia. For those who visit here, the big attraction of Inner Mongolia is the chance to view the grasslands, perhaps ride horses, and see the Mongolian way of life. But just how much of the Mongolian way of life you can see in China is debatable.
Genghis Khan united the Mongols by 1206, and their power quickly expanded to China. The Mongols conquered China by 1279. It was first time, and the only time, those foreigners had ruled China in its entirety. The Mongols established their capital in Beijing, and Kublai Khan became the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty. The empire lasted until 1368, when Chinese rebels converged on Beijing and an army led by Zhu Yuanzhang drove out the Mongols. Once again the Mongols became a loose collection of disorganized roaming tribes, warring among themselves and occasional raiding China, until the Qing emperors finally gained control over them in the 18the century.
The eastern expansion of the Russian Empire placed the Mongols in the middle of the border wars between Russia and China. The Russian Empire set up a 'protectorate' over the northern part of Mongolia. The Chinese governed the rest of Mongolia until 1911, when Qing fell. For eight years Mongolia remained an independent state until the Chinese returned. Then, in 1924 during the Soviet civil war, the Soviet Communist Army pursued the White Russian leader to Urga (now Ulaan Baatat), where they helped created the Mongolian People's Republic. The new Republic remained under Soviet domination.
During the war between China and Japan in the 1930s and 40s, part of what is now Inner Mongolia was occupied by Japanese and Communist guerrillas. In 1945 Stalin extracted full recognition of the independence of Outer Mongolia from Chiang Kaishek. Two years later, with the resumption of the civil war in China, the Chinese Communists designated that what was left to China of the Mongol territories be called "Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region". With the Communist Victory in 1949, Outer Mongolia didn't join the People's Republic. The region however remained ultimately under Soviet control. It was not until 1962 that the border arguments with Outer Mongolia were finally settled. Then in 1969, the Chinese carved up Inner Mongolia and donated it bit by bit into other provinces. They were reinstated however in 1979.
Today, the "Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region" enjoys little or no autonomy at all. Since the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, Outer Mongolia has been free of Soviet control and is trying to reassert its nationalism. The Chinese worry however, that nationalistic movement like those in Tibet and Xijiang might also spread to Mongolia. As a result, the Public Security Bureau keeps a tight lid on potential real or imagined acts of rebellion.
When the region was established, the agricultural output constituted 90 percent of the economy, while light industry and heavy industry accounted for 8.3 and 1.7 percent respectively. However, the farming and animal husbandry of the region developing rapidly, the industrial structure became more rational, and the household economy peculiar to the region and the new-type contract responsibility system for managing grassland and stock-breeding are getting perfect. All these have promoted the development of productivity in the region. Various kinds of township-run enterprises have come into being. Industry is developing with stability and coordination following reforms and readjustment, economic efficiency has greatly improved, and the development of light and heavy industries is basically coordinated. In addition, a well-balanced industrial system has been established covering coal, power, lumbering, machine-building, chemicals, light industries, textiles, tanning and foodstuffs. An industrial center has now come into existence that is based on Hohhot, Baotou and Wuhai, and includes many other small and medium-sized cities, such as Jining, Chifeng, Tongliao, and Ulanhot. Inner Mongolia has extensive coal and iron ores, making it one of China's most important steel and coal producers.
Inner Mongolia is one part of what was originally the Mongol homeland, a vast area that also encompasses all of Outer Mongolia, and a large slice of Siberia. In the grasslands beyond the Great wall and the Gobi Desert, the Mongols endured a rough life as shepherds and horse breeders. They moved with the seasons in search of food, living in tens known as yurts or gers.
At the mercy of their environment, the Mongols based their religion on the forces of nature: moon, sun, and stars were all revered, as were the rivers. Their gods were virtually infinite in number, signifying a universal supernatural presence. Mongol priests could speak to the gods and communicate their orders to the tribal chief, the Khan. And before the reign of Genghis Khan, before the opulence of the court of Kublai Khan, a succession of Mongol empires created a rich legacy of art and culture on the grassy plains of northern China. For the first time in the West, Empires beyond the Great Wall: the Heritage of Genghis Khan brought treasures and ancient artifacts such as silk garments, bronze, gold, funerary objects, and pottery from Inner Mongolia to the Royal British Columbia Museum.
The Inner Mongolia Museum is the biggest attraction in town, so it is worth visiting. The museum collection includes a large mammoth skeleton dug out of a coal-mine near Manzhouli. It has a nice dinosaur exhibit, and a fantastic array of Mongolian customary, artifacts, archery equipment, and saddles.
The old part of town southwest of Renmin Park has some interesting sights. Also located here is the Dazhao temple. The temple is identical; the main action is on the street. Around the area of the Dazhao Temple are some fascinating adove houses, low nad squat with decorated glass windows. Not far from the Dazhao Temple is the Xiletuzhao Temple. It's one of the more active places in town. The original temple burned down and the present one was built in the 19th century; the Chinese-style building has a few Tibetan touches. The reverse swastika symbolizes truth and eternity.
The summer festival known as Naadam features traditional Mongolian sports such as competition archery, wrestling, horse racing, and camel racing. This is the main holiday in Mongolia. It lasts for three days, and during this festival, the markets fill with food and products to insure that all needs are met. For foreigners, Hohhot, the capital of
Inner Mongolia, is a good place to see the festivals.