--- SEARCH ---
Learning Chinese
Learn to Cook Chinese Dishes
Exchange Rates

Hot Links
China Development Gateway
Chinese Embassies

The Aobao of Inner Mongolia

There is a famous Mongolian folk song in China named Aobao Xianghui (Let's Meet at the Aobao), which almost all Chinese people can sing. The song describes a young fellow anxiously waiting for his girlfriend beside an Aobao on a peaceful night under a beautiful full moon. Not everyone who knows the song knows its meaning or what an Aobao is like. Some people mistake an Aobao as a "yurt". Actually, a yurt is a kind of round tent, which Mongolians live in, whereas an Aobao means "a stone heap" in Mongolian language.

Recently, a China.org.cn reporter visited Inner Mongolia and saw the Aobao in person. It's really a mound of stones. An Aobao is made of three layers -- because Mongolians take three, six and nine as auspicious numbers. And the Aobaos are also in groups of three or nine. But the most popular is single Aobao. The three Aobaos' group, composed of a larger one and two smaller ones on either side, is on a larger scale, and the nine Aobaos' group, which is composed of one larger one and eight smaller ones around it, is the largest in scale.

According to Bao Haishan, head of the Inner Mongolian Overseas Publicity Office, in the grasslands, people are apt to lose their way without signposts, so the Aobao was born as a landmark for the grasslands. Nowadays people still live there and always say, "Turn left at the third Aobao" or others. So in the flat grasslands, Aobaos are symbolic things. It is therefore not difficult to understand why young people date there and then make the Aobao a romantic meeting place.

When the cities or towns came into being, the Aobao served as a terminus for the cities or other administrative areas. After Genghis Khan's time people admired and yearned for brave heroes who died at the front. Then others made Aobaos as tombs and inserted their swords or axes, which they used when they were still alive, on the top of the Aobaos. At last the Aobao became a place for sacrifice to the mountain god, the road god and the war god.

The thing of most interest is on visiting Yuanshangdu, (the Upper Capital of Yuan Dynasty), Wei Jian, head of Inner Mongolia Cultural Relics Research Institute, pointed to a hill far away and said, each of the four peaks of Yuanshangdu has an Aobao, which was used to signify the border and, especially, the beacon tower.

And now, the Aobao's most important use is for sacrifice. People always sacrifice the best corn, meet, fruit and alcohol to Aobao and pray for good weather, good harvest and good fortune. The sacrificial activity can be on a small-scale or a grand ceremony.

Every summer, when the grass grows luxuriant and the cows and sheep are well fed, the herdsmen will make grand ceremonies for sacrifice to the Aobao. The herdsmen, who live no more than a dozens kilometers, will also come to the famous Aobaos with their offerings. Then the Aobaos are decorated with pure white scarves or hadas at the center of the Aobao and colorful pieces of cloth around it. If conditions allow, they will invite lamas and Living Buddhas to read scriptures. And indispensably, beautiful ethnic dances will be performed.

When sacrificing, they obey the order: sacrifice to the heavenly god, to the earthly god and to the ancestors.

Nowadays an Aobao has also some family uses. For example, when a baby is born, and when the year has a good harvest or when two people get married, rich families build a family Aobao as a memorial.

Mongolian people believe that people live on the earth whereas gods live in heaven, beyond the sky. The only way to express their anxiety to the gods is in high places such as on hills and that's not all -- they always pile Aobaos on the hills too. Whenever they go far away, or meet on special days, they make wishes at the Aobao. The process goes like this: pick three stones at the foot of a mountain and climb the mountain with them. Then put the three stones carried by foot on the Aobao. Then turn three rounds of the Aobao and make a wish.

(China.org.cn by staff reporter Chen Lin, September 30, 2003)

Minorities in Spotlight
Inner Mongolia Celebrates Massive Stone Signpost
In Pursuit of Lost Ancient Imperial Chinese Music
Copyright of Folk Song Under Protection
Print This Page
Email This Page
About Us SiteMap Feedback
Copyright © China Internet Information Center. All Rights Reserved
E-mail: webmaster@china.org.cn Tel: 86-10-68326688