The Naadam Festival in 2021: The Naadam Festival usually starts on the fourth day of the sixth lunar month every year, and lasts for about 3~7 days. Since it is a grand festival held after COVID-19 and it may do some change based on the real situation. If you are planning your summer vacation to Inner Mongolia, please contact us for more latest info.
The Naadam Festival (那达慕大会) is a grand gathering held by the Mongolian, Ewenki, Daur and other ethnic minorities in Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Qinghai and Xinjiang to celebrate the harvest of a year, compete in grassland sports games and exchange goods. The festival is generally held in July and August, the golden season of the grassland, when water and grass are abundant and horses and sheep are fat and strong (Ice and Snow Naadam Festival is sometimes held in Hulunbuir/Xilingol in winter). The three games of wrestling, horse racing, and archery are the events (contests) that must be carried out during the Naadam Fair. Mongolians refer to the three contests as "the three games of men". In 2010, Naadam was inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.
The Naadam Festival has always been not a single sport event, but a grand meeting of grassland culture, economy and information. During the festival, herdsmen from all over the country ride horses, drive carts, carry furs, medicinal materials and other agricultural and animal husbandry products to come to the festival holding place and put up colorful yurts around the venue on the green grasslands. The fascinating national acrobatics, colorful minority costumes, beautiful Mongolian dances and operas gathered the customs and practices of the Mongolian nation in one set, showing the industrious and brave, bold and enthusiastic character of the grassland people.
"Naadam" has a long history. According to the "Genghis Khan Gxplorer" engraved on a cliff, Naadam originated in the early period of the establishment of the Mongol Khanate. As early as 1206 AD when Genghis Khan was elected the Great Khan of Mongolia, in order to review his troops, maintain and distribute the grassland, every year between July and August, he would hold a big meeting, to gather the leaders of different tribes together, to consolidate solidarity and friendship and pray for the yearly harvest. At first, only one contest of the three games (Archery, Horse Racing and Wrestling) would be held during the gathering. During the Yuan Dynasty and the Ming Dynasty, archery, horse racing and wrestling contests were combined and became a fixed “Three Games” of Naadam Festival. In the Qing Dynasty, "Naadam" gradually turned into an organized and purposeful entertainment organized regularly by the authorities, and the scale, form and events of the festival all had more development than before.
If you are coming to enjoy the strong festival atmosphere of Naadam, what you must not miss is the rich and lively opening ceremony. In the opening ceremony, you can see the guard of honor and contestants in splendid ethnic costumes enter the venue, listen to the melodious long tune played by the ancient horse-head fiddles, watch the flame-lighting ceremony of the festival, and enjoy the equestrian performance and the Mongolian Singing and Dancing performances, etc. In places where festivals are held on a large scale, such as Hulunbuir and Xilingol, there will also be grand sacrificial activities. The monks will burn incense, light lamps, chant Buddhist scriptures and pray to the gods for blessings to eliminate disasters and difficulties of the coming year.
Opening Ceremony of Naadam Festival
Since ancient times, Mongolians have had a special affection for horses. They have grown up on horseback since childhood and are proud of having a fast horse that is good at running. It is a special skill for Mongolian herdsmen to tame and train a fierce horse. Usually, whether a man is good at training horses, horse racing, archery and wrestling are the criteria to identify an excellent herdsman. All men, women and children can participate in Mongolian horse racing game. Sometimes dozens, sometimes hundreds of people race together. Unlike Western horse racing, which consists of short sprints generally not much longer than 2 km, Mongolian horse racing as featured in Naadam is a cross-country event, with races 15–30 km long. In order to reduce the load during contests, the participants are mostly unsaddled, and won’t wear boots and socks, only gorgeous color clothes with a long ribbon, which makes the contestants seem particularly valiant.
There are 3 main horse racing events including: 1. Speed Racing, mainly competing the speed of the horse, is generally a straight line race. The distance is generally 20, 30, 40 kilometers, the first contestant who reaches the finish line is the winner; 2. Horse Walking, mainly about the steady and brisk pace of the racing horses. 3. Rodeo, a Mongolian unique horse competitive performance.
Exciting Horse Racing Game During Naadam
Mongolian wrestling is another main game at the Naadam Festival. People who live in Grasslands call wrestling - "Bok (博克)". The game of Mongolian wrestling is simple and solemn. According to the dress code of the event, the contestants wear tight half-sleeved vests made of cowhide or canvas, aprons made of red, blue and yellow silk at the waist, fat trousers made of 32 or 16 feet of calico, and Mongolian boots or riding boots. The game starts with the melodious and passionate "Uzah" hymns. According to the traditional customs of the Mongolian people, wrestlers are not restricted by region or weight. The game adopts the elimination system, competitors are deemed to have lost if they land on any part of the body above the knee.
There are many wrestling skills. Contestants can use 13 basic skills such as catch, pull, drag, push and press, etc. to evolve into more than a hundred movements. They can grab each other's shoulders, hug each other's waists, and dive into each other's arms to attack.
Since the bow and arrow have historically been an indispensable weapon in the life of the Mongols, the good archers are highly respected. Good archers are not afraid of strong opponents and enjoy performing or competing their skills in public. As a result, archery has become an important game in the Naadam Festival. There are two types of archery competition, standing archery and horseback archery. There is no limitation on the style, weight, length or tension of the bow.
The competition generally stipulates that each person shoots nine arrows. After three rounds of shooting, the top three are evaluated according to the number of arrows hitting the target. The center line of the runway is about two meters away from the target position. According to the game rules, three arrows can be shot in one ride, and there are overall three rides, participants should finish shooting within the prescribed runway. Before the race starts, the archer wears tight colored robes, carries bows and arrows on his back, and rides his horse to the starting line to get ready. After the referee gave the order, the game started. An arrow that bounces off the ground and hits a target is disqualified. When a ring on the target is hit, the target ring will fall off automatically. Then audiences will cheer for the archer.
Every summer, the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region holds the Tourism Naadam Festival (suspended in 2020 due to the epidemic). In 2018 and 2019, the Inner Mongolia Tourism Naadam Festival (内蒙古自治区旅游那达慕大会) was held on the Gegentala Grassland in the Siziwang Banner in Ulanqab. During the festival, tourists will not only have a chance to see the ceremony of Oboo Worship and the three games of horse racing, Mongolian wrestling and archery, but also participate in the experience of building Mongolian yurts, rubbing wool rope and other folk activities. You can also enjoy the exquisite Mongolian clothing shows, taste the local special food, and try boiling milk tea, cooking hand meat and making dairy products by yourself. Whether the Tourism Naadam Festival of the Autonomous Region will be held this year is still unknown. If you are interested, feel free to contact us for the latest information.
Besides the Naadam Festival held by the autonomous region, the grasslands and ethnic minority communities in Inner Mongolia also hold their own Naadam Festivals. Among which, Hulunbuir, Xilingol and Baotou are the places where festivals are held on a larger scale.
As one of the Four Largest Grasslands in the World and the Largest and Most Beautiful Grassland in China, the Naadam Festival which is held in Hulunbuir is usually large on scale. The traditional three games of horse racing, archery, wrestling can all be seen during the festival. In Hulunbuir, Naadam is not only held in summer, but also in winter. The venue for the grand festival changes from year to year in Hulunbuir (2019 Hulunbuir Naadam Festival was held at Baiyinhada Grassland Scenic Area in Chenbarhu Banner, and 2020 Naadam Fair was held in Bogdewula Scenic Area). If you are interested, feel free to contact us for the latest information >>
Besides the stunning grassland scenery,
Recommended Hulunbuir Tours:
Xilingol League (锡林郭勒盟) is the bidding place for Naadam intangible cultural heritage, and the Naadam festival held every year is one of the most representative. Naadam has a history of nearly eight hundred years and has been spread and developed in Xilingol Grassland. It is deeply loved by people of all ethnic groups and has become an important carrier of Mongolian cultural tradition. In recent years, the Naadam Festival in Xilingol usually lasts 2~3 days. There is not only Grassland Paradise Naadam which is usually held in summer and autumn, but also Winter Naadam in some regions (For example, in 2020, Phoenix Racecourse of Xilinhot City held the Winter Mongolian Horse Photography Naadam, and in 2019, the Baigli Ecological Tourism Ranch in Zhenglan Banner held the Hunshadake Sandy Land Winter Naadam, etc.). The sight of tens of thousands of white horses galloping is the unique and unmissable highlight of the Naadam Fair held in Xilingol League.
Xilingol League covers a vast land, mainly divided into 3 tourist areas: central, southern and northern. The central tourism area takes Xilinhot City (锡林浩特) as the center, and the natural tourism resources in this area are mainly meadow grassland and typical grassland scenery (Xilingol Grassland, Ujimqin Grassland), which is the most primitive part of grassland in the league. Humanistic tourism resources are represented by the Beizi Temple, one of the four temples in Inner Mongolia, and the Mongolian Yuan Culture Park. It is also the cradle of Mongolian wrestling, the capital of Mongolian costumes, the hometown of Mongolian Traditional Folk Long Song and the origin of nomadic culture. The southern tourism area is centered on Zhenglan Banner (正蓝旗) and Duolun County (多伦县). The cultural tourism resources are dominated by the Mongolian Yuan culture represented by the Site of Xanadu. The natural resources are dominated by the typical grassland (JInlianchuan Grassland) and the Hunshandake Sandy Land (浑善达克沙地) known as “The Garden of Sandy Land”. The northern tourism area takes the famous border port city Erlianhot (二连浩特) as the core, and its tourism resources are mainly border ports, ancient human remains and dinosaur fossil basin, supplemented by the Mongolian exotic customs and semi-desert steppe.
Baotou, the largest and one of the most developed cities in Inner Mongolia, is rich in tourism resources. You can enjoy magnificent grasslands, vast wetlands, stunning mountain peaks and Tibetan Buddhist temples with a long history. The Naadam Fair in Baotou is usually held in Darhan Muminggan Union Banner (达尔罕茂明安联合旗). The festival usually lasts for around 5 days. During the festival, the activities are rich and colorful, including "Morning Song Over the Grassland" Flash Mob, the opening ceremony of Nadam Festival (Grassland Melodrama, Equestrian Show, Mongolian Traditional Belge Dance Performance...), Blinking Stars & Thousands Tents day (camping, bonfire party), Grassland Hiking Day, Prairie Family Fun Day, Nomadic Culture Tourism Festival, Sheep & Goat Match (lamb racing, sheep shearing competition) and so on.
The Naadam Festival is held in Xilamuren Grassland on the 18th day of the fifth lunar month. It may last 3~10 days depending on the festival type. During the festival, there will be horse racing, wrestling, archery and various artistic performances. Visitors can either enjoy the folklore of the grassland or participate in the annual local pageant.
Xilamuren Grassland is the nearest grazing area to Hohhot. Visitors can not only taste all kinds of dairy food, experience the enthusiasm and generosity of Mongolian people, but also explore Zhaohe culture and enjoy the grassland scenery. There are scenic spots like Puhui Temple, ancient wells, Great Wall relics of the Northern Wei Dynasty and Honggeer Obo, etc. Besides the Naadam Festival, the grassland bonfire party, Obo Festival, Zhama Banquet, horse racing and wrestling performances will all give visitors the chance to experience the unique and rich Mongolian grassland customs.
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In 2020, Naadam of the Xing’an League (兴安盟) is held in the picturesque Wulan Maodu Grassland. The hospitable Xing’an people welcomed the guests from all over the world with Hadas in their hands. In 2020, the Naadam Festival will last for 7 days. Besides the wonderful opening ceremony and artistic performances, traditional Mongolian sports such as Bok, horse racing and archery, the Grassland Culture and Tourism Development Forum and the Wulan Maodu Grassland. The festival also set up various sections, like the Mongolian Costume Naadam, Traditional Mongolian Naadam, Poetry Naadam, Dairy Naadam and Music Naadam, etc. At Prairie Carnival Night, outdoor enthusiasts and visitors can also attend a bonfire party to experience the unique grassland culture.
In the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, there are not only naadam festivals held in summer and autumn, but also naadam festivals held in winter. The theme of the Winter Naadam is usually ice and snow or photography. The events and process of the Winter Naadam festival are generally similar to those held in summer, with a wonderful opening ceremony and three indispensable games of horse racing, Mongolian wrestling and archery. What is special is that in winter there will be not only horse racing, but also camel racing. Some places will also hold ice sculpture exhibitions, ice and snow culture exhibitions during the festival. Top places in Inner Mongolia to enjoy the Winter Naadam Festival include Hulunbuir, Xilingol, Hinggan League and Alxa League, etc.
Winter Naadam in Inner Mongolia
Places to Visit in Inner Mongolia: Hohhot, Hulunbuir, Ordos, Baotou, Ulanqab, Badan Jaran, Ejina, Xilingol, Chifeng…
How to Get to Inner Mongolia: International and domestic flights to Hohhot, Hulunbuir…; Domestic flights to Xilingol, Chifeng…;High Speed Train to Hohhot, Ulanqab, Baotou, Ordos, Chifeng…; Drive to Badan Jaran, Ejina…
Best Time to Visit: April to October (especially from June to September for grasslands, June to October for deserts)
Inner Mongolia is so large and abundant with diverse distinct natural and cultural highlights, therefore, you can hardly discover all the bests in one single visit. It would take 3 days to more than 1 month for various needs. And your itinerary can be decided based on your trip length, interests and a major area of this vast destination.
A classic Inner Mongolia tour usually starts from Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia and most convenient traffic hub. Planning 3 days is popular for an essential discovery of Hohhot city highlights with surrounding grassland like Huitengxile or Xilamuren. 1-2 days extension to Kubuqi Desert in Ordos is also frequently chosen. And a 5-6 days trip including Hohhot, nearby grassland, Ulanqab volcanoes, Baotou and Ordos are the favorite one among travelers to discover grassland, desert, historical culture of Genghis Khan, Tibetan Buddhism, etc. in Inner Mongolia.
☛ 6 Days Inner Mongolia Bests Discovery Tour (Hohhot / Ulanqab / Huitengxile Grassland / Baotou / Kubuqi Desert / Ordos)
If you are interested in the most beautiful grassland, arrange 4-5 days to Hulunbuir to catch Hulunbuir Grassland and all the fabulous primitive nature and in-depth nomadic tribe culture highlights in Hailar, Ergun, Genhe and Manzhouli. If you have more time, add 2 more days to Arxan National Forest Park.
A middle and east Inner Mongolia discovery to Hohhot, Baotou, Ordos and Hulunbuir usually takes about 6-8 days, which helps you savor the top representative prairie sightseeing and culture of Inner Mongolia.
The west Inner Mongolia is favored for seeking wilder sightseeing and adventure. If you want to discover China’s most beautiful desert, a 2-4 days Badain Jaran Desert trip to the west Inner Mongolia is your best choice to go! Besides, the splendid Ejina Populus Euphratica Forest is quite hot for a 2-3 days’ photography tour in autumn. If you want a longer vacation, plan as many other visitors to discover Badain Jaran together with nearby hot and convenient destinations like Xining, Zhangye, Dunhuang, Jiayuguan, etc. It usually needs 7 days for a Xining Zhangye Badain Jaran Desert trip.
Besides, it is also a great idea to extend to more popular destinations in China to appreciate more wonderful nature, culture, history and food of this vast country, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Xinjiang, Gansu, Tibet, Yangtze River, Yunnan, Guilin, Zhangjiajie, Huangshan, etc.
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Hohhot / Ulanqab / Huitengxile Grassland / Hohhot / Baotou / Yemingsha of Kubuqi Desert / Ordos
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