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Subject: Mongolia Frequently Asked Questions Version 7 (July 7th, 2000)
This article was archived around: 15 Jul 2000 10:17:05 GMT
Posting-Frequency: monthly, sometimes irregularly
Last-modified: July 2000
Summary: This posting contains a list of Frequently Asked Questions
(and their answers) about Mongolia, Mongolians and the areas where
Mongolian-speaking people live.
Table of Contents
1. Preliminary Notes
1.1 About this FAQ
1.2 How is this text compiled?
1.3 How can I get a copy of this Frequently Asked Questions list?
1.4 Can I receive regular updates of this document?
1.5 I see all these irritating spelling variants in Mongolian Names.
Which one is right?
1.6 Is there a key to the romanization used here?
2. Mongolia - Communication and Information
2.1 Are there any sources of information on Mongolia in the Internet?
2.2 Is there an Internet or e-mail link to Mongolia?
2.3 Is there an IDD (International Direct Dialing)
telephone link to Mongolia?
2.3.1 What are the area codes within Mongolia?
2.4 How to reach Inner Mongolia?
2.5 How to reach Buryatia and Kalmykia?
2.6 Are there mobile (cellular) phone services available in Mongolia?
2.7 Are there Mongolian radio broadcasts?
2.8 What about Electricity Supply?
3. Mongolia - Land, People, Language
3.1 Where do Mongolians live?
3.2 What Happened When? A Chronological View at Mongolian History
3.3 Who is Who among the Khans?
3.4 How does the Mongolian National Flag look like,
and what does it mean?
3.5 How do Mongolians live? (Economy Basics)
3.5.1 Pastoral Nomadism
3.5.2 Industrialized Cities
3.5.3 Mongolian Economy in China
3.5.4 What Currency is used in Mongolia?
3.6 Where to call in distress?
3.7 Who speaks Mongolian?
3.8 What kind of a language is Mongolian?
3.8.1 Mongolian - Language
3.8.2 Mongolian - Grammar
3.8.3 Mongolian - Writing
188.8.131.52 Mongolian Writing: Uighur
184.108.40.206 Mongolian Writing: Chinese
220.127.116.11 Mongolian Writing: Phagsba
18.104.22.168 Mongolian Writing: Soyombo
22.214.171.124 Mongolian Writing: Horizontal Square, or Xäwtää Dörwöljin
126.96.36.199 Mongolian Writing: Tibetan
188.8.131.52 Mongolian Writing: Cyrillic
3.9 Is Mongolian easy to learn?
3.10 Are the Mongolian dialects an obstacle for the foreigner
4. Mongolia - Administrative
4.1 I want to study in Mongolia. Where do I establish contact?
4.2 I want to work in Mongolia, e.g. teach a foreign language.
Where do I establish first contact?
4.3 I want to study in Inner Mongolia. Where do I establish contact?
4.4 I want to work in Inner Mongolia, e.g. teach a foreign language.
Where do I establish first contact?
4.5 I want to travel to Mongolia. What kind of travel
documentation do I need?
4.6 I want to travel to Inner Mongolia. What kind of travel
documentation do I need?
4.7 I want to travel to Buryatia. What kind of travel
documentation do I need?
4.8 I want to travel to Kalmykia. What kind of travel
documentation do I need?
4.9 Where is the nearest embassy / consulate of Mongolia?
5. Mongolia - Tourism
5.1 How to travel to Mongolia?
5.2 What kind of accommodation is available in Mongolia?
5.3 What kind of transport is available in Mongolia?
5.3.1 Transport in Ulaanbaatar
5.3.2 Transport outside Ulaanbaatar
5.4 Which season is recommended for travelling?
5.5 What are the points of sightseeing, museums etc.?
6. Inner Mongolia - Tourism
6.1 How to travel to Inner Mongolia?
6.2 What kind of accommodation is available in Inner Mongolia?
6.3 What kind of transport is available in Inner Mongolia?
6.4 Which season is recommended for travelling?
6.5 What are the points of sightseeing, museums etc.?
7. Mongolia - Computing Issues
7.1 Is there some kind of ``Mongolian ASCII'' or commonly
acknowledged encoding standard for Mongolian language
7.2 Are there computer programs for processing Mongolian
8. Mongolia - Suggested Readings
8.1 Which book do you recommend as a start?
1. Preliminary Notes
1.1. About this FAQ
Archive-name: mongol-faq Version: 7.00
Copyright: Oliver Corff 1994..2000 Berlin, Ulaanbaatar, Beijing, Macau
Anyone wishing to contribute to or improve this document should not
hesitate to send the edited part(s) to me, i.e. Oliver Corff,
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Translations into other languages are welcome and appreciated. The
author kindly requests to receive a proof copy prior to publishing the
translated version in order to make sure that the translated version
is based on the most recent original.
Thanks to Christopher Kaplonski, Peter Crandall, Mingan Choct,
Ariunaa, Peter Lofting, Ken Beesley, Wolfgang Lipp, Noreen Palazzo,
Solongowa Borzigin, Purevdorj, Darima Socktoyeva, Prof. Dr. Yondon
(+), Mykel Board, Dominik Troger, David Methuen, Peter G. Campbell,
Katherine Petrie, Laurent Amsaleg, E. Bulag, Graham Shields, Jakub
Paluszak, Mark Chopping, Kent Madin and all others who have
contributed by submitting facts, corrections or suggestions on what to
include. Contributions of all kind are so numerous that the FAQ
compiler lost track of who contributed what a long time ago.
Technical Note: This text is now maintained on the basis of an sgml
master in Latin1 encoding. The master document is converted into
plain text form (for feeding into the newsgroups) and HTML form (for
presentation in the WWW).
If you want to redistribute this FAQ (which you are free and welcome
to do as long as the document is not modified and the copyright and
author lines remain intact) please contact the FAQ source if you
require the FAQ in sgml format.
Without contacting the author, you are only entitled to store, mirror
and reproduce the text version as found in the newsgroups or the HTML
version found at the official Mongolia FAQ URL. Incorporation of this
FAQ in commercial distributions, no matter which media (CD-ROM, books,
etc.) requires written permission by the FAQ compiler.
1.2. How is this text compiled?
Back in 1994, the maintainer of this FAQ thought it would be nice to
have a FAQ on Mongolia. He collected some of the original questions
(mainly questions like: how to obtain visa, where to find software,
etc.), circulated the idea in the then newly founded Mongolia-related
newsgroup soc.culture.mongolian and within a few days a number of
contributors and ideas came together to form the first Mongolia FAQ.
Since then, this text saw a considerable increase in detail and range
People still tend to ask the same questions, even this one: How was
this text compiled? Well, the answer is right here. As far as
possible, the FAQ maintainer tries to use first-hand experience and
information to answer questions. Over the years, the maintainer
visited Mongolia and Southern (Inner) Mongolia in various functions.
The maintainer hopes to be able to share his, not always objective
view, with the readers. Sometimes, if not frequently, the information
is provided by readers of the before-mentioned newsgroup or readers of
this FAQ. The list of contributors speaks! You are always welcome to
share your ideas, suggestions, criticism and updated information with
the maintainer since this offers the best chance for improving this
text. Join the ranks!
Information is updated in two ways: if major changes become necessary,
the document is changed immediately and redistributed as soon as
possible, usually within a few days. Other questions of not such an
urgent nature take more time to make it into this document, and then
the document receives its updates at greater intervalls, but also at
the benefit of greater chunks.
1.3. How can I get a copy of this Frequently Asked Questions list?
You are holding a copy of this document in your working memory! Save
it now. A copy of this document is always kept in Infosystem Mongolei
(see below) but here again is its URL: http://userpage.fu-
1.4. Can I receive regular updates of this document?
Yes and no. Of course you are entitled to receive updates, and you can
send a mail to email@example.com requesting an updated
version, but due to the nature of how the FAQ is generated, it cannot
be regular. Whenever a new version is out, it will be announced in
soc.culture.mongolian and the mailing list.
1.5. Names. Which one is right? I see all these irritating spelling
variants in Mongolian
Given the name of the Capital of Mongolia, one can find it written in
several forms: Ulan Bator, Ulaan Baatar, Ulaanbaatar and even
Ulaganbagatur (where the ``g'' sometimes is --- strangely enough! ---
spelled by a Greek gamma).. Which one, then, is the really correct
As with every non-Latin script, there is a problem of rendering this
script into Latin which involves a choice between two methods:
transliteration and transcription. The first method tries to reproduce
the original writing while the second method tries to indicate its
pronounciation. The process is further complicated if another language
and/or script is inserted between the original and the target. Hence,
Ulaanbaatar is the transliteration of the name in Mongolian (using the
Cyrillic alphabet), Ulan Bator is a spelling derived from the Russian
transcription of the name (though Russians and Mongolians use the same
writing system, the Russians preferred to make a transcription of the
Mongolian name rather than accepting it unmodified into Russian),
Ulaan Baatar is the transliterated spelling of the Mongolian words
``Red Hero'' (the literal meaning of the name), and Ulaganbagatur
finally is an approach to transliterate the name from the Classical
The whole methodological problem is explained in detail in the section
on Mongolian and computers towards the very end of this FAQ.
Due to the difficulties of rendering names etc. for postal, news and
other services some more or less ``official'' ways of spelling exist,
in addition to several transliterations and common spellings which are
not correct in the strict sense but enjoy a broad acceptance.
1.6. Is there a key to the romanization used here?
The FAQ maintainer uses the MLS system for romanizing Mongolian. The
MLS system offers round-trip compatibility (Cyrillic texts can be
transliterated, the romanized version can be retransliterated and will
be identical with the Cyrillic original). Software for MS-DOS and UNIX
based computers is available at no charge.
The basic principles underlying MLS are simple: if ever possible, use
one Latin character for one Cyrillic letter, and if not possible, use
an unambiguous digraph. Vowels are classified as front (female) or
back (male); front vowels are all marked with diacritics. It is a fact
that Mongolian *has* seven basic vowels, and it is not possible to
avoid these in writing.
Furthermore, if ever possible, one transliteration symbol should be
used for Cyrillic *and* Classical Mongolian letters of the same
The following simple table tries to avoid graphics and foreign
character sets but uses conventional names and positions to identify
Position Name Romanization Notes
1 A A/a
2 Be B/b
3 Ve W/w (1)
4 Ge G/g
5 De D/d
6 Ye E/e
7 Yo Yo/ë or yo (2)
8 Je J/j
9 Ze Z/z
10 Ih I/i
11 Xagas I (I kratkoye) I or Ï/ï (3)
12 Ka K/k
13 eL L/l
14 eM M/m
15 eN N/n
16 O Ö/o
17 Front (barred) O Ö/ö
18 Pe P/p
19 eR R/r
20 eS S/s
21 Te T/t
22 U U/u
23 Front (Straight) U Ü/ü
24 Fe F/f
25 Xa X/x (4)
26 Ce C/c
27 Che Q/q
28 Sha Sh/sh
29 Shcha Qh/qh (5)
30 Xatuu Temdeg (Hard Sign) ` (6)
31 61-Y Y/y (7)
32 Zöölön Temdeg (Soft Sign) ' (6)
33 E (not Ye) Ä/ä
34 Yu Yu/yu (8)
35 Ya Ya/ya
1. W was chosen over v because v serves a slightly different purpose
in the transliteration of Classical Mongolian. And, there is no w,
only b, in Classical Mongolian.
2. Small yo can be written as e+diaeresis (#137 in the good old IBM
cp437 codepage) or as yo. Pick what you like. Actually, for ISO
8859-1 users, there is also a capitalized Ë available. (Not so for
IBM cp437 users). The converter software is lenient and accepts
both; so should humans.
3. Xagas i (lit. ``half i'') can be entered as #139 by IBM cp437
users; a capitalized version of this letter is available for ISO
8859-1 users only.
4. X may look strange at first glance but is optically close to its
Cyrillic partner; H could not be used because it is reserved for
Buriad (e.g.: hain baina uu) where it coexists with it/x/.
5. Yes, Qh for Shch is odd. However, this letter never occurs in
genuinely Mongolian words, so it should not be too insulting to the
eye. And, unlike shch, it is round- trip compatible!
6. Both hard and soft signs are expressed by simple accents, the
transliteration does not make a difference between uppercase and
lowercase letters. It is possible to judge by context.
7. Why ``61-...''? In Mongolian called jaran-nigän, lit. ``sixty-
one'', reproduces the hand-written image if this letter.
8. Yu and yu can also be written as Yü and Yü so as to avoid things
like *yuülüür. yüülüür looks nicer!
2. Mongolia - Communication and Information
2.1. Are there any sources of information on Mongolia in the Inter
Yes and No.
First the No. Until about 1994, There used to be only a number of
miscellaneous documents (mainly U.S. government publications) on
Mongolia available on the Internet. These documents (not much more
than a handful of files) were partially outdated, difficult to find
and frequently available on various mirrored sites increasing the
Now the first Yes. In spring 1994, the USENET newsgroup
soc.culture.mongolian came into existence. It enjoys a certain
popularity, not only among Mongolia specialists but also among other
interested persons. This newsgroup (which is not moderated) offers
lively discussions on all sorts of topics ranging from food to
religion, from history to modern politics. Many frequent contributors
supply soc.culture.mongolian also with news about current events,
In order to read the news of soc.culture.mongolian, start any of the
news readers available on your machine (this may be tin, rn, nn, or
any other favourite). Following the instructions, it should not be too
difficult to subscribe to soc.culture.mongolian since this is a
mainstream USENET newsgroup which should be available at any Internet
site featuring USENET services.
Now the second Yes. The Mongolia Society in Bloomington, Indiana
established a WWW home page in Summer 1995. The WWW homepage gives
information about the Mongolia Society and its activities. The
Mongolia Society URL is: http://www.indiana.edu/~mongsoc. The author
of this site, Mitch Rice, is very active in collecting, bundling and
updating Mongolia-related Internet documents, references to other WWW
home pages on Mongolia and Tuva, gopher servers and single documents
on Mongolia in the Mongolia WWW Virtual Library, the URL being:
Now the third Yes. The Mongolian Internet provider Magicnet, the URL
being: http://www.magic.mn provides news about Mongolia and even as a
daily download of ``Today'' articles. ``Today'', or Önöödör in
Mongolian, is the most important newspaper in Mongolia. For reading
the articles, a special font is provided which can be loaded into
Microsoft Windows environments.
Now the fourth Yes. Recently, many more Web sites on Mongolia have
emerged, some of them with a focus on travel, others with a focus on
Southern (Inner) Mongolia, again others focussing on Chinggis Khan and
his spiritual heritage. Instead of including all references here I
wish to redirect all requests to the Mongolia WWW Virtual Library.
Now the fifth Yes. In November 1993, the first gopher server offering
dedicated information on Mongolia started working. It was located at
Free University, Berlin, Germany, and could be reached via (do not try
that anymore, that is history now!): gopher gopher.fu-berlin.de .
This gopher server used to offer the Infosystem Mongolei featuring a
small but growing collection of articles, maps, legal documents and
software related to Mongolia. From early 1995 on, this gopher server
was supposed to migrate to a WWW site, but, alas! due to a handful of
reasons this aim could not be achieved before spring 1996.
In its present phase, the Infosystem Mongolei - WWW site is to a
certain yet small extent still a mirror of the former gopher site but
soon the former gopher site will only be recognizable as its root, not
as its substance any more.
New technologies are constantly advancing and create new opportunities
for publishing documents which seemed to be ``unpublishable'' due to
technical constraints. The new WWW site supports Chinese characters in
its documents eliminating effectively the need for dedicated software
on the users' side.
The Infosystem Mongolei - WWW URL is: http://userpage.fu-
berlin.de/~corff/ You can receive announcements about new articles,
updates etc. if you send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with
the request to be included in the mailing list.
2.2. Is there an Internet or e-mail link to Mongolia?
The first e-mail link in Mongolia came into existence in
January/February 1995 and was not yet a continuous (i.e. 24 h/day)
operation but it seemed to work. It is still active and organized by a
commercial service provider, Datacom Co., Ltd. Mongolia. The address
is: email@example.com and requests to this address will most certainly
be answered by Bataa, the system operator. There are various types of
service charges. First, one has to open an account which is between
USD 20.-- and USD 100.-- depending on whether one is a private or an
institutional user. Then there is a monthly charge (starting with USD
5.-- / month), and in addition there is a volume charge for every kB
of data which is 30 cents. Despite these various charges, the
operation via e-mail is by far the cheapest because fax and DX
telephone costs are tremendous.
In 1999, many Internet providers have mushroomed at least in
Ulaanbaatar, and there are now too many Internet Cafés as can be
included here; they are easily locatable by their huge billboards like
the ones near the National University and the Baga Toïrog, the Small
Ring Street with Süxbaatar Square at its centre. Fares seem to be
around T1600.-- per hour, which is rather modest. The occasional
traveller to Ulaanbaatar can thus afford to stay in touch with home.
In addition, the Academy of Sciences which used to have its own
connection (UUCP) to the Internet via Dubna, Russia, has switched to
magicnet, too, in summer 1996, but this is history, and recently the
Academy can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org for the Computer Centre
of the Academy. The other institutes which used to have an address at
Dubna are migrating too, and their new addresses will be provided in
Inner Mongolia University can be accessed by the URL
Inner Mongolia Polytechnical University can be accessed by the URL
By information of February 4, 1996, Buryatia can be reached via e-
mail. For first contact, you may communicate to email@example.com
(Communicated by Darima Socktoyeva, February 1996)
2.3. Is there an IDD (International Direct Dialing) telephone link to
Yes, there is the possibility to place IDD (International Direct
Dialing) telephone calls to Mongolia. The country code is ++976.
2.3.1. What are the area codes within Mongolia?
Available area codes are:
Dornod, Qoïbalsan 061
Baganuur Düüräg 031
Nalaïx Düüräg 033
At present the telephone system in Ulaanbaatar is under reconstruction
which implies that certain numbers are changed. Ulaanbaatar used to
have 5-digit telephone numbers until 1992. Those numbers which then
began with a 2 are usually converted by placing a 3 in front of the
leading digit. Other numbers were changed later. Some numbers still
retain the 5-digit order.
2.4. How to reach Inner Mongolia?
Inner Mongolia can be reached via China. The country code is 86, the
area code for Huhhot is (0)471 (skip the leading 0 when dialing from
abroad). In 1995, there was a change in the telephone system of
Huhhot, and a ``9'' must now be included after the first digit. So, a
number like 454433 becomes now 4954433.
2.5. How to reach Buryatia and Kalmykia?
Buryatia can be reached via Russia. The country code is ++7 but there
are two city codes for Ulan Ude: 3012 for 6-digit telephone numbers,
30122 for 5-digit telephone numbers.
Kalmykia is also reached via Russia, its area code is 847 and a
district Code may appear between it and your local numbers.
2.6. Are there mobile (cellular) phone services available in Mongo
Yes, a service provider named ``MobiCom'' provides cellular phone
services (GSM standard) within Ulaanbaatar and a 35-km range around
the Capital as well as Darxan and Ärdänät. You can take your Siemens,
National Panasonic or other mobile phone to Ulaanbaatar and get a
service contract (with chip card) there. The initial fee is hefty
(around USD 200.-- or USD 300.--) and the airtime price per minute is
around USD .50. Monthly fee used to be USD 50.-- but was reduced to
approximately USD 30.-- with the arrival of a competitor, SkyTel (see
below). MobiCom numbers begin with 99-11, followed by a four-digit
subscriber's number. Dialling from abroad requires the sequence
+976-99-11-subscriber. There is no further area code between the
country code and the cell phone number.
Contact MobiCom Corporation, tel. 312222, or send a fax before going
there (+976-1-314041) if you want to use their service.
Another mobile phone company which started business in 1999 is SkyTel.
Their telephone numbers begin with 96-16. SkyTel rates seem to be more
competitive than MobiCom's.
Both MobiCom and SkyTel have their offices in the immediate
neighbourhood behind the Central Post Office west of Süxbaatar Square.
2.7. Are there Mongolian radio broadcasts?
The question has two possible basic meanings. First of all, we can ask
whether there are radio broadcasts in Mongolia. Then we can ask
whether there are Mongolian language radio broadcasts abroad. Both
questions can be answered positively.
Mongolia has a domestic radio service, both wireless and wire, as well
as television. Besides the domestic radio service, there is also an
international shortwave service.
The radio in Ulaanbaatar is mainly based on a wire-distributed system
with loudspeakers in virtually every urban househould. In some areas
there is only one channel available while other areas feature two
channels which are propagated with long waves and detected with very
simple sets: two channel buttons (with the more sophisticated sets;
the simple ones do without), volume control, that's it. If one does
not want to listen, one pulls the plug; otherwise it's Plug and Play.
These radio sets, called `boxes' (xaïrcag in Mongolian) are available
in the department store but where ever you go you would inevitably run
into the soft background of these ever-present voices, especially at
offices, workplaces etc. The movie ``Argamshaa'' has a scene where an
empty apartment is shown with just the radio being switched on.
Recently, at least one independent FM radio station took up operation.
Mongolian television is a complex story: the state-run television can
mainly be received in Ulaanbaatar, but in recent years many satellite
channels mushroomed. It is now possible to watch MTV. Besides these
new stations, Mongolian television has also diversified: There is now
Ulaanbaatar City Television which even broadcasts on Monday when the
state-run television station habitually has its day off. More details
on television schedules and broadcast history can be found in an
article by John W. Williams, Mass Media in Post-Revolution Mongolia
(in Infosystem Mongolei).
International broadcasts on short wave by Radio Ulaanbaatar can be
heard daily in English and Mongolian. The frequencies given here are
last winter's schedule but appearantly there are not many changes so
these can be tried:
Time (UTC) Frequencies Direction
0300-0330 9960, 12000kHz Asia
0910-0940 9960, 12000kHz Asia
1445-1515 7530, 9950kHz Asia
1930-2000 4080, 7530kHz Europe and Asia
A more detailed list which is probably not up-to-date gives
information on the languages used by Radio Ulaanbaatar, schedule
effective from September 24, 1995 to March 26, 1996 (Do not feel
shocked to see the year 1996 there. The frequencies do not seem to
change over the years.)
Language Target Area Weekday Time UTC Frequencies, kHz
Mongolian East Asia Daily 1020-1050 12085,9960,990
Siberia Daily 1250-1320 9950,7350,990
English Australia Daily 0910-0940 12000,9960
South Asia Daily 1445-1515 9950,7530
Europe Daily 1930-2000 7530,4080
North America Daily 0300-0330 12000,9960
Russian Far East 12.45.7 0945-1015 12085,9960
Siberia .23.567 1410-1440 9950,7530
Europe 1.32.67 1700-1730 7530,4080
Japanese East Asia Daily 1120-1150 12085,9960
......7 1200-1230 12085
Chinese East Asia Daily 1050-1120 12085,9960,990
Asia Daily 1330-1400 9950,7530,990
Address: Radio Ulaanbaatar, CPO Box 365, Ulaanbaatar 13, Mongolia
The reception is usually fairly weak (as reported repeatedly and
backed up by own experience).
2.8. What about Electricity Supply?
All these electric things are mentioned here. Do they operate on
batteries? No, of course not. The standard electrical voltage of
Mongolia is 220V, 50 cycles/second, and is supplied via Russian-style
electricity outlets. The connector pins are round, usually with a
diameter of 4mm, so squeezing modern German 5mm plugs into Mongolian
sockets will break the socket. Either retrofit your wiring with so-
called European plugs (4mm, no earthing connector), or use adapters,
or modify or replace the wall outlet.
Electricity is available in the cities of Mongolia as well as in aïmag
centres and larger villages; in the countryside however, solar-driven
batteries are extremely useful.
Prepare yourself for brown-outs (unstable electricity supply) and
black-outs (complete electricity failure) at unregular intervals for
everything between fractions of a second and several hours.
3. Mongolia - Land, People, Language
3.1. Where do Mongolians live?
Mongolians live in:
· Mongolia proper, the huge, land-locked country between China and
the Siberian part of the Russian Federation (see also the CIA --
The World Fact Book -- Mongolia, URL
· Southern Mongolia, or Inner Mongol Autonomous Region which
politically belongs to China;
· There are about 600,000-700,000 Mongols living in western Liaoning
province. Most of them are Kharchin Mongols and the land they are
living formerly called Zosot Aimag. Now there are still two Mongol
Autonomous Counties in Liaoning;
· There are about 150,000 Mongols living in western Jilin province.
Most of them are Khorchin Mongols. They form one Mongol autonomous
· There are about 160,000 Mongols living in southwest Heilongjiang
province. Most of them are Khorchin Mongols. There is one Mongol
autonomous county in Heilongjiang. However, there are also four or
five thousands of Kalmyks (Oirat) living in Yimin County (formerly
the Ikh Mingan Banner). They were moved to the present area in
early 18th century by the Qing government;
· Buryatia, direct north of Mongolia proper, south and south-east of
Lake Baikal. Buryatia is an Autonomous Republic, the capital is
Ulaan-Üüd (Ulan-Ude) (see also Buryatia Fact File in Infosystem
· An important number of Mongols who are known as Kalmyks live in
Russia in Kalmykia, the capital being Elista. Kalmyks are also
known as Oirats;
· In Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, there are also Kalmyks
holding strong ties with their brethren in Kalmykia. Yet even among
the Oirats, groups are differentiated which has a strong political
repercussion even today. There are also some Chahar Mongols in
Xinjiang, and they may not consider themselves belonging to the
mainstream Oirat, but be more interested in Inner Mongolia;
· In Qinghai (modern Chinese name of what used to be known as Huhnuur
or Koko-Nuur in old maps - which means Blue Lake in Mongolian and
Chinese, being the Amdo region of Tibet) there are several
communities of Mongolians and their descendants. They can be
divided into two groups: 1. Mongols to the west of Xöxnuur (Prince
Lubsandanjin's group), i.e. Haixi Tibetan and Mongolian autonomous
prefecture. They speak good Mongolian (Hoshot dialect). 2. The
Mongols in Henan prefecture, i.e. those who earlier belonged to
Prince Chagaandanjin, now speak Tibetan, but are still regarded and
officially recognized as Mongolians;
· In north Gansu there is a Mongol community which is largely of a
mixed Khalkha-Hoshot origin. Some of the were descendants of
Khalkha refugees fled Mongolia in the late twenties and early
thirties of the 20th century;
These groups deserve mentioning because they do not think they are
living in `Chinese' provinces, but living in their original
homeland. Jungaria is particularly important, it is also the
homeland of the Kalmyks and Mongols in Germany and USA;
· There are about 60,000 Mongols in Henan province, mainly
concentrated around Nanyang Prefecture. They are descendants of the
Mongol army during the Yuan dynasty. They do not speak Mongolian
any more, but politically they are considered Mongols;
· A significant number of Mongolians live dispersed in other Chinese
provinces. Some of them form their own nationalities, e.g. the
Dagurs, the Dongxiang (Sarts), the Bao'an etc. with languages being
quite distant from modern Mongolian (cf. below);
· Small communities of an ancient Mongol tribe named Moghols live in
Afghanistan. Their language spoken today has only little in common
with Xalx or Qaxar Mongolian;
· There is also a worldwide somewhat scattered community of Mongol
scholars, students and professionals living in many countries from
America to New Zealand. About 500 or more Mongols live in Germany.
Many of them came to Germany during the existence of the German
Democratic Republic which is now united with the Federal Republic
· A significant number of Kalmyks became expatriated during World War
II. Having the status of Displaced Persons (DP) they were relocated
to Munich, Germany immediately after the war from where many of
them went on to the United States of America where they settled in
New Jersey and formed the nucleus of the present Kalmyk community
in the US;
3.2. What Happened When? A Chronological View at Mongolian History
An overview of Mongolian history is given here in tabular manner.
There are still many gaps in this list which are to be filled later.
This is a starter, and should actually be accompanied by the notorious
Site under Construction warning. Since this is an overview only,
neither all geographical nor all personal names can be explained and
commented in detail here. The reader interested in in-depth
information is kindly requested to consult history books on Mongolian
history; an introductory bibliography (see also the last item of this
FAQ) can be found at SROM - Suggested Readings on Mongolia.
Speaking in geopolitical terms, the epicentres of Mongolian history
are the conquest of Central Asia in the 13th century, the Golden Horde
(m. altan orda) in today's Russia lasting to the beginning of the 16th
century, the comparatively shortlived Il Khanate (from 1220 to ca.
1350) and the Yuan Khanate (dynasty, ulus) in China (from 1279 to
1368), and, by the point of view of the Golden Horde, East Mongolia
which is more or less identical with modern Mongolia and Inner
Mongolia. This very brief sketch does not contain the history of
Mongolians in India, nor many other contacts between Mongolia and the
West. Huge volumes have been written about every single of these
subjects, and the researcher who wants to fully understand by own
reading of historical sources the panorama of Mongolian history has to
master, besides Mongolian, a range of about a dozen totally different
languages, from Latin to Chinese as geographical poles, with Arabian,
Persian, Turkish, Armenian etc. etc. in between. Few scholars have
ever achieved this first source knowledge, which is one of the reasons
why we have no all-encompassing history of the Mongols out of the
hands of one author alone.
At this point the onset of this historical overview coincides with
Khabul Khan's activities. Neither the early Hunnu (Xiongnu) nor the
East Turkic empires are included here.
Khabul Khan unites the Mongxol and forms a tribal group.
Birth of Temujin, grandson Khabul Khan's, who will later receive
the name Chinggis.
Temujin reigns the Mongxol and is entitled Khan besides
receiving the name Chinggis. The etymology of this name could
not yet be clarified in a satisfactory manner.
At the Onon river, clean leaders hold an assembly (m. xuriltai)
at which Chinggis Khan is confirmed as the leader of the Mongol
Mongols invade Xixia, also known as Tangut.
Beijing falls to Mongols.
Mongol campaign towards the West; Karakitai falls in 1218;
Buchara and Samarkand fall in 1220. The latter date is
considered by some as the initial year of the Il Khanate.
Mongols beat a united army of Qipchak Turks (Cumans) and
Russians at the Kalka river (enters the Sea of Azov near Zhdanov
via the Kal'mius river); modern name Kal'qik, it is a tributary
to the Kal'mius river, but some sources give the name Kalec and
point to the modern city of Taganrog as its mouth); this date is
considered by some as the beginning of the Golden Horde.
Death of Chinggis Khan. Fall of the Tangut.
Election of Ögödäi as Great Khan.
The Secret History of the Mongols probably written in this year,
if not 12 years later. Marking the onset of Mongolian
literature, the Secret History of the Mongols of which no truly
original text is preserved (only a transcription of the
Mongolian language with Chinese characters survived) is at the
same time Mongolia's first history, her first genealogy and her
first epos. Besides that, it is as well a piece of poetry as a
piece of lore; until today it is a keystone of Mongolian
Battle of Liegnitz marking the westernmost expansion of the
Mongol empire. Death of Ögödäi.
John of Plano Carpini travels to Mongolia.
Begin of the campaigns against Korea.
William Rubruk travels to the Mongols and is sent to Karakorum.
Carpini's and Rubruk's travelogues belong to the earliest
western sources on medieval Mongolia.
Death of Batu, first Khan of the Golden Horde.
Bagdad conquered by Hülägü.
Death of Möngkä.
Death of Hülägü, the first Il Khan.
Death of Bärkä, Khan of the Golden Horde.
Khubilai adopts Chinese dynastic title Yuan.
First attempt to conquer Japan.
End of Song resistance against Mongols is considered the
founding date of the Yuan dynasty, or Yuan Ulus.
Second attempt to conquer Japan. Fleet defeated prior to landing
in Japan by storms praised by Japanese as ``Winds of Godly
power'' - kamikaze.
Mongols defeated in Java.
Rabban Sauma (also known as Bar Sawma) sent to Europe by Il Khan
Özbäg becomes the last powerful Mongol ruler of the Golden
Death of Abu Sa'id, the last Il Khan of Hülägü's line, probably
by poisoning. Beginning decline of the Il Khanate. No new ruler
powerful enough to govern the whole Khanate emerges. Within a
few years, the Il Khanate collapses.
The Yuan rule in China collapses and yields to the Ming dynasty.
Sheikh Ahmad becomes last Khan of the Golden Horde.
Sheikh Ahmad's troups defeated by Mengli Girai.
The peace between Lituania and Russia is considered as the end
of the Golden Horde.
Alexander of Lituania has Sheikh Ahmad executed.
Ärdänä Zuu founded.
Altan Khan awards the title of Dalai Lama to the Tibetan priest
Bsod-nams Rgya-mcho. Eastern Mongolia embraces Tibetan
Ligdan Khan becomes last of the Mongolian Great Khans.
Mongolian rulers fail to recognize Ligdan Khan's attempts to
unify the Mongolian tribes; at Ligdan's death in 1634 even the
remaining Caxar flee; the collapse of Mongolian power leads to
Manchu claims over southern and east Mongolian territory which
will now be called ``Inner Mongolia''.
Ming toppled with Mongolian assistance; Qing dynasty founded.
Lifan Yuan founded. The equivalent of the ``India Office'' in
some aspects, it was responsible for Mongolian, Tibetan, Uighur
and Russian affairs.
Ix Xürää probably founded as a nomadic monastery.
Zanabazar invents Soyombo script.
Manchu-Russian Treaty of Nerchinsk. Russian border defined.
Council of Dolon nor. Xalx Mongol rulers submit formally to the
Final organization of the Lifan Yuan.
Ix Xürää becoming settled.
End of Qing Dynasty. 8th Yebcundamba Xutugtu enthroned as Head
of Autonomous Mongolia.
Treaty of Kyakhta. Russia and China maintain various privileges
in Autonomous Mongolia (the third partner) without Autonomous
Mongolia being able to decide her own territorial issues.
Baron of Ungern-Sternberg in Xalx.
Provisional Revolutionary People's Government in Xalx.
Death of Süxbaatar, revolutionary hero of modern Mongolia.
Death of the 8th (and last) Zebcundamba Xutugtu. Foundation of
the Mongolian People's Republic (MPR; in Mongolian: BNMAU, Bügd
Naïramdax Mongol Ard Uls); first national assembly, Ardyn Ix
Xural or Great People's Hural held. Örgöö (Urga) renamed
Battle of Xalxyn Gol between Japanese-Manchukuo and Soviet-
Inner Mongol Autonomous Region founded.
Mongolian People's Republic joins UNO; membership strongly
supported by India.
Mongolian People's Republic becomes COMECOM member.
The 19th Party Congress of MAXN addresses issues of political
openness and economic efficiency. Similar to Gorbachev's
reforms in the Soviet Union, this was originally intended as an
attempt to revitalize socialism. It was, in retrospect, the
start of the end of socialism in Mongolia.
The first opposition group, the Mongolian Democratic Union is
formed on 10 December (now a national holiday). This coincides
with MAXN's Seventh Central Committee Plenum, which considered
the need for greater reforms.
Social-Democratic Movement (forerunner of the Mongolian Social-
Democratic Party) founded.
Mongolian demonstrators demand reforms, glasnost' and multi-
party elections. New parties are founded by young Mongolian
COMECON dismantled; Mongolia deeply hit by economical crisis.
Mongolian People's Republic adopts new constitution and is
renamed Mongol Uls - Mongolia.
Mongolia hold elections; the old Communist party MAXN wins with
a comfortable majority of seats in the new parliament. Jasraï
becomes Prime Minister.
Mongolia holds elections; the old Communist party MAXN is
defeated, and the Democrats gain a landslide victory. They come
close by one seat to the two-thirds majority needed for
constitutional amendmends. New Prime Minister is Änxsaïxan.
1997, May 18
Bagabandi (MAXN) elected President of Mongolia, replacing P.
The Mongolian government, crippled by internal disputes, forces
the cabinet to resign. Mongolia is effectively without
government during several months.
1999, December 24
The recent experiences with nominations for Prime Ministers and
their consequent repeated denial by the President leads to an
amendment of the constitution; seven issues are discussed and
passed in less than 40 minutes. Major items concern the quorum,
or required presence of a simple majority of MPs, as well as the
simplification of the nomination procedure for cabinet members.
2000, July 2nd
Mongolia holds parliamentary elections; the MAXN, after their
first defeat in history, claims a stunning victory and gains 72
of 76 seats in Parliament. The Democratic Parties are ---
despite their positive record on inflation and economic
stability --- punished by the voters for their mismanagement,
their corruption scandals and their in-fighting between various
factions culminating in the founding of a handful of new parties
within months of the election.
3.3. Who is Who among the Khans?
The genealogy of the founders of the Mongolian empires is given here;
complete biographies exceed the scope of the FAQ and will be found in
the Who is Who part of Infosystem Mongolei.
[I] Chinggis Khan (*1167? -- +1227)
| | [II] |
Four sons: Jochi Chaghatai Ögädäi Tolui
(*1180?) (*1186) (*1190?)
(+1227) (+1242) (+1241) (+1232/3)
| | | |
| | | |
Batu, Chaghatai | |
2nd son Khans [III] |
(*1207) Guyuk |
Khans of the |
Golden Horde |
[IV] [V] | |
Möngkä Khubilai Hulegu Ariq-Bökä
(*1208) (*1215) (*1218) (*?)
(+1259) (+1294) (+1265) (+1266)
Yuan Il Khans
The Great Khans ruled in following chronological order:
Chinggis Khan: 1206-1227
3.4. How does the Mongolian National Flag look like, and what does it
The Mongolian flag consists of three bands, red, blue, and red, of
equal width. In the left red band there is the national symbol, called
Soyombo. Its history dates back to the 17th century AD to the creation
of the Soyombo script by Zanabazar (see also the paragraph on
Mongolian writing below).
The three-tongued flame on top symbolizes the nation's past, present
and future prosperity (this and the following paragraph quoted from:
This is Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar 1991), sun and crescent, immediately
below the flame, are old Mongolian totems. The two triangles in the
upper and lower part tell about the people's determination to uphold
their freedom and independence. The rectangles and walls stand for
strength, uprightness and honesty. The Yin-Yang symbol in the center
is interpreted in two ways: some see the unity of pairs of natural
elements, fire and water, earth and sky, man and woman; others see two
fishes standing for continuous movement since fishes neever sleep as
they cannot close their eyes.
In 1924 the first Great People's Hural (National Assembly) decided to
crown the symbol with a 5-pointed star which was abolished with the
new constitution of 1992.
3.5. How do Mongolians live? (Economy Basics)
The prevailing Mongolian style of life is pastoral nomadism. Mongolia
proper has an immense richness in livestock; the Five Species of
Animal, as they are traditionally counted in Mongolian (tawun xoshuu
mal) are sheep, goat, camel, horse and cattle. Sheep deliver wool,
goat and cattle deliver milk and meat, camel and cattle provide
transport, and horses are used for riding.
Between twice and four times a year a typical herders' family moves
between a winter camp and a summer camp.
Depending on the area (grasslands in the east, semi-desert and desert
in the south (gobi literally means desert)) the composition of the
livestock changes significantly.
Traditionally, pastoral nomadism secures a kind of self-sufficient
life; the wool is used to produce fabric and felt for the gär, the
traditional Mongolian round tent (aka yurt); hides are processed into
leather for all kinds of goods from boots to household ustensils; in
the summer, milk is processed into dairy products; only surplus meat
is traded against grain and rice. Only around one percent of
Mongolia's surface is used as arable land for grain production.
The nomadic type of economy is challenged by modern-day's industrial
production with its typical and profound division of labour; the
industrial society which prevails in the few major cities of Mongolia,
Ulaanbaatar (being the capital), Darxan (in the north) and Ärdänät
(the mining centre) is based on trade and the exploitation of natural
resources like ores and coal; this economy is virtually detached from
the countryside and was hit hardest during the economical crisis of
the early 1990s.
The rift between countryside and city is so big that food stores in
Ulaanbaatar offer German jam, butter from New Zealand, cheese from
Russia, mustard from Czechia, and juice from Poland (these are just
examples), but virtually no products of Mongolian origin besides bread
and sausage. Mongolia lacks the technical means to produce and
transport dairy products in winter; with temperatures below -30
centigrades milk and cheese have to be heated rather than to be
cooled! As a consequence, relying on imported foodstuff without access
to local resources is an expensive endeavour for the average city
dweller stretching the family budget to its limits.
Mongolian Economy in China
In some areas (e.g. in Gansu and Yunnan) the population of Mongolian
origin leads a sedentary life and engages in agricultural work.
The life in Southern Mongolia (Inner Mongol Autonomous Region) is
mainly determined by the industrialization which took place in the
first quarter of the 20th century; big cities like Xöxxot (Huhhot) and
Baotou (the major metal-processing centre of Southern Mongolia) show
little affinity to traditional Mongolian life.
What Currency is used in Mongolia?
The currency unit of Mongolia is named tögrög, conventionally rendered
as Tugrik in western languages. One American dollar is roughly
equivalent to anything from 1000 to 1080 tugrik (subject to daily
fluctuation) in recent years. The currency symbol is a double-barred
Inner Mongolia uses the Chinese Yuan (Renminbi or RMB). The Chinese
banknotes carry inscriptions in five languages (Chinese, Mongol,
Tibetan, Uighur and Zhuang).
3.6. Where to call in distress?
Nobody hopes to run into emergency situations, but it is nonetheless
good to know which telephone number to call in case of a case. In
Ulaanbaatar, dial 101 for fire alarm, 102 for police, and 103 for
Ulaanbaatar is implementing a Japanese-style police system in the city
with little police booths in the residential areas. At least for long-
term residents it is advised to contact the nearest police booth and
enquire for their telephone number.
3.7. Who speaks Mongolian?
Virtually all citizens of Mongolia proper speak Mongolian. Some do not
because they are either of Kazakh or other ethnic origin. Not all
ethnic Mongols in Southern Mongolia do speak Mongol, many of them have
switched to Chinese. Similar phenomena can be observed in Buryatia
where many inhabitants speak Russian. The minor communities scattered
over China (Dongxiang (cf. article in Infosystem Mongolei), Dagur,
Eastern Yugur, Tuzu, Bao'an etc.) and Afghanistan (Moghol) speak some
very old varieties of Mongolian which have developed into proper
languages in their own right. Some of these languages are not well
documented. The Kalmyks speak a form of Mongolian known as Kalmyk
which even developed its own modified form of writing known as ``Tod''
or ``clear'' writing because it identifies vowels and some consonants
(k/g, t/d) in an unambiguous manner.
3.8. What kind of a language is Mongolian?
3.8.1. Mongolian - Language
Mongolian belongs to the Altaic family of languages showing structural
(and partially lexical) similarities with languages of the Tungusic
group of this family (e.g. Manju) and the Turkic group of this family
(e.g. Turkish). Mongolian has strong vowel harmony: all vowels within
one word and even all grammatical particles must be chosen from one of
two vowel sets which are known as male and female or back and front
vowels. Mongolian has a total of seven short vowels. There are also
seven long vowels. The distinction between short and long vowels is
essential as it alters the meaning: [tos] is ``grease, oil'' while
[toos] is ``dust''. Besides simple short and long vowels there are
also diphtongs which have duration values similar to long vowels. The
stress is usually put on the first syllable if all syllables of a word
are short; otherwise the stress is put on the first syllable carrying
a long vowel. The set of consonants has many constraints: [r] may not
occur at the beginning of a word. [f] only occurs in foreign loans and
is frequently converted to [p]. [w] and [b] though phonetically
different do not form an opposition on the phonological level. The
same holds true for [c] and [q] ([c] as [ts]ar, [q] as [ch]ill) as
well as [j] (as in [j]eep) and [z] (best described as fairly unvoiced
[ds]). Both pairs are expressed by the same symbol in Classical
writing and the development of different phonetical realisations is
mainly due to vowel environment and dialect situation. The consonants
[k] and [g] are linked to vowel harmony. In words containing back
vowels, [k] changes to [x] and [g] becomes [G] (a voiced velar).
Beginners frequently confuse the latter with something like a French
3.8.2. Mongolian - Grammar
The grammar is fairly simple: all predicates are put at the end of the
sentence resulting in a S.O.P. (subject - object - predicate)
structure. There are no subordinate clauses in the sense of Indo-
European languages. Attributes are placed in front of the denominated
entity. Indo-European style subordinate clauses (Relativsatz, etc.)
are resolved as attribute constructions. Verbs can be collated to form
new meanings or expand or intensify the meaning of the main verb.
Verbs occur in two distinct categories: 1) the ``genuine'' or finite
verb forms finish phrases, serve as predicates and can be compared to
ordinary verbs of Indo-European languages; 2) all other verb forms, be
they converbs (modifiers of other verbs), verbal nouns (usually
translated as verbs but with the complete behaviour of nouns like the
ability to form oblique cases) or the equivalents to participles and
gerundial forms cannot be used to finish phrases. As a rule of thumb,
a Mongolian phrase usually has numerous occurrences of verbs of the
second class but only one finite verb at the end of the phrase. As an
exception to this rule of thumb, under certain circumstances phrases
may also end with a verbal noun as predicate. All grammatical
functions and relations are expressed by suffixes which are ``glued''
to the end of a root be it noun or verb hence the term ``agglutinative
language''. More than one suffix can be attached to a word: e.g.
tääsh ``bag''; tääshääs ``out of the bag''; tääshääsää ``out of
his/her bag''); bolgoomj ``care''; bolgoomjtoï ``with care'' ->
careful (as adjective); bolgoomjtoïgoor ``acting with care'' -> doing
something carefully (as adverb).
The repetitive nature of similar endings has strongly influenced
traditional lyrics which uses line alliterations and line-internal
alliterations as a main element for structuring versed speech. The
emphasized beginnings of words thus form a healthy offset to the
3.8.3. Mongolian - Writing
Mongolian writing is a fairly complex topic. In the history of the
written language, numerous scripts were either accepted from other
cultures or domestically designed. The most important scripts are
Uighur, Chinese, Phagsba, Soyombo and Cyrillic. Other scripts than
these five were also employed at given times in history, e.g. Latin
which had been used during the 1930s.
184.108.40.206. Mongolian Writing: Uighur
The traditional Mongolian script is written in vertical lines from
left to right, very much like an Arab page turned counter-clockwise by
90 degrees. Though this script (called Uighur script because the
Uighurs had used it first) has been the main vehicle of written
Mongolian, a number of other writing systems have been and are being
employed. The earliest documents still existing date back to the 13th
Despite numerous other attempts to introduce different types of
writing, this script has proven to be to most stable vehicle of
written Mongolian. It was used up to the 1930s in Mongolia when it was
first replaced with a short-lived Latin script (until 1938) and then
replaced by a modified Cyrillic script in 1940.
In Southern Mongolia or China's Inner Mongolia (Inner Mongol
Autonomous Region, or Öwörr Mongol Öörtöö Zasax Oron) Uighur or
Classical Mongolian writing is still the official writing system.
Similar to the historical orthography of English, Classical Mongolian
as it is used today contains a lot of phonological archaisms and
historical features which make it sometimes not perfectly easy to
learn but which offer valuable insight for linguists and provide
enough of dialect neutrality for modern-day speakers from most
Mongolian language areas.
In the beginning of the 1990s, Mongolia was considering the return to
the Classical script despite the heavy financial and social cost: New
schoolbooks had to be compiled and many adults who were born after
1940 must now learn a completely different writing system which does
not only look different but which also represents a different
historical development stage of the Mongolian language. In 1992, A
law was passed to the effect that from 1994 on Mongolian Classical
script be the official writing of Mongolia again. Even the new
constitution of Mongolia passed in 1992 was printed in Modern
(Cyrillic) and Classical (Uighur) Mongolian (see the Constitution in
Modern Mongolian, MLS-encoded and Constitution in Classical Mongolian,
MLS-encoded, both in Infosystem Mongolei) but one year after this
magic date nothing really changed substantially.
220.127.116.11. Mongolian Writing: Chinese
Astonishing as it may sound, Chinese has been the writing of choice
for important Mongolian documents during the 13th and 14th century.
Chinese characters (a virtually canonical set of some 500 characters)
were used according to their pronounciation. Some characters failed to
render the pronounciation and were prefixed (or affixed) with
modifiers, small Chinese characters indicating whether the main
consonant (or `initial') of the syllable had to be pronounced in a
velar manner of not. The most important document written with Chinese
characters is the Secret History of the Mongols. It was an achievement
of the late 19th and the early 20th century to decypher the text and
restore its original Mongolian shape. The problems linked to this work
are manyfold: One has to understand Early Mandarin (the name of the
specific form of Chinese used for this script) phonology, and one has
to understand words which appear only in this text but no other
source, not even the famous Hua Yi Yi Yu or Barbarian Glossaries,
Chinese dictionaries of the Middle Ages dealing with a number of
Central and North-East Asian languages. The most promiment scholars
contributing to the understanding of these texts were the Japanese K.
Shiratori, the German E. Haenisch, the Japanese Hattori, to name just
Using Chinese characters for writing Mongolian had the big advantage
that a message encoded in this system was obscure to a Chinese
messenger but perfectly transparent to a Mongolian listener. Despite
this advantage of privacy, the system ceased to be used in the early
18.104.22.168. Mongolian Writing: Phagsba
The Phagsba or Square Writing was developed in the 13th century by a
famous Tibetan monk and scholar, Phagsba. Designed as the Unified
Writing of the Yuan (emphasis through capitalisation added by OC), it
combined the features of Tibetan (e.g., rich consonant inventory) with
the features of Chinese (vertical writing direction) and Mongolian
(additional vowels were provided). Despite its functionality, it could
not establish itself properly and came largely out of use after the
fall of the Yuan dynasty.
The Phagsba or Square Writing is a valuable research tool because 14th
century dictionaries give us a deep insight in the phonetics and
phonology of Mongolian (and, by the way, Chinese) of those days.
22.214.171.124. Mongolian Writing: Soyombo
Another writing the design of which was politically motivated was the
Soyombo script designed by the monk and scholar Zanabazar in 1686. It
is of intriguing beauty and complexity yet never really succeeded as
script for everyday use. The only symbol of that script which can be
seen literally everywhere is the Soyombo symbol. More about the
Soyombo script and symbol can be found at the Soyombo Script page of
Mongolian Writing: Horizontal Square, or Xäwtää Dörwöljin
Zanabazar created a second writing system which looks very much like a
horizontal version of the Phagsba script, and indeed it shares the
same Tibetan roots. Horizontal Square Writing has a close resemblance
to many Tibetan characters, and similar to the Soyombo alphabet, it
shows the same typical arrangement of short and long vowels, together
with basically the same order of consonants.
Only a few documents in Horizontal Square Writing have survived, and
the script was never popularized.
126.96.36.199. Mongolian Writing: Tibetan
In the last centuries, monks at the Gandan monastery in Ulaanbaatar
used Tibetan letters to write Mongolian texts, thus continuing
Phagsba's and Zanabazar's tradition with simplified means: they did
not create an extra alphabet which was based on Tibetan principles,
they directly used the Tibetan letters to spell out Mongolian words.
Documents surviving contain several Tibetan-Mongolian dictionaries of
188.8.131.52. Mongolian Writing: Cyrillic
In 1940, The then Mongolian People's Republic started using a modified
Cyrillic alphabet which was extended by two vowel symbols, ö and ü,
the female counterparts of [o] and [u]. The orthography of Cyrillic
Mongolian is based on the Xalx dialect. Despite a few orthographic
instabilities, the Cyrillic system is the major vehicle of written
communication today in Mongolia; virtually all newspapers, book etc.
are printed in Cyrillic letters. Since the system is based on the Xalx
dialect, it is not as transparent for speakers from other Mongolian
areas if compared with the Classical script; on the other hand, the
clearly phonemical notation makes it easy to understand written
materials read aloud, and it allows easy searching of dictionaries.
Despite the strong political overtones around its inception in the
1940s, the Cyrillic writing has proven to be useful and practical. Due
to its structural similarity to Latin, the Cyrillic script could be
integrated into the world of modern information technology (printing
equipment, data interchange, computing, etc.) which further promoted
the solid standing of Cyrillic writing in present day's Mongolia.
3.9. Is Mongolian easy to learn?
From the introduction about the Mongolian language we can draw the
following conclusions on whether Mongolian is or is not easy to learn.
Since it is an SOP language its grammar may pose problems to speakers
of most European languages and Chinese. It should however be much
easier for learners with a background in Japanese, Korean, Turkish,
Manchu or similar languages.
Since the assumptions on word classes ('parts of speech') sometimes
differs thoroughly from most Indo-European languages, problems may
arise in this field (When does an ``adjective'' need declension? Is it
really what we call an adjective?).
The pronounciation does not pose enormous difficulties. Although
there are no completely unfamiliar sounds for speakers of most other
languages tutoring is strongly recommended during the initial phase of
acquiring phonetics and phonology.
The Classical writing system should be learned under a teacher's or
tutor's guidance - it is sometimes a bit tricky to master it on one's
own. The number of language training materials is not overwhelming,
dictionaries are only available for a few languages (notably Russian,
Chinese and English; but also German and Japanese. See the document by
Christopher Kaplonski and Oliver Corff: SROMDIC - Suggested Readings
on Mongolia - Dictionaries in Infosystem Mongolei) The final key to
success is practice, practice, practice. Expose yourself to as much
printed and audio material as possible.
3.10. Are the Mongolian dialects an obstacle for the foreigner learn
The language[s] in Mongolia and Southern Mongolia are virtually the
same: Mongolian is spoken in Mongolia and Southern Mongolia, but it is
spoken in its Xalx (Khalkha) form in Mongolia but spoken in its Chahar
(Cahar) dialect form in Southern (Inner) Mongolia. Besides Chahar,
there are other dialects: Alashan in the western regions of Southern
Mongolia, and the forms spoken in Hulunbuir (eastern part of Southern
Mongolia). Nonetheless, Chahar is the quasi-standard of Southern
Differences can be found in lexicon, pronounciation and grammar. The
differences in lexicon differs mostly in the realm of foreign loans:
Chinese words are more popular in Southern Mongolia (e.g. biyanji for
editor) which is redaktor in Russian-influenced Xalx; both try to re-
introduce the genuinely Mongolian term nairuulagq. Other words,
especially of theoretical and political nature, are often formed after
completely different roots.
The pronounciation differs in the case that some sounds which were not
separated in the Classical Mongolian writing (like z) are now
pronounced like z in Mongolia and j in Southern Mongolia. This is a
general rule which is influenced by the following vowel, i.e. whether
a i or something different follows.
Grammar is occasionally distinct because elder forms are sometimes
preserved in Southern Mongolian speech.
In general, it is not too difficult to speak Xalx in Southern Mongolia
since Xalx is recognized as the prestigious lingua franca of the
International Mongol community. It is however slightly more difficult
to understand Chahar if one has only enjoyed Xalx training.
The differences are aggravated by the usage of different writing
systems. Southern Mongolia keeps using the Classical Mongolian writing
(which is very conservative, also for the grammatical endings of verbs
etc.) while in Mongolia in the 1940s an extended Cyrillic alphabet was
introduced. The extensions were necessary to accommodate the Mongolian
vowels ö and ü which are usually indicated by two dots over o and u in
4. Mongolia - Administrative
4.1. I want to study in Mongolia. Where do I establish contact?
Contact your university. They may already have an exchange program
with Mongolia without your knowledge. If this fails, contact your
national academic exchange service (e.g. the DAAD in Germany or the
JFPS in Japan).
4.2. Where do I establish first contact? I want to work in Mongolia,
e.g. teach a foreign language.
Here as above it is recommended to contact your university or your
national academic exchange service. You are strongly discouraged to
go to Mongolia posing as a foreign language teacher if you are not one
for purposes other than teaching, e.g. missionary work. While in the
beginning of the 1990s it was still possible to do so, anyone not
being sent by an acknowledged academical institution or governmental
body must now show certificates proving his/her qualification as a
In addition, every foreigner staying within Mongolia for more than a
month has to register with police. In case of foreign experts,
foreign personnel etc. the employer or host will certainly assist.
Not registering has consequences when leaving the country. Regularly
you get fined (anything near USD100.--) and you may risk missing your
plane/train. You may even appear with your nationality and name
spelled out in full in a newspaper article. Not registering is not
worth the trouble.
4.3. I want to study in Inner Mongolia. Where do I establish contact?
The answer here is the same as above. Only one difference must be
observed: Politically being a part of China, all programs dealing with
Inner Mongolia are usually in the Chinese section or department.
4.4. Where do I establish first contact? I want to work in Inner
Mongolia, e.g. teach a foreign language.
The answer here is the same as above. Only one difference must be
observed: Politically being a part of China, all programs dealing with
Inner Mongolia are usually kept in the Chinese section or department
of the exchange organization or university.
4.5. I want to travel to Mongolia. What kind of travel documentation
do I need?
You must obtain a visa at a Mongolian embassy or consulate. (See below
for a list of embassies / consulates). In order to obtain a visa for
stays of one month or longer you must produce an invitation issued by
a) a Mongolian private person or b) a Mongolian institution. This may
be a university.
It is principally possible to apply for a visa directly at the airport
Buyant-Uxaa, at least when flying in from Beijing. The applicant
should carry an invitation (see above) and is usually only granted a
stay of one month. Two passport photographs are required and USD 50.--
Once you have entered Mongolia various regulations on registering with
police may apply depending on the length and nature of your stay.
Registration is mandatory when staying for longer than one month. It
is more than highly recommended to observe the registration procedure
since you may risk being denied exit from the country upon presenting
your passport at the airport without the proper police registration
stamps. You also risk being fined somewhere in the area of USD 100.--
upon exiting Mongolia when disobeying the registration rule. You may
even risk being mentioned in a newspaper article on foreigners
violating Mongolian laws (like: Önöödör, Jan. 6, 2000, p. 6: Gadaadyn
79 Irgän juram zörqjää).
Persons staying on official visa (category ``A'') should turn to their
official host (university, government ministry, etc.) for assistance.
For details, ask your Mongolian embassy when receiving the visa.
The registration is done at the National Civilian Information and
Registration Centre (Irgädiïn Mädäälliïn Bürtgäliïn Ulsyn Töw,
abbreviated IMBUT) in the North of Ulaanbaatar at Zuun Aïlt. Every
taxi driver knows this place name.
Registration requires paying 500.-- Tugrik at the bank counter (Golomt
Bank), ground floor. Then proceed to room 303 on the third floor,
exchange your payment coupon against a form to fill in (asking your
name, host institution, address in Mongolia, etc.) which must be
filled in and handed to another counter in the same room. Do not
forget to bring your passport and one photograph with you. The
assistance of a Mongolian friend or colleague is invaluable in case
language capabilities are overstretched when filling in the Mongolian
form, which features, by the way, a question concerning the
applicant's Mongolian language skills.
4.6. I want to travel to Inner Mongolia. What kind of travel documen
tation do I need?
You need a visa issued by the authorities of the People's Republic of
China. Once in China (and Inner Mongolia) you'll be requested to
register at a hotel etc. by using the forms available there. Various
other procedures may apply depending on length and nature of your
4.7. I want to travel to Buryatia. What kind of travel documentation
do I need?
You need a visa issued by the authorities of the Russian Federation.
Contact your local (usually former USSR) embassy.
4.8. I want to travel to Kalmykia. What kind of travel documentation
do I need?
You need a visa issued by the authorities of the Russian Federation.
4.9. Where is the nearest embassy / consulate of Mongolia?
There are not so many Mongolian embassies and consulates. Most of
them are accredited for several countries. The following list is very
incomplete and remains to be completed with the readers' help.
Since it is helpful to use a travel agency's services when applying
for a visa this list contains also some information about travel
agents. If you miss your favourite agent here then you can send the
address to Infosystem Mongolei. The selection here is purely
``global'' (whatever is submitted gets published).
Please note that the addresses, telephone numbers etc. could not
always be verified and counter-checked. They may be subject to change
without notice. The editor of this FAQ tries to maintain all
information in a state as correct as possible but relies on the
Mongolian Embassy in Australia
There is no embassy in Australia. Australia is
covered by the Mongolian Embassy in China, Beijing.
Honorary Consul in Austria
Mr. Johannes Stiedl
Tel.: ++ 43 1 8773353
Mongolian Embassy in China
No. 2 Xiu Shui Bei Jie
Jian Guo Men Wai District
Tel.: ++ 86 10 6532 1203
Fax : ++ 86 10 6532 5045
Mongolian Embassy in France
5, Av. R. Schuman
Tel.: (+33) 1 46 05 30 16 or
(+33) 1 46 05 23 18
Mongolian Embassy in Germany
Außenstelle der Mongolischen Botschaft in Berlin
Honorary Consul in Hong Kong
Mr. Kwok Shiu Ming
4 Sommerset Toad, Kowloon
Tel.: ++ 852 338 9034
Fax : ++ 852 338 0633
Honorary Consul in Italy
Mr. Aldo Colleoni
viale XX Settembre, 37
telex 461138 CONMON1.
Mongolian Embassy in Japan
Pine Crest Mansion
Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150
Mongolian Embassy in New Zealand
New Zealand Embassy and Ambassador in Beijing are
credited for NZ foreign affairs to Mongolia, while
Mongolian embassies in Tokyo or Beijing handle
matters between Mongolia and NZ. See China.
Mongolian Embassy in Poland
ul. Rejtana 15 lok. 16
Mongolian Embassy in the United Kingdom
7 Kensington Court
Tel: (0171) 937 5238
Tel: (0171) 937 0150
Mongolian Embassy in the USA
2833 M Street, NW
Honorary Consul in Switzerland
Fax : ++ 1 272 7924
Tel.: ++ 1 272 4005
According to the Swiss electronic telephone directory ETV,
Mr. Bischofberger seems to be in charge of a travel
agency named `Discovery Tours'.
* Selected Travel Agents *
Mongolian Tourism Corporation of America
A joint venture between Zhuulchin
and an American travel agency.
Princeton Corporate Plaza
1 Deer Park Drive, Suite M
Monmouth Junction, NJ 08852
Tel.: ++ 1 908-274-0088
(This one seems to have contact with Zhuulchin, too)
Princeton Corporate Center
5 Independence Way, Suite 300
Princeton, NJ 08540
14543 Kelly Canyon Road
Bozeman, MT 59715 USA
Toll-Free- US and Canada 1-800-287-0125
Tel.: ++ 1 406-587-0125
Fax : ++ 1 406-585-3474
BOOJUM Expeditions has two URL's:
NOMADIC JOURNEYS Ltd
P.O. Box 479
Tel/fax: +976 1 323043
Which can be reached from June to mid September every year.
In the winter period reservations for tour operators and
groups are with Jan Wigsten in Gotland:
Eco Tour Production Ltd
Burge i Hablingbo
620 11 Havdhem
tel 0498 487105
fax +46 498 487115
Nature Tour, PO Box 49/53, Ulaanbaatar
or Baga Toiruu-10, Mongolian Youth Federation Bldg, Room 212
They arrange for jeeps and drivers for those wanting to
explore the country. Also, they run a ger hostel near Hara Horen.
Mykel Board stayed there. It's somewhat expensive (about USD
50.-- a day) but includes all meals and local sight-seeing.
Beyond the range of the official state travel agency Zhuulchin there
are now numerous private agencies operating in Mongolia. Their
addresses are occasionally hard to come by but a good source is the
World Tourism Handbook.
5. Mongolia - Tourism
5.1. How to travel to Mongolia?
The principal ways to Mongolia are by train and by air. The capital
of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, is connected via the Transmongolian Railway
to China and Buryatia. In Ulan Ude, capital of Buryatia, the
Transsiberian Railway (leading from Moscow to the Russian Far East,
Khabaravosk, Nakhodka etc.) connects to the Transmongolian Railway.
Trains from Moscow to Beijing run once a week in each direction and
take about five days for the whole trip. There are also `local
trains' between Irkutsk (Ärxüü) and Ulaanbaatar which take about 24
hours one way. Similar local trains run between Ulaanbaatar and
Beijing. Since the Transmongolian Railway sports only one track this
is a bottleneck for railway traffic which results in these one
train/week schedules. Prices for train tickets vary between USD 200
and USD 500. It is not possible to state any exact amount because
prices fluctuate, the currency exchange rates vary daily and pricing
policies create different price tags depending on where the tickets
are purchased. The second feasible way to enter Mongolia is by air.
Air transport is available between Buyant Uxaa (the international
airport of Ulaanbaatar) and Beijing as well as Irkutsk, the latter
with a weekly connect flight to Moscow (or should I say, it's a weekly
flight to Moscow with a stop-over in Irkutsk?). These lines are served
throughout the whole year. In summer, there are additional flights to
Huhhot (Inner Mongolia) and Japan, the latter being served on a
somewhat irregular basis. Past experience has shown that these links
were just chartered flights without a genuine ``schedule'' in the
sense of the word. There are about four to six international passenger
flights per week connecting Ulaanbaatar and the rest of the world.
Links to other Central Asian regions are under consideration or
offered on a seasonal basis such as a flight between Almaty /
Kazakhstan and Mongolia. A new route has recently been opened between
Buyant Uxaa and Seoul, Korea (spring 1996). The latest developments
(fall 1996) include an air link between Buyant Uxaa / Ulaanbaatar and
Germany, Berlin Schoenefeld (code SXF - important because there are
two other public airports in Berlin: Tegel (TXL) and Tempelhof (THF)).
The flights are scheduled on a weekly basis (Sunday: OM135 goes to
Berlin, OM136 returns to Ulaanbaatar). There is a stop-over in
Shcheremetyevo/Moscow and occasionally a fuel refill in Nowosibirsk.
Prices for the return ticket start from appr. USD 700.-- (in winter)
when bought in Berlin.
Only the prices on the Ulaanbaatar / Beijing route are fairly
constant: around USD 200.-- for a one-way ticket. For almost all
other destinations there are wildly varying ticket prices depending on
where the ticket is bought and whether the client is entitled to
special reductions (like being an official student at the Mongolian
5.2. What kind of accommodation is available in Mongolia?
In Ulaanbaatar there are some big hotels. One of them is a monument to
Soviet-style luxury and lavishness: The ``Ulaanbaatar Zoqid Buudal''.
Located next to the central square, it is ideal for travellers with a
not so restricted budget. Price tags start at USD 60.- (or so) and the
two dining rooms are frequently used by external guests when every
other supply of food in Ulaanbaatar collapses. The next important
hotel (near the Bogd Gegen Palace) is the Bayangol which was
thoroughly revamped in 1992. Similar standard. The ``Chinggis Khan
Hotel'' in Sansar (a district name in Ulaanbaatar) has been ``due to
open soon'' since 1991 but did not do so until 1995. It used to be
``under construction'' and was temporarily managed by the Holiday Inn
group, a Korean group (Lotte, I think) until it was finally taken over
by a Mongolian enterprise. It offers good Western food and is
virtually empty so that you can enjoy a very calm meal there. Service
used to be good in the opening year as part of the personnel was
trained in Munich, Germany, but has deteriorated significantly
Small hotels for the traveller with a tight budget include the
``Stroitel'' (Russian: construction worker) which is north of the Ix
Toïrog (Great Ring) Road close to the smaller monastery. A Mongolian-
Chinese joint venture is the ``Manduhai'' hotel near the Ix Dälgüür
(Department Store). Clean rooms, simple furniture, but nice atmosphere
and acceptable price tag. Other private hotels keep opening with the
rise of the private sector. These offer similar prices (sometimes
starting with USD 10.-- / day for a complete little flat) but the
situations keeps changing so it is difficult to give names and
addresses here. New hotels open constantly; a nice choice is the
``Flower Hotel'' which is the former ``Altai Zoqid Buudal''. It is
under Japanese management now.
In the countryside the situation looks different. In the tourist spots
there are ger camps with a complete infrastructure (restaurant gers,
shower facilities etc.) and they are quite convenient because they
ensure a minimum of reliability for the traveller. Some of these camps
are still operated by Juulqin while new camps are operated by private
companies. Once leaving the tourist paths the situation again looks
different. It is possible to ask at people's homes (= gers) but one
may be turned away (already too many people staying there). Prepare
for a long demarche to the ``neighbour'' (maybe 50 or 100 kilometers
(30 to 60 miles). Never, never forget to bring a reasonably useful and
valuable gift. Useful and valuable gifts include tobacco, vodka, snuff
bottles, snuff tobacco and other objects.
When staying at somebody's gär then stick to the following minimal
rules regardless how friendly people may appear to you:
1. Check carefully whether your potential host is capable at all of
accommodating another guest. In order to find out, you can check
for the number of family members, the situation of the animals,
2. Never stay longer than one day.
3. Never refuse ceremonial offerings of tea even if it is salty, etc.
4. Roll down the sleeves of your shirt/coat no matter which
temperature it is. If it is summer and you (and Mongolians) wear a
t-shirt, then pretend to roll down your sleeves symbolically when
being offered food and drink.
5. Never accept any offering of food, drink etc. with your left hand.
Both hands is best.
6. If there is only a well, not a river nearby, never abuse it as a
bathtub. Water in general and wells in particular are precious in
7. When bringing your own food or drink never forget to offer it to
everybody. Never attempt to munch your biscuits secretely. If you
can't resist eating your own biscuits then wait until you are on
the road again.
8. Perhaps last in this list, but not least: Show due respect to the
dogs and animals of your host. The dog will only respect you if
advised by his master to do so. Mongolian dogs are no pets!
5.3. What kind of transport is available in Mongolia?
Transport in Ulaanbaatar
``In UB, you can walk, ride the bus, or flag down a private
vehicle and negotiate a price. No taxis. I was fairly insu
lated from that, as my cousin has a car. But I did a lot of
walking anyway, because I like to walk and the city is a
convenient one to walk in. Most of the hotels are near the
center of the city, as are many of the sights. The exception
is the big market, which runs on Wednesdays, Saturdays and
Sundays - it's a bit of a hike from downtown.'' (Quoted from
Peter Crandall's Mongolia Travelogue)
Besides that, Ulaanbaatar sports numerous public bus lines which are
usually more than crowded but offer about the cheapest rides in the
world even though the prices went up by a factor of 100 from 1991 to
1995: In 1990, a bus ticket was 0.50t, while in September 1996 it was
50t. Bus tickets are now priced 100t.
Peter Crandall's observations on taxis are superseded by end of 1999.
There is now a taxi service with bright yellow cabs of Korean origin.
The company, City Taxi, can be reached with the telephone number
343433 and accepts reservations at any time. The price per kilometer
is 280t. Most drivers have a mobile phone. It is helpful to record the
driver's phone number in case the reservation desk does not answer.
Flagging down a private car is certainly recommended for all ad hoc
transport in Ulaanbaatar as it is faster than calling a taxi first.
The kilometer is charged with 300t.
It is always good to know the words for left, right and straight ahead
in Mongolian (züün gar tiïsh, baruun gar tiïsh, qiïgäärää) when
directing the driver. Ulaanbaatar does not have many named streets,
and addresses are usually given by land marks (see the MobiCom address
above which was given as ``behind the Central Post Office''), or in
the case of residential buildings, by district and building number.
Transport outside Ulaanbaatar
Travelling to the country requires going by MIAT, the national air
line carrier, or renting a jeep. MIAT flights are fairly irregular
(usually only once a week per direction) and may be cancelled
completely for lack of gasoline or bad weather. It may happen that you
take a flight to Uws and cannot return for 8 weeks. Renting a jeep is
fairly inexpensive and usually includes a driver who is indispensable
because this man usually knows the way in the endless steppe. He also
has the technical skill to cross rivers, sand dunes etc. A ``Camel
Trophy'' - commercial-like driving style may ruin vehicle and
In the areas closer to Ulaanbaatar (within a 500-km or 300 miles
range) there are busses available. Their departure takes place in
front of the Museum of Fine Arts downtown Ulaanbaatar.
5.4. Which season is recommended for travelling?
Summer is beautiful but short. Winter is not recommended if you go
beyond Ulaanbaatar. Living conditions and road conditions are at least
uncomfortable, nutrition and all related resources become too scarce.
Storms in winter are especially dangerous for hikers outdoors, and
even a short sightseeing trip in the close vicinity of Ulaanbaatar,
like Zuun Mod with its famous monastery Manjshiriïn Xiïd, might yield
one or the other frost bite.
A good start is in May. It is still cold but the overwhelming beauty
of spring, the mild fragrance of blossoms and the fresh smell of water
offer experiences which one will never forget.
5.5. What are the points of sightseeing, museums etc.?
Mongolia is a country rich in natural beauty which includes a wide
range of different types of landscape on her vast territory. From the
Gobi desert in the south to the pristine waters of Lake Xöwsgöl in the
north, from the grasslands of the east to the Altai mountain range in
the west there is something for every traveller who loves nature.
For those interested in culture and religion, there are numerous
museums in Ulaanbaatar:
· Natural history museum,
· geological museum,
· hunting museum,
· historical museum: the former revolutionary museum - it now hosts
an extensive exhibition focussing on the years of reform, 1989-1991
and a beautiful collection of Mongolian garments,
· fine arts museum: with some fine pieces of religious silk painting
· Choijil Monastery: located in the centre of Ulaanbaatar, this
former monastery is now the home of the priceless sculptures
crafted by the famous monk, politian, sculptor and philologist
· Bogd Khan Museum: the palace of the last dynastic ruler of
· municipial museum: the first seat of the Revolutionary Party in
Ulaanbaatar, now sporting a collection of exhibits related to the
history of Ulaanbaatar as well as a display of diplomatic gifts
from former socialist brother states.
The universities have some permanent faculty exhibitions which are
often worth visiting. Most Aimag capitals have their own local natural
history museum. Xar Xorin has a temple museum about Chingis Khan and
the buddhist oriented spiritual history of Mongolia. This list does
not claim to be complete.
Main points of interest outside Ulaanbaatar include the former Capital
Xar Xorin (Kara Korum, or ``Black Fortress'', derived from the word
``xäräm'') and Manjshiriïn Xiïd in Zuun Mod, Central Aimag.
Only two or so of the over 700 monasteries survived the Stalinist
purges of 1937/1938. One of them is the Gandan monastery in
Ulaanbaatar which recently underwent major reconstruction, and the
other one is situated within the walls of the Xar Xorin compound.
Manjshiriïn Xiïd is the monastery dedicated to the protector goddess
of Mongolia, Manjushri. The ruins of the monastery, situated in a
valley at the south slope of Bogd Uul mountain, are a silent witness
of the atrocities which took place in 1937/38. Recently, money has
been donated to reconstruct the monastery, and first steps towards
that direction are the erection of a small museum on its site with
many photographs of the 1920s showing the former dimensions of the
Another famous monastery worth visiting is Amarbayasgalang, and en
route between Xujirt and Xar Xorin you can find the somewhat smaller
Baruun Xuree (Western Monastery).
The travel literature on Mongolia offers more in-depth information.
6. Inner Mongolia - Tourism
6.1. How to travel to Inner Mongolia?
Inner Mongolia can be reached by train and by aircraft. The
Transmongolian Railway which leads from Beijing via Ulaanbaatar to
Ulan Ude crosses the Mongolian-Chinese border at Erenhot
(Erlian[haote]) / China and Zamyn Üüd / Mongolia. North of Datong it
connects to the Chinese Railway, Inner Mongolian branch leading to
Baotou and eventually to Ningxia and Gansu which implies that one can
also travel to Inner Mongolia when coming from Lanzhou and Yinchuan.
It takes about 10 hours to travel from Beijing to Huhhot and the night
train which leaves Beijing in the evening is very convenient as one
arrives at Huhhot early in the next morning. Trains go on a regular
basis (usually every day, sometimes every second day depending on the
line) and are fairly reliable. Prices are reliable, too, but the
foreign traveller is forced to pay about twice as much as the Chinese
citizen. Due to frequent depreciation of the Chinese Yuan no fixed
number can be given here but a one-way trip (second class sleeper)
from Beijing to Huhhot should be around USD 40.--.
Flights between Huhhot and Beijing go several times a week and last
less than one hour. The ticket prices are not very much higher than
those of the railway (considering prices for foreigners). Other
destinations in Inner Mongolia are also served from Beijing. Up-to-
date information on schedules should be available at travel agencies
dealing China Airlines tickets.
6.2. What kind of accommodation is available in Inner Mongolia?
The traveller's situation is governed by more rules here than in
Mongolia. Basically, when staying in the cities (like Huhhot etc.) the
traveller has no choice but to stay in huge hotels. In the countryside
the situation is similar to that in Mongolia but is more difficult to
get to the countryside.
6.3. What kind of transport is available in Inner Mongolia?
In addition to railway (from and to Beijing, Huhhot, Baotou, Hailar
etc.) there are flights between regional centres and long-distance
busses within the regions. For local excursions you can also rent cars
6.4. Which season is recommended for travelling?
See the answer about Mongolia above. Generally speaking, travelling is
difficult in winter. The grasslands show their beauty only in summer,
and in winter there is ``nothing to see'' in the conventional sense.
On the other hand, since there is ``nothing to see'' in winter, winter
is a good time to go there if you want to see temples, monasteries
etc., because at that time you most certainly do not have to compete
with other tourists for resources like accommodation, transport e.a.
In addition, the places you're interested in will most probably be
6.5. What are the points of sightseeing, museums etc.?
Inner Mongolia deserves a better coverage in literature and in this
FAQ than it finds at present. A few points of interest may be
mentioned here (indicating that this is a *very* preliminary list).
The Inner Mongolia Museum in Huhhot has an enormous collection of
archaeological findings from the times of the Xiong Nu on. The gold
crowns on display there are virtually identical in design with the
ones unearthed in Japan and dated to Japan's Kofun period. These
findings contain some of the strongest hints that early Japan (before
the nation state emerged) may have been part of a unified culture
stretching from Central Asia over Korea to Japan.
Not so many temples and monasteries survived in Huhhot. One of the
most intering ones is the ``Five Pagoda Temple'' (tabun suburGan sumu
- wu ta si) the walls of which are covered with thousands of Buddha
sculptures. Its most fascinating object is a stellar map cut in stone
(more than two meters in diameter) which is the eldest map with
Mongolian zodiacal names in the world. The stone carving is protected
by thick layers of glass which make it practically impossible to take
pictures but the site is well worth the visit.
Of the two main temples (``Big'' and ``Small'' temple: yeke zuu, baG-a
zuu; da zhao, xiao zhao) only the big one remains as the small one was
replaced by a school during the 1960s. The quarter of town where
these temples are located is pittoresque and offers an insight into
Chinese life (Huhhot by overwhelming majority is a city with Han-
Chinese population) as it might have been `before Revolution', i.e.
before 1949. The streets and lanes are so narrow that no automobile
can pass, and rare enough for a Chinese city, much of the old
architecture is preserved. Huhhot also has a mosque for its Hui
7. Mongolia - Computing Issues
7.1. Is there some kind of ``Mongolian ASCII'' or commonly
acknowledged encoding standard for Mongolian language data
Unlike the American ASCII code, the Chinese GuoBiao code or the
Japanese JIS code there is not yet a national code system for the
encoding of Mongolian writing be it encoded in its Classical or
Cyrillic form. As a consequence, no international standard
organization (like ISO) could accept a national standard and turn it
into an international one.
The problems we find in this field are of a complex nature and
frequently have strong mutual dependencies.
Let's look at Cyrillic encoding first. It is not far-fetched to
suggest using an existing Cyrillic encoding scheme for encoding
Mongolian but not even such a simple idea is without its traps. There
is more than one Cyrillic encoding, and some encodings are incomplete:
they do not include the Cyrillic yo or ë. In addition, these tables
(or code pages) usually have no space to accommodate the additional
Mongolian vowel symbols ü which must then be placed somewhere outside
the natural order of the alphabet. Several modified code pages of this
type exist; implementations available are mentioned below.
With Classical writing, the situation is even more complicated. For a
long time in history, there has not been one commonly acknowledged
Classical Mongolian alphabet (or cagaan tolgoï); differences can be
observed in the number of letters, the sorting order and the treatment
of ambiguous letters which have more than one reading for a given
shape, like t/d. The situation is further complicated by the fact that
one given letter may assume numerous different shapes depending on its
position within the word. The designer of an encoding scheme has to
decide whether only canonical letters (the ones under which one would
try to find a word in a dictionary) are to be included or whether all
shape variants should be included as well.
The next problem arises when thinking of computer technology. The
eight bit (one byte) code space of commonly used systems cannot hold
more than 256 characters of which 128 have been defined already. If
both Cyrillic and Classical writing are to be enclosed in one common
code space, it is only possible at the cost of sharing common letter
shapes between Latin and Cyrillic characters. There is no other choice
if one wants to avoid the switching of code pages in one document.
Another problem intimately related to writing is the field of
transcriptions and transliterations. The layout of rules for
transliterating Classical or Cyrillic Mongolian has many consequences
in the field of data exchange, automatic text processing, the building
of library catalogues, etc. Some popular systems (e.g. the so-called
Petersburg transliteration) use characters which are not readily
available on today's computers, and the ones working with reduced
character sets are sometimes not popular.
Only in recent years (more or less starting with the UNESCO conference
on the Computerization of Mongolian script in Ulaanbaatar in August
1992) there has been a genuine international effort to solve these
problems and to come up with an encoding scheme that will be accepted
world-wide. The Mongolian National Institute for Standardization and
Metrology (MNISM), the Chinese National Standard Bureau, other
standard bodies of other countries, ISO and UNICODE all have held
regular meetings during the last years in order to define a standard.
So far, no final agreement exists, and there is no software package
which could serve as a demonstrator for this future standard. All
available software either defines its own code page or relies on ASCII
representations of Mongolian which are then converted into Mongolian
7.2. Are there computer programs for processing Mongolian language
Yes, there are.
Nota Bene: While the editor is happy to offer this information it must
be mentioned as a caveat that in most cases the editor could neither
verify the sources of these programs nor did he have a chance to
review them. In addition, not all of the programs are direct
competitors: some of them provide `pure' front-ends for printing
systems, other focus on data models which make them useful for text
processing, etc. The available programs can be roughly classified as
· Layout software for Classical Mongolian produced at Inner Mongolia
University for MSDOS and UNIX platforms. Maybe this is the most
complete package one can dream of since it supports everything from
different writing styles (Ulaanbaatar vs. Inner Mongol typeface) to
different alphabets (including Oirat, Phags-ba etc.) Availability:
Yes, but with a high price tag in the four-digit USD range.
· Windows Software by American and German producers. These are
usually only font sets which are sold in combination with some
exotic text processing software. Does not offer full support for
correct conversion of text data, etc.
· The ``Sudar'' package of the National University of Mongolia was
written in 1991/2 by M. Erdenechimeg. This package runs on a DOS
platform, can do both Classical and Modern Mongolian and has import
utilities for a number of encodings. The author is developing a new
package at the moment, the support for improvements of ``Sudar''
supposedly being discontinued.
· ``Cyrillic only'' products for enhancing MSDOS platforms are
available at little or no cost in Mongolia. These include printer
drivers, screen fonts and keyboard mappers for the extended
Cyrillic alphabet. Around three or four different encodings are
known under the following program names: NCC, MOSLAST, SUNCHIR and
MONKEGA. No commercial code converters available, no support for
· Research-type programs for MacIntosh machines, produced by the
Université de Nanterre but never made publicly available.
· One classical font is offered by Ecological Linguistics for Mac
· A commercial font package is available for extended Cyrillic by
Linguist's Software for both the Mac and PC worlds.
· One apparently free Cyrillic font package for Mongolian is
available from www.magicnet.mn, it is intended for Windows3xx
users. Numerous reports were received that the system, once
automatically installed (there is no manual installation process)
replaces system fonts and keyboard drivers in an irreversible
manner so it is difficult to use this font on an occasional basis.
· Daniel Kai's XenoType Technologies' Inner and Outer Mongolian
TrueType (and Postscript) fonts for the Mac (as well as Soyombo,
Phagspa) in the computer systems for Classical Mongolian. This
system gets good reviews.
· MBE -- Mongol Bichig Editor. Written in Taiwan and released in
1995, this editor for MSDOS system provides true vertical display
and editing as well as 48-pixel and 96-pixel bitmap fonts for nice
printing results. The awkward editing behaviour and the feature
that everything between whitespace is regarded as one input and
editing unit (one cannot delete a single letter, only a complete
word!) make it a bit difficult to use. For documents in the
pageno<10 range, like short letters etc. the system provides a
simple interim solution until really powerful systems emerge.
· MLS - Mongolian Language Support. Originally developed for IBM
compatible PCs, now extended to the Unix world. Availability:
free. See the MLS software section of Infosystem Mongolei. MLS is a
MSDOS enhancement featuring support for both Classical and Cyrillic
Mongolian. It offers conversion modules, a viewer for text with
vertical lines and allows the continued use of (text mode)
applications like dBASE, spreadsheets and text processing packages.
Windows support is currently under development. Besides the MLS
package itself there is the above-mentioned Mongolian text viewer
(MVIEW) with on-line conversion from transliteration to Mongol
script and a converter from Mongol text to graphics (MLS2PCX) which
generates graphics files out of Mongolian language texts. The free
packages do not yet contain printer support which is overly due and
can be expected soon (said the author of MLS a long while ago).
It should be mentioned that the focus of MLS lies in processing
Mongolian language data and providing Internet support rather than
creating beautiful documents.
Technology advances rapidly, and the original devices conceived for
printing MLS documents were superseded soon due to their numerous
limitations. The MLS author then developed a generic MLS printing
support via LaTeX, and in early summer 1998 a Windows software for
printing Mongolian appeared, too, which will soon offer MLS support
(see next two items).
· MonTeX -- Mongolian for LaTeX2e. Donald Knuth's TeX is certainly
the finest document processor available in the digital universe. It
enjoys outstanding reputation in university circles and beyond.
Since the original MLS package never provided meaningful printer
support, the task of creating hard copy documents was relegated to
TeX/LaTeX. MonTeX can typeset portions or complete texts of
Cyrillic Mongolian in an acceptable manner. The package allows the
use of virtually all popular codepage layouts, thus typesetting
one's texts in the favourite environment should not pose too much
of a problem. MonTeX is available from MLS or from the CTAN servers
(Comprehensive TeX Archive Network).
· QAGUCIN -- a Mongol Bicig editor for Windows95 and Windows3.xx with
an editing window for transliterated Mongolian and an output window
for Classical script. The QAGUCIN Download page offers this package
for free. QAGUCIN is still in an early development stage but looks
very promising. The author of QAGUCIN, Michael Warmuth, is also
working on including MLS support.
8. Mongolia - Suggested Readings
8.1. Which book do you recommend as a start?
A dedicated document by Christopher Kaplonski -- SROM - Suggested
Readings on Mongolia -- is available at Infosystem Mongolei. This
document is occasionally updated and gets posted to the USENET
newsgroup soc.culture.mongolian. A second document (SROMDIC --
Suggested Readings on Mongolia -- Dictionaries) by Christopher
Kaplonski and Oliver Corff at the same location reveals information
about commonly used dictionaries.
Dr. Oliver Corff e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org