Xinjiang

The majority of the returnee Torghuts live in Xinjiang, numbering about 100,000 persons today. They are scattered in several territorial administrative units in Xinjiang including Bayangol Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, Bortala Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, and Hovogsair Mongolian Autonomous County of Tacheng District. Bayangol is home to about 50,000 Torghuts who are descendants of the Southern-Route Old Torghut League under the personal command of Ubashi Khan. There are about 6,000 Torghuts in Bortala who belong to the former Western Route League, and Hovogsair has about 17,000 Torghuts belonging to the former Northern Route League. Compared with Hebei and Inner Mongolia, the Torgut culture in Xinjiang is better preserved. Here, you will be able to download videos about every-day life, cultural activities such as wedding, oboo worship, and the recently developed 'Jüünsh' (Return to the East) festival in some select Torghut communities in Xinjiang.

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  • ItemOpen Access
    Combing Cashmere
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-04-11) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Batusurun, a herder in Yisen Tologai village (Nine-Head) village, is a descendant of one of the richest Torghuts in Hobogsair in the last century. As he says, his great grandfather’s flocks reached 10,000 heads once in the past and they celebrated the achievement by purchasing a golden open fire stove and a silver pot, which were symbols of wealth in Hobogsair. Batusurun is not as rich as his ancestors, currently herding only 200 goats, 100 sheep, 40 cows, and 15 horses. His main income comes from sheep and goats.According to his estimate, the cashmere will earn his family around ¥20,000 in a year. A goat may yield ¥75 of cashmere in a year, but then due to lack of labour in his family, he has to hire people to comb cashmere which costs ¥15 per goat. His income is not always stable, as the price for cashmere and ground hair has been fluctuating in recent years. For instance, the guard hair used to be worth ¥4 per kg, but this year it was only ¥1.50 per kg.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Changing Lifestyle in Bayanbulag
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-01-15) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Bataa lived with her parents in Bayanbulag until the age of 16. As she recalls, those were the best years when they herded their flocks and moved around different places every season. The Cultural Revolution, however, had completely changed the rest of her life. From being a noble family to losing everything, she survived and settled in Hejing eventually. In 2000, she opened her own Torghut traditional store in Hejing county where she has been making traditional cultural objects ever since. In this video, she shows and explains Torghut tent, jolom (small yurt), and animal models which she loves.While constructing her miniature jolom, she explains that it is a convenient and temporary one as it only requires assembling roof and roof polar (uni, harach) and felt covers. Dressed in sheepskin clothes, she says that wearing camel skin shoes (charag) and herding domestic animals in the Tenger mountains are the real life for the Torghuts. She used to have an exquisite silver saddle which was gifted from her parents. However, it was confiscated during the Culture Revolution and she never saw it again. With these cherished memories about her herding lifestyle, she is able to make miniatures animal models such as horses with elegant saddles, camels loaded with yurt, and models of yurt and jolom.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Catching horses with a lasso
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-12) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    This video is about the process of catching horses as demonstrated by Sükhe and his neighbours who use their handmade lassoes to catch a mare with its foal in their summer farm. As Sükhe says, he often gives his young son horse milk to drink as it is believed to have healing properties.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Branding Camel calves
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-04-10) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    For herders, springtime is the most important and busiest season in a year. It is a lambing season, and a time when people need to brand new born animals and shear the hair of old ones. In this video, Pervei with his son Namrul and two other herders give a demonstration of the spring work of shearing and branding one-year-old camel calves. The shearing and branding are usually done in late spring but before summer so that the branded skin does not rot. This spring, Purvei has branded 4 one-year-old calves. One white calf was double branded by tying a colourful piece of cloth at the ear.
  • ItemOpen Access
    富民小区or Prosperity Residential Compound
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-01-31) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    In this video, we interviewed five different residents living in富民小区or Prosperity Residential Compound. They said that the compound was built for Torghut herders and other low-income families in Hejing county. However, most of the herders living there are seasonal residents who stay at the county centre during the winter season. Over the last few decades, herders often come to Hejing for medical treatment, or for short stays in winter before they go back in the springtime for sheep lambing.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Yalalt teaching about Tsagaan sar (lunar new year)
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-01-17) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    The teaching of the Torghut traditional culture was initiated a couple of years ago by students who have received primary and secondary education in Chinese and studied in universities in inland China. Most members in the group grew up in cities far away from their cultural roots and do not speak Mongolian very well. Yalalt, who used to be a primary school Mongolian language teacher in Hejing, has been contributing to this cultural group ever since his retirement.In the video, he talks about social transformation amongst the Torghuts including their lifestyle, language, marriage, and public festivals. He explains the greeting customs involved in Tsagaan Sar (Lunar new year) meetings and other social etiquettes.
  • ItemOpen Access
    A Torghut Shaman
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-30) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Batbold was a local herder for many years before he became a visionary. Asserting that his ability to predict came down from the sky, he says that one day when he was herding goats on the mountains in Balgantai, white, blue and red lights appeared in front of him and he played with these lights the entire afternoon. Unfortunately, two days later he became disabled as he lost one of his arms and a leg. A local lama told him that he entered a space that wasn’t suitable for ordinary people. The lama also said that he would be a good fortune teller after he reached 40. Currently, he is 45 years old and locals call him Shaman.The shaman has a unique pack that contains 41 stone balls, two pairs of chopsticks, 41 corn niblets, and multiple prayer beads. He uses these tools while looking at people’s palms to tell their future. He also uses the 41 corn niblets to locate lost animals. There was a time when he tried to tell fortunes at nighttime but failed. As he says, the best time for fortune-telling is between 7 am and 1 pm.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Worship of water deities
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-18) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    During the summer months of July and August, the Torghuts in Xinjiang worship oboo (ritual cairn). The oboo ritual in Bayanbulag involves a sub-ritual of water deities if there is a natural spring nearby. As shown in the video, a ritual is held for a spring called Shagdagin Bulag which is located in Har Sala. The ritual is held on the 15th of the seventh lunar month every year. This year, around 200 people gathered, most of them being relatives, to pray for blessing.Münkhbayar, who is head of Bayanbulag sumu, organised this year’s ritual. He explains in the video that the Torghuts led by their Buddhist monks would head to the mountains to visit the oboo on their horses and it is very uncommon for females to be present. According to a legend about Shagdagin Bulag which Münkhbayar tells, the spring water contains 8 natural positive elements. A Buddhist monk called Shagjindog was miraculously cured of his stomach disease after drinking the water.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Winter Transportation
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-02-15) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa; Chuluunbatu
    Camels are still the most convenient means of transportation among Torghut herders in Bayangol. They are most useful during winter months in icy or snowy conditions and are preferred to vehicles. Herders in the past invariably chose camels and horses to transport supplies from town to their winter farms. The place that appears in the video is called the Gate of the Seventy Hills (Dalan Davani Am). This is where the local government winter supplementary supplies such as hays and maize are dropped off for herders to transport to their winter farms.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Urtin Duu (Long Song) Singer Uranchimig
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-01-22) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Uranchimig, born in Hejing in 1945, used to teach in a high school and is now a singer of long songs (urtiin duuchin). When she was young, she learned to sing many songs from good singers at weddings and other social events. 23 songs which she recorded before her retirement are often broadcasted on the Xinjiang Mongolian Radio. As she explains, during the Cultural Revolution, singing urtiin duu was taboo, and producing a record was one of the bravest things she had ever done in her life. In 1984, she recorded 2 of her famous songs called “Hongesin Ündür Shuurai” and “Zürhün Hoogin Ehin” which are still well known amongst Mongolians in Xinjiang. Since then, she and her sisters have been performing at public social events such as the Maidar.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Urtiin Duu Singer, Sanjai
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-19) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Sanjai is a local urtiin duu (long song) singer and he has collected around 600 songs from Bayangol, Ili, Hobogsair, and Har Usu. Sanjai says that songs for elders distinguish males and females, paternal and maternal relatives, or even relatives’ domestic animals, but he is worried that not many people who are singing the urtiin duu these days actually understand the meanings behind them.A song he sings in the video is about an orphan boy being left behind with a foal on the side of the Volga river by the migrant Torghuts. Many years later, he returned to Xinjiang as a hero. The lyrics reflect the separation of parents from children; however, people often sing this song at celebratory events.As shown in the video, Sanjai is recording himself singing an urtiin duu and sharing it with people all over Xinjiang via WeChat.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Tursun, a Torghut craftsman
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-01-20) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Tursun makes various craftwork in his spare time. As explained in the video, he makes plates (tebsh) with tree roots, cattle skin wine kettle, milk wine brewing tools and wooden miniature objects for younger generations to remember what they are used for.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Tumurbatu, a campaigner against alcohol
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-02-15) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Tömörbatu became a herder after completing his primary school education. A few years later, he studied computer science in Inner Mongolia for two years, and during this period he travelled all over Inner Mongolia with his friends, and collected many books. After returning to Hobogsair, he opened a bookstore called ‘Spirit of Jungaria’ but he soon changed his mind and started a studio called Tsetsen Döröö where he basically designed and printed cards and recorded wedding and other public events. In the video, he criticises the Torghuts for their alcoholism and excessive consumerist habits. As a result of his public campaign, and supported by Shalva Gegen, the religious leader in Hobogsair, the county government passed a resolution in 2012 banning alcohol in public space.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Torghut herders’ summer life
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-15) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    This video is about a Torghut herder’s daily life. Once every two days, Münkhe sets out early in the morning to check his horses and cows and rounds them up close to home so that they don’t roam too far away. After breakfast, he leaves home to herd his sheep on the mountain and returns at the sunset. His wife Bayaa does house chores and looks after their son during the day. Dinner is the main meal of the day. They mostly stew mutton with noodle and eat various dairy food in summer.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Torghut Folk Culture Village
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-06) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Torghut Folk Culture Village stages a real-scene play about the patriotic history of the Torghut Return in Bayanbulag. It is acted by local youngsters with domestic animals. At the end of the play, it shows the Qing emperor Qianlong being happy at Torghuts’s return and agreeing to let them settle down in Xinjiang. The emperor is shown to grant a silver lion seal and a new title ‘Zorigt Khan’ to Ubashi.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Western Banner Monastery
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-01) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    The Western Banner Monastery was rebuilt in 2008 and currently has 17 permanent resident lamas. The monastery, as Daranzan explains, was designed after an old monastery photo that is stored in the Khorol city museum of the Bayangol Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture. It looks very similar to the style of Buddhist monasteries in the Republic of Kalmykia. The monastery was built with large financial donations from some Chinese charities and with domestic animals and money donated by Torghut herders.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The History of the Torghut Return Exhibition in Hejing Museum
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-01-14) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    The exhibition about the history of the Torghut Return contains a set of pictures and maps, shown in the video, demonstrating the history of the Torghuts moving to Russia and their return to their homeland in Xinjiang. A picture painted by Lindai in 2009 portrays the Torghut Return history on a 17.71m by 2.38m canvas symbolising that the Torghuts had lived in Xinjiang for 238 years from 1771 to 2009. A couple of maps show the route from Xinjiang to the Qing summer capital Chengde taken by Torghut Khan Ubashi and his uncle Tsebegdorji. There is a map showing a Qing emissary’s travel from Beijing to Kalmykia, and there is also a sheepskin map of China.The history of the Torghut Return to their homeland has been made the foremost brand in the Bayangol Mongolian Autonomous Prefecture, especially its Hejing county. The elaborately designed exhibition covers the Keraite people in the era of Chinggis Khan who were ancestors of the Torghuts, the Torghut Khanate in the Volga river valley and the story of their return. It emphasises that the Torghuts had lived in Tarbagatai before their migration to the Volga, and they returned home 140 years later due to Russian oppression. Ubashi is portrayed as an historical hero who, inaugurated as a Torghut Khan at the age of 17, embarked on the epical return. Leading 170,000 of his people, he set out on the 13th of January 1771, arriving at Ili a year later, with only 62,137 people. In the same year he himself died at the age of 33.
  • ItemOpen Access
    A six-year-old child singing epic Jangar
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-01-12) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Düüren-Ölji is Dugurjav’s 6-year-old son and he is growing up with his grandparents learning Jangar epic from his grandmother who looks after him. In this video, he sings two praise songs from the Jangar: “Aldar noyon bogd noyon jangarin magtaal”, and “Nomin tegus haanas zalgasan aga shabdal haani magtaal”.
  • ItemOpen Access
    The Head Lama of the Western Banner Monastery
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-01) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Daranzan was born in Bayanbulag in 1969 and he was later sent to study in the Western Banner Monastery. After a further ten-year study in Lhasa he is now a well-known lama in Bayanbulag. As shown at the beginning of the video, Daranzan Lama is predicting an auspicious day for two Torghut herders who are going to worship an oboo soon.According to Daranzan, the Western Banner monastery was originally a mobile temple housed in a yurt following herders' seasonal movement in different farms in Bayangol before the Cultural Revolution. In 1984, Torghuts in Bayanbulag rebuilt the monastery again in three yurts donated by local herders and three mud rooms constructed by the local government. In 2015, leading 13 lamas from his monastery, Daranzan visited Mongolian Buddhist monasteries in Xinjiang: 3 in Ili, 3 in Bortala, 3 in Hara Usu, 2 in Hobogsair and 1 in the Altai district. As an influential person amongst the Torghuts, he often advocates that people should pray sincerely in their local monasteries, rather than take a long journey to Tibet or Qinghai paying high prices.
  • ItemOpen Access
    Taming horse
    (Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge, 2017-08-11) Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Bulag, Uradyn E.; Dorjraa; Dorjraa
    Münkhe is a Torghut herder hired by Sükhe to herd his sheep. Münkhe is very knowledgeable about horses; he often helps Sükhe to tame horses, as shown in the video, and uses them for daily transportation.