Repository logo

Sacred Toorai Tree (Diversifolious Poplar)



Change log


Bulag, Uradyn E. 


This video features Bor, descendant of an Ejine Torghut noble family, who talks about a sacred Toorai tree growing next to her house. During the Cultural Revolution, her parents were imprisoned in the banner centre. She came back to her home in 1998 after years of camel herding for another family. The tree used to be called Sarhiru Toorai, meaning the source place of multiple rivers and springs, but after the banner government promoted tourism around the tree in 2002, it has become an object of worship called Sahilsun Toorai (deity tree) or even Burhan Toorai (Buddha tree). She says that it is 28 metres tall and she heard from scientists that it is already 3,000 years old. The tree has its own stories. Her father, a prince, told her when she was a child that in the 1930s, some of his servants shot the tree, and a few months later the prince’s feet grew moles which gradually got worse. A Buddhist monk called Ustu Lama was called; he chanted for seven days, and organised a horse race and wrestling competition. Soon after that, her ailment was cured.In 1990, a Han Chinese who had been living in this place from the Cultural Revolution onward moved away because of the sudden decrease of his livestock. Locals said that he broke a branch of the old tree and killed a huge black snake here. After this strange incident, since nobody dared to live there again, the government allowed Bor to move back.Since 2002, Bor has been organising a tree worship ritual every year on the 15th of the eighth month by the lunar calendar. The Ejine banner government has also asked her to charge 10 yuan from each tourist who comes to see the tree, but she must give half of the income to the government. Today, however, the government wants her to hand over the site to a tourist company called Hetianxia. She refuses, insisting that she has a 50-year use right for her ancestral land. Besides, she argues that the Torghuts’ sacred worshipping place should not belong to a Han Chinese company.Bor says that the government has been pressurising them to give up the land. The banner leader himself even visited her once promising to pay her ¥ 50,000 a year if she transfers the right to the company. She thinks the government is vulgar and cunning. She is 66 years old now and has registered her grandson as her inheritor, but she is concerned that her three sons who work for the government in the banner centre might not be able to get anything from this inheritance.



Ejine Torghut, noble family, the Cultural Revolution, tourism, Burhan Toorai, tree worship, government, herder, land

Is Part Of


Kalmyk Cultural Heritage Documentation Project, University of Cambridge

Publisher DOI

Publisher URL

Sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin