Bataa


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990223
Name: Bataa
Parent's name: Bayanbaa
Ovog: Öölgö
Sex: m
Year of Birth: 1939
Ethnicity: Urianhai

Additional Information
Education: higher
Notes on education:
Work: teacher, retired
Belief: Buddhist
Born in: Bulgat sum, Bayan-Ölgii aimag
Lives in: Nalaih sum (or part of UB), Ulaanbaatar aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: herder


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education / cultural production; collectivization; environment; literature; family;

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legends;

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Please click to read an English summary of this interview

Please click to read the Mongolian transcription of this interview

Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Ariun-Undrakh -

Hello, Bataa guai?

Bataa -

Hello.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Do you agree to give this interview for the survey?

Bataa -

Yes, I do.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Will you conceal your name or not?

Bataa -

No, I will not.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Thank you.

Bataa -

Thank you, my child.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Will you introduce yourself?

Bataa -

I was born in the year of the rabbit. I’m 71. I was a teacher. As for my ancestors, I’m a citizen of Bugat sum of Bayan-Ölgii aimag. I finished tenth grade and from there I entered the Teacher’s Institute and graduated from it majoring in Language and Literature. Since then I taught for forty years. My parents were herders. I have five brothers and sisters. I’m the oldest one. At the age of 10 in 1949 I went to secondary school. Why did I go at this age? My mom wouldn’t let me go to school. So, I missed out two years. Then I reached 10. I was happy to go to school. Then on the 25th of August, 1949, Doctor Gongor of Bugat sum who was an old woman came with a bag darga and told him, “They don’t want to give their son. Two years have been missed. We’ll take this child”. Then the bag darga and Doctor Gongor counseled us for a long time and my dad gave me a ride on his horse. Right then we lived in the summer camp of Bugat sum of Bayan-Ölgii aimag. My dad had a poor exhausted horse. He rode it and gave me a ride on it to a place called Black Water of the Deer. It was our winter camping place. It was almost 30km away. My dad took me there and sent me to school. Thus I went to school. I got such a haircut. One day the teachers were cutting the hair of the schoolchildren. “What am I to do?” I thought. There was Nasanjargal teacher. She called me and gave me a candy. Then she said, “Have a haircut, sonny”. I ate the candy and decided to have a haircut. There were only teachers there. I came up to one of the teachers. She let me sit and began to cut my hair. I was unaware of the hair cutting machine then. They brought something strange and did something with my hair. In the olden times my dad used to shave my hair with a razor, you know. So I wondered what it was. It was a machine you do it by hand. Thus I had a haircut. Then I went to school. That year I went to school and from the next year I used to go to school by myself. I just told my mom I was going to school and I went there on my horse. Was it in 1955? I finished the fourth grade and went to the aimag school to attend the fifth grade. There were two secondary schools in the aimag centre. One was the Mongolian school I attended and the other was the Kazakh school. The two schools were close to each other. So I attended the Ölgii school and finished tenth grade and from there I came to Ulaanbaatar. At that time we had the Mongolian State Teacher’s Institute. I studied there for four years at the faculty of the Mongolian language and literature. After I had graduated the Institute I came to Bayan-Ölgii aimag. I was the first teacher in the countryside and I came to Altan Tsögts sum. I was a young teacher there. I was talked about as a grand teacher and people talked about me that a young new teacher had come. The Altan Tsögts school had two classes. The A class was a Mongolian class and the B class – Kazakh class. I used to teach both in the Mongolian and the Kazakh classes. It was a little bit tough at that time. I thought over first what to teach and then I went to the Mongolian class to teach and then to the Kazakh class. In the Mongolian class I spoke in Mongolian and I spoke in Kazakh in the Kazakh class. After a while I went to the aimag school. There I was told to teach Mongolian language in the Kazakh class and they gave me the topic. At the aimag center I worked on writing the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades’ Mongolian language textbooks. There used to be the education department there. One day I went there and the head of the department inquired about me. He said somebody from the city wanted to talk to me on the phone. I wondered who could it be. There used to be the Linguistics and the Literature Institute of the Academy of Science in Ulaanbaatar, you know. The Director of that Institute used to be a man named Horloo. He is the writer Horloo. He told me, “I want you to write the Kazakh and Mongolian dictionary. Do you agree to it?” I said, “I don’t think I can manage such a big research dictionary”. But he insisted, “Yes, you will have to manage it. You will edit the Mongolian side and Ahmed will manage the Kazakh side of it”. Ahmed was the then minister of Culture. “You’ll edit the inside of all the textbooks included in the dictionary. You’ll check if it’s right in Mongolian or not, are there mistakes or not. You’ll check only that”. Then I said, “OK, I agree”. Then I worked on the dictionary for six months. In the daytime I taught classes and at night I sat til 1 or 2am. I used to edit the dictionary. So, there’s a big Mongolian-Kazakh dictionary with 30000 words. I was the one to edit it for the first time, too. Such is the story. Besides, when I was in the fifth grade in 1959 we had the collective movement. I observed that some families gave their livestock to the collective and some didn’t. It was the collective movement, you know. Some of it could be seen in the movies. I don’t remember what movie it was. They concealed their two oxen be tying them up. Such things happened a lot then. Some of them drove their livestock away. Some concealed them in the rocks and mountains. Some agreed to it and gave their livestock to the collective. I had also taken part in that collective movement. What kind of a person was I then? I was a ninth grade pupil. I was a big man. One day I was called from the relay station to come to the administrative office of the sum. A relay station was a post at that time. “You will ride a horse from the relay station and visit the families and explain the party and government policy. The cooperative movement is called the collective movement. We will tend the livestock together in a collective. You can’t stay alone, tending separately”. Such kind of agitation I had to do. In the summer of going to the ninth grade by the end of August I visited many ‘ails’. “Well, there’s a collective movement on the rise. Those who join the collective live an incorporated life together. They will tend their livestock together and load the grass. It’s such a beneficial movement therefore you have to join it. You can’t stay alone isolated with your own livestock. It’s a socialist time, you know”. I had to tell them about the socialist times without fail. “You can’t be a villain in the socialist time. You have to labor together”. In such a way I annoyed the families. Some bad-tempered old women, especially old women, though there were men, too, they remonstrated, “What are you talking about? Go and tell such things in other places! We will not join your collective! No way!” I was nineteen then. I had nothing to say against them. I couldn’t argue with them for I didn’t know the language. I told some of them and some of them accepted it wholeheartedly, “Yes, we will. We will join the cooperative tomorrow”. At that time those who had no livestock could give a spade or a pick to join the collective . “Do you understand?” Some of the poor ails say, “Yes, we’ll join this wonderful collective. It gives you work and labor. I will give a spade and join it”. But the rich people really didn’t like it. Thus I worked hard for the collective movement for more than ten days. Then people lived for the sake of socialism and communism. At that time Lenin bagsh was worshipped. Then the next person was Stalin. We idolized Stalin bagsh. We were very strange. We lived in the countryside therefore I lived in the school dormitory, you know. What was it like in the dormitory then? At that time the secondary schools had a semi-military organization, you know. It was a semi-military organization. In the evening at 10pm before going to bed we lined up outside. We lined up and the 1st unit darga reported to the teacher on duty, “There are fourteen in our unit and there all of them”. For instance, the 3d unit darga went up to the teacher and reported, “There are fifteen of us. Two are on leave”. And so on. There were ten or so units in the second school, you know.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Quite a lot, right?

Bataa -

Yes, there were ten or so units then. They had the revision of the ten or so units and at the end we sang a song. At first we sang the Our Sacred Revolutionary Nation. The next day we sang about Lenin bagsh. The next day we sang about Stalin bagsh. The song was about the following: We went by the fine path without obstacles Taught by the hero Stalin…. I forget the words. We used to sing like that. After that we sang about Mao Zedong. The sun glowed from the eastward Mao Zedong came from China He guides the way of our people. That’s what we used to sing, you know. Singing a song we went into our unit buildings. We went to bed at 11pm. The teacher on duty used to stay overnight. We had a guard. In the morning we got up at 6am. It was the same in winter, spring and summer time. Then we went outside to do exercise. The schools with the dormitories don’t use nowadays the ...what you call it. I’m a little offended by that. They used to take us outside to do exercises. The teacher on duty came. After doing some exercises we were made to run. We ran about 500 meters, you know. Then after the exercises we went to have a meal. It was the school dormitory meal, you know. After the meal we went to the classes. I had such a routine when I attended school. Then in 1964 I graduated the Teacher’s Institute in Ulaanbaatar. It’s today’s Teacher’s University. Since then I taught for almost 45 years. Well, the government evaluated my labor and I was awarded the Pole Star order and the Honored Medal of Labor and the Teacher’s Merit order. Also the anniversary medals were given to me. I became the Leading Worker of the People’s Enlightenment. There’s also the Senior Meritorious Person badge. I’m a member of the MPRP, you know. This was also rewarded from the government. I taught for 45 years till now and I’m 71. A teacher’s work was a wonderful work. It always leaves good traces behind. If you can work with children, only then your work is being evaluated. A teacher’s heart is well-favored. When I was in the ninth and tenth grades, especially when I was in the seventh and eighth grades, those were my teenage years. Nowadays we enter teenage years very early, you know. At that time 16-17 were the teenage years. Small children at that age try to think like adults. And they try to behave like adults. They try to copy an adult’s temperament. Those years are called teenage years. Do you get me? There were many nice young and old teachers then. We tried to imitate them. “His clothes always fit. I want to imitate Dargia bagsh.” There used to be Akira bagsh. He was born in Alma Ata and he wore very beautiful clothes. We used to talk between each other to imitate this and that teacher. Today actually children do not quite respect their teachers. Is it OK? What did we do? We were in awe of our class teacher and other teachers who taught us classes. And today the eighth, ninth and tenth grade pupils nearly ask for a cigarette from me, you know. In our time we didn’t have such things at all. It was our time and I wouldn’t disapprove that those were the years of a totalitarian regime. There’s a good side to it, too. There are good sides. Do you understand me? People were respected, people cared and people were embarrassed. Do you understand? Such was the time. And what do we see now? Sometimes the schoolchildren are really tough. In fact, they don’t care about other teachers besides their class teachers, you know. Can you imagine that? We have to be very diligent here. When you tell them something they say you are trying to use totalitarian methods. I had tried to tell them many times before 1990. I’m a teacher of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. At that time we really used totalitarian methods towards the children. But we didn’t mean to enslave them. We used totalitarian methods to give them the right education and upbringing and to teach them in the right way. We have to use that totalitarian method now. There are some people and there are some teachers who say, “Well, you will never learn anything. So, I will get you an appointment to a vocational school.” Vocational schools are very important places nowadays, right? They train the real working class, you know. The teacher that says such things today becomes a totalitarian. The totalitarian method which endeavors to bring and educate the children in the right way is acceptable. Today we talk about this democratic society, you know. I accept this society for it has the right idea. But I think we have to use some of the totalitarian methods here. Do you understand? For example, I live in the ger district. Our community is fair. What do you call it?.. Our district is built well. It has been built recently. Now, you look at the front and the nearby enclosures. What do you feel about the garbage and the trash of the ‘ails’? A totalitarian method should be used to make them clean their environment, you know. Various diseases and plagues are increasing. Have you seen the surroundings of these ‘ails’ of the ger district?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Yes, I have.

Bataa -

It’s really hard, you know. It’s not wrong to use totalitarian methods right here, you know. Can’t there be a totalitarian method used for the sake of the ‘ail’, for the sake of the street, for the sake of the street garbage? And what do people say? “Don’t act crazy! Don’t use your totalitarian method!” This is unacceptable. Such is the issue that is being talked about. Let me talk about the school life since I’m a teacher. Some people just strive to get higher education. That’s right. It’s necessary to have higher education. A person with higher education should act like one. Do you understand me? I have met many people in my life. The recent teachers are ignorant. They don’t know anything. You can’t be like that. Therefore we have to struggle to enhance their knowledge, otherwise we have the diploma snatchers, you know. Yes, we give way to diploma snatchers. That’s it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Tell us about your homeland and about your parents, please.

Bataa -

I’m a citizen of the present Bugat sum, the former Sagsai sum of Bayan-Ölgii iamag. My father’s name was Bayanbaa. He used to tend livestock. In the later days, after the 1940s he trained to become a physician. My mom always used to tend the livestock they had and she prepared our meals. My parents were very wonderful people. My father wasn’t a talkative person but when he said something it would be significant. My mom used to scold and beat us. We were very naughty, you know. Once we were milking the sheep. We had a elusive sheep and we couldn’t catch him. I threw a stone and it hit its horn. The mothers of our neighborhood told my mom, and she clenched her teeth, “You foul thing! You hit the livestock horn like those Russians and the Chinese!” Then I drove the sheep to milk and drove the next sheep and was tying the lambs, and all of a sudden somebody hit me on my back very strongly. I wondered what it was and I turned around. There stood my mom with a thick piece of wood. Such was the life. There were five of us brother and sisters. Last year one of those five died. The others are still alive. Most of them have reached sixty. I’m 71. My life was something like that. Before joining the cooperative we had 5 to 10 sheep and goats and 2 or 3 cows for the household dairy products. There were 1 or 2 horses used for transportation. Such was the life.

Ariun-Undrakh -

What were the peculiarities of the land and waters where you were born?

Bataa -

My home land is Bugat sum of Bayan-Ölgii aimag. To the south of the Bayan-Ölgii aimag there‘s the river Hatuugyn. It is a beautiful place. The river Hatuugyn flows into the river Hovd. That’s the place I grew up. There’s a big snowy mountain at the back of it. That’s the place where I spent my childhood. There’s a lot of hunting there. There’s lynx there and there are plenty of antelopes. There are many foxes and wolves there. There are many riches there. There are some woods at the top. There’s Tsambagarav, you know. It’s the mountain to this side of Tsambagarav. It’s branched off from there. In the summer time we used to go there and camp along the river Hatuugyn. Why was it called the Hatuugyn? The river flows from the great mountain Altai and it flows from the snow. It has a strong and severe current. When the water is flooded you can observe the rocks and big stones the size of this table flowing in the flood current. They come flowing in the current, you know. Therefore, no horseman can go through it during the flood. He would be killed by those big rocks. That’s why the river was called Hatuugyn /severe/. Mostly Urianhais used to live in our sum. Our aimag is called the minor ethnic group, you know. There are Urianhais, Dörvöds and then the Kazakhs. The territory of the Urianhais and the Kazakhs is our Bayan-Ölgii aimag and our sum. But when you go into Hovd, there are many Bayads, Myangads, Öölds, Zahchins and Torguuds. There are Urianhais and Kazakhs only in Bayan-Ölgii aimag. There’s also Tsengel sum. There are Tuvans living in Tsengel sum. There are Kazakhs, Urianhais and Tuvans in our Bayan-Ölgii aimag. There are Tsagaan Nuur and Bühmörön sums in Bayan-Ölgii aimag. There are few Dörvöds there and the rest are different people. The Urianhais mostly live in Altai, Buyant, Sagsai, Altan Tsögts sums of Bayan-Ölgii aimag. Then we have Delüün sum where mostly Kazakhs live. There’s Ulaanhus sum before the Tsengel holy mountain. Kazakhs mostly live there. A few of Dörvöds live in Tsagaan Nuur and Nogoon Nuur. Such is my home land in general.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did your parents tell you fairy tales or legends when you were small?

Bataa -

Yes, they did. They used to tell me many fairy tales and legends. I have told you I went to school at 10. Before that beginning from almost the age of 3, at the age of 5, 6 and 7 my granddad used to invite epic poem tellers. There used to be such people who told epic poems. That person would tell poems the whole night through. The next day and the day after that he would tell poems all night through. My parents and the old people used to tell us fairy tales and legends. In the olden times it seemed to be like as I have told you. There wasn’t any talk about using totalitarian methods and so on. Alл the seniors used to tell the folklore. Once upon a time there used to live… From that story we used to pick things up, you know. “There used to live a lazybones. Then he lived such and such a life and ended his life”. In such a way they told us fairy tales. They used to tell us wonderful stories about fast horses. How did they bring up their children? They always used to tell them fairy tales and some of them would say, “Are you going to act like in that fairy tale?” There was a fairy tale about a lazybones that never did any kind of work. Once upon a time there lived such a person. Then they would scold us, “Are you going to act like that?” They never used totalitarian methods. They just told us fairy tales. That’s it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

The epic poem teller would have a musical instrument, right?

Bataa -

Yes, he had a musical instrument that is called tovshuur. It was brought with great respect and admiration, you know. A senior or a young man went on a horse to bring the poem teller. He was seated on a horse and when he came he was assisted in dismounting the horse. Then he was accompanied by someone to enter the ger, you know. It was in a very reverential manner. Then after having a meal a nice seat was prepared for him. When all the livestock were fenced in and the household work was finished he began to recite. That was the main peculiarity. He never told the epic poem in the daytime, you know, because the mothers would worry about the livestock and the children and that the lambs and young goats would get lost. Therefore he never told the poems in the day time, you know. At about 11pm in the summertime and at 10pm in winter time, just about the time of going to bed he would begin. We would sit there and watch. Some would go to sleep and the others would watch. The teller would recite the epic poem with the tovshuur. He had a special tune on his tovshuur. The most important thing was that he used to tell about heroic deeds. Wonderful fairy tales of heroic deeds used to be told to us. Nowadays it’s very rare. We don’t have any epic poem teller in our aimag today. There are few in Hovd aimag. There used to be poem tellers in two or three sums of Hovd aimag but they have disappeared. There are only a few. It seems the epic poem will vanish. That’s it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

How many of them there were in your childhood?

Bataa -

Well, we had only one teller when we lived along the river Hatuugiyn. Then he passed away. Then the one who inherited it, he also passed away. We had no more epic poems being told.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Was it kind of an education or profession that the people were trained or it was only inherited?

Bataa -

It was inherited. A teacher of 60, 70 or 80 years of age would teach, you know. The epic poems were written in poem and they would read it like poems, you know. It’s not like me telling you this, you know.

Ariun-Undrakh -

He has to know it by heart, right?

Bataa -

Yes, he has to know it by heart. It had to be that way.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Did the neighborhood people gather to listen to his telling?

Bataa -

Oh, yes, all the neighborhood people would come. They never told to just one ‘ail’, you know. In the olden time there were two, three ails’ in the neighborhood. Also the ‘ails’ that lived nearby this mountain pass came to listen.

Ariun-Undrakh -

There were not only children but adults…

Bataa -

All the people were included there, the old women, the old men and little children. Everybody went to listen to the epic poem teller. Let me tell you 2 or 3 things. To tell the epic poems meant to purify all the evil things of that place. Do you understand?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Yes, I do.

Bataa -

The epic poems had been told because the livestock were healthy and sound that year, and the people had no ailments. That’s why they made the epic poems to be told, you know. There’s one more peculiar thing about our land. We used to hit white wood. Such a game had been inherited from the Urianhai forefathers. The families were invited in the summer time to beat white wood. Just at this time of the year. The sheep used to die from eating the flower…I forget the name of it. The sheep used to die, having convulsions. In the morning when we woke up 2 or 3 of the sheep of some ’ails’ had died, you know. It was just at this time of the year in June and July. There used to be a yellow flower. In this case all the neighborhood families and their children were called one night to hit white wood. It was a tradition that after such a game all the sheep were healed. From the other side there was a meaning in it. It was a game for the youngsters. Do you understand? Young people between sixteen to twenty years of age took part in it. They were all single people. What did they do? It was usually at 10 or 11pm at night. Then the family people will sing in pairs, “A golden frame and a silver frame”. In other words, the young people from your entrance go out and say, “A golden frame and a silver frame.” Then the neighborhood people will, “Oh, the white wood is being hit.” Then all of them came out. It’s the night time, right? So they stood there gathered together. Do you understand? Then there’s this size wood.

Ariun-Undrakh -

A white wood?

Bataa -

Yes, a white wood. You hold it like this. All are gathered together and when they come up to me, I throw the white wood turning it two or three times. The young people would go to the direction where the white wood had been thrown.

Ariun-Undrakh -

To look for it?

Bataa -

Yes, to look for it. Then one among them would find it. Someone will find it. Then he would hold it and cry out, ”Found!” He should be very quick. It’s tough. The people from behind might get hold of him and seize the wood. If the wood is seized, it is not counted. It has a special target. He has to get to that target. If he gets to the target, he gets one score for his team.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You mean if gets there without being caught?

Bataa -

Yes, if one gets there without being caught. But if he is caught, they’d bring him down, you know. They’d attack him to seize the wood. There won’t be any fighting. It’s a game. So it’s significant as sports game. Firstly, when you throw the wood far away you need strength in the hands. Secondly, in the moon lit night we almost didn’t hit the wood, you know. It should be hit on a dark night to look for it. Plus it’s good for the eyesight to look for it in the darkness. Thirdly, there’s running. The person who found the wood has to run quickly to the target in order not to be caught by the others. So there are three significances of the white wood game. So when the sheep would fall down ill, the ‘ail’ used to invite people to play the game, you know. The ‘ail’ would treat the people with the dried curd and drink, hyaram, inviting them to play the game. There’s another game besides this. It originated from the Urianhais. There’s this archery, you know. The Urianhais would organize the archery competition. They would treat the people who came to take part in the archery to tea and a meal in the morning, afternoon and in the evening. After the archery everybody is invited to the organizer’s home and they’d report how many people came to the competition. One of the seniors would report, “We had 88 people coming to this competition. This was the best in this team and that was best in that team”. Then they were given rewards. The first five people were rewarded. The archery was very well organized. Have you been here long? You know those Urianhais?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Where?

Bataa -

Near the railway.

Ariun-Undrakh -

I don’t know them, you know.

Bataa -

There the archery competition begins from the third day of tsagaan sar. Those Halha and the Kazakhs shoot with a great noise, you know. If there’s a wind, it is said the Urianhais practice the archery. People would say many nice words where old and young people had gathered. Those who want to organize archery they invite them to their places. The meaning of is the same as with the white wood. They organized the archery to avoid any misfortune, you know. Do you understand? Why did this archery originate? You might have heard about it. The holy monarch Chinggis Khaan had been combating in this western region and had stayed overnight in this place to give rest to his warriors and the gelded horses. Did you get it? Then Chinggis Khaan told his people, “OK, you are quite exhausted and the horses are exhausted, too. Our soldiers and the military commanders are also exhausted. We will have a rest for a few days here”. I don’t know for how many days. Then the lord Chinggis said, “You, folks, mustn’t drink dark wine”, do you understand? Dark wine means alcohol, you know. “Folks, you mustn’t drink alcohol. You mustn’t flee”. Chinggis Khaan had strict laws, you know. Perhaps he said if they drank alcohol or fled, he knew what to do with them. Then the lord Chinggis told his people, ”What should you do in such a case? You should make up some interesting games and play them. Drink and eat. You have food. Enjoy your food and give rest to your flesh and let your horses rest. Whatever games there are, play them”. There were a few Urianhais among his many thousands of soldiers. What did they think of? He threw away the head of the arrow and put something soft in it. Actually the head is made of iron and it kills the enemy. He took away the spearhead and put wood instead. It is called boltsuu. It is a round thing. He has the arrow, right? He just threw away the spearhead of his arrow and put some small wood in it. Then one of the daring soldiers said, “We’ll put now three ears”. We call it ear. The Halha don’t call it that. There are plenty of things put when practicing archery.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Do you mean the target?

Bataa -

Yes, the target. We call it an ‘ear’, you know. What did the Urianhais do? One of them folded the rope of the bridle to make it round. There’s a back strap of the horse saddle. He twisted it into a round ball. And there’s a horse tether, you know. He rounded it up to make a round target. So they had three targets, do you understand? They put those targets up but I don’t know from how many meters they used to shoot. They shot and they had good entertainment and rest that day. The next day they had a few days rest, I think. They ate their food and practiced archery. So what do you see from here? The Urianhais made this archery one of the three games for men. From them it spread to Halh and Buriad. Actually a bow and an arrow is a military weapon, you know. But the Urianhais developed such an archery game while they had a rest. If you go round here and observe you’ll find sometimes people practice archery. There are no old people nowadays and people do not practice it. We have no Nalaih archery now. The old people had all passed away, you know. Only sometimes they shoot… You just take notice. The Halh leather strap is just a round thing with a hole in the middle. It’s a little bit bigger than this. They had made something like a leather strap, you know. Have you noticed the leather strap?

Ariun-Undrakh -

I’ve seen it on TV only.

Bataa -

Oh, yes. That’s it that is shown on TV. What kind of a leather strap was it? I’ve seen it today. I don’t remember which ‘ail’ it was with a TV set. I watched an archery competition on TV. Besides the Halh leather strap… It is called archery, you know. The Urianhai archery had been shown there. The Urianhai strap has one for each person and two… what you call it. The three…what you call it…became one. They put a round thing on and shoot from a distance of 75 meters. The archery strap is in Urianhai. There are the horse tether and the bridle rope like the Chinggis, what do you call it. They put the horse tether, the bridle rope there, you know. Nowadays people have a festival by this archery game. You look carefully, OK? The Halh strap is different and it has a hole in it and it is rounded up. And the Urianhai strap, you just go and look at it. It is round like a ball. There are still the horse tether and the bridle rope that are being shot at in the Urianhai archery. It is called daan. Such is the origin of the archery. The Urianhais originated it. Chinggis Khaan greatly praised them for developing such a game. He told them to make this game nationwide. “You make it nationwide. It’s wonderful, it’s a beautiful game”. And since then we had the Halh archery and the Buriad archery. They are different. Urianhai archery is very different. There’s a person who is doing a research work about it. You go and look at both two straps at this year naadam. Do you understand? You will have a lot of materials. First you go and see the Halh strap. Then you go and see the Urianhai one. There’s much difference between them. Do you understand? If you include it in your work and write about the Urianhai strap, you’ll have something grand. When you write about the Halh strap, you’ll have a grand thing. That’s it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You talked about the white wood game, right? You said single men used to be there. What’s the meaning of it?

Bataa -

Yes. It’s like this, my child. It’s a great thing. There were no developments in Mongolia then besides inviting some ‘ail’ to practice the archery. There was no development like we have today. Do you get it? Did you understand? It was the nomadic tribe. Did you get it? They had no sports besides archery. Do you understand? So what did the olden day people do? As I have already told you, actually I think there are a few people beginning from teenagers to the age of 21 and 25. They have no games to play, you know. Secondly, there are the romantic relations, you know. In the olden times my parents and your grandparents never let their daughters go outside, you know. Do you understand? It was the same in Urianhai. It was the same with your Kazakhs, too. They would never be let out till they were married, you know. There were no movies, no trips. They were all in their parents’ hands, poor things. That’s natural, you know. Those who were over sixteen, those at the age of eighteen and twenty had feelings of love, hadn’t they? In order for them to find their life companions the white wood game was developed. Their parents allowed them to go there. Some parents were tough. They would never let especially their daughters out. I used to participate in that game many times. Some parents wouldn’t let their daughters go to play that game. The white wood game usually ended up early in the dawn. Do you understand? We ended up just before dawn. What did we do then? There was no more sound of singing the ‘golden frame and the silver frame’. Everybody would silence each other and they dispersed. I loved one girl. How do I tell her about my feelings? I just followed her. And within that period we expressed our feelings, you know. At daytime there was nothing of that kind. We were busy with the livestock. We tended the livestock and collected the dry dung and firewood. The women sewed. There was no time for a love affair, you know. But the Mongolians had developed such a game for that purpose. The parents allowed their children to go. The majority allowed it. But there were some families that had a rude nature. They never let their daughters out. But the youngsters were free to go. Their parents let them out freely, you know. That’s it. Firstly, it was a sports game. Secondly, it was the olden days people’s… Nowadays the white wood game has disappeared. It was the only chance to reveal freely your love feelings, you know. A second chance was there. And it was the day of the sheep grace. You should know it. A male and a female meet at the day of the sheep grace. They adjust their days of sheep grace. Let’s say, today is my turn to pasture the sheep. It is called the sheep grace day. Let’s say, there’s a girl living in the ger district, right? I have some feelings for her and she might also have some feelings. It’s difficult to match our days of the sheep grace.

Ariun-Undrakh -

To make it coincide?

Bataa -

Yes, it’s difficult to match and make it coincide. If it matches, then you express your feelings, you know. That’s it. Have you watched the movie called ‘Five Hills of the Steppe’? Do you remember Süren singing and pasturing his sheep? He is singing the Five Hills of the Steppe song. Meanwhile the cart driver, what was her name? She had the cart full of wood and they met each other. Süren’s sheep grace day matched was it Danzan? They meet each other for a few minutes. And what’s his name he takes out a candy from his pocket and gives it to her. They talk to each other. Maybe he says to her, “I love you”. And that’s it. Later, when they meet each other again, they talk of getting married on that day and that month. It’s not like today when they make friends with each other and go dancing to the bars and picnics. Hadn’t you seen Süren? It’s called ‘The Awakening’. Have you seen The Awakening?

Ariun-Undrakh -

Yes, I have.

Bataa -

So they get married in The Awakening. That’s the meaning of the white wood game. That allowed people to reveal their feelings. They also show off their strength and power. It’s grand, you know. When you find the white wood and return to the place there’s much fuss about it, you know. The one who found it, races quickly and the others rush after him to catch him and not let him reach the target. That’s it, you know.

Ariun-Undrakh -

At that time… What was the traditional Mongolian wedding ceremony like? Do you know about it?

Bataa -

Let’s see… I haven’t surveyed the wedding ceremony. But when you observe from life practice, it’s different. Because I’m Urianhai I will tell you what I had observed from the Urianhai wedding. It’s like this. At first… Well, where to begin? It was like this in the olden times. Before the people’s revolution and after it in the 1930-1940s, in the 1920s and 1930s our grandparents sometimes married each other not knowing each other, you know.

Ariun-Undrakh -

You mean not seeing each other?

Bataa -

No, not seeing each other. The father went to a family. He would talk to them. He would say that the girl from that family is a demure and grand girl. “She is hard working. Anyway I’ll get that girl for my son”. Then he would go to visit them. At first he’d give his snuff bottle. They all know each other’s character well enough. They would exchange their snuff bottles, right? “Are you having peace?” “Yes, I am and you?’ Thus they greet each other. Do you get it? After that they would drink tea. There’s no such custom in Europe like in Mongolia. You treat me to a nice tea and some refreshments. Then we exchange our snuff bottles. The father knows that ‘ail’ quite well, you know. Then he says, “Let’s have the same fate. We have a good man. You have a girl there. To specify to you, we have a hunter of foxes and squirrels. You have a seamstress. I have come to take your girl”. That’s what the father says. “We have the one who hunts foxes and squirrels and you have a seamstress. I came to take your girl for my son”. The grandfather and the grandmother of that family will accept his snuff tobacco if they approve the idea and say, “OK, you organize the wedding at your favorable time”. But some families are fearful. They won’t approve.

Ariun-Undrakh -

They won’t approve?

Bataa -

No. They would say their daughter had acquired someone else. We will not give our daughter. So, you have a little struggle. Once you have agreed about the wedding, you make more visits. The son’s side has more burdens. They set up the ger, a new ger.

Ariun-Undrakh -

A new ger is necessary?

Bataa -

Yes, a new ger is necessary. Everything should be built. The family prepares the son’s ger. The girl’s side prepares all the clothing that she should wear when she gets married. The clothes beginning from the undergarments and the summer and winter light and sheep skin deels and hats. All that had to be sewn. The female’s decorations were very rare then so they had to prepare them. When everything is completed the girl’s side came, you know. Let’s say, if they wed at the beginning of the autumn months, the groom comes with his uncle to take the bride. They will drink that day, therefore two or three people who can drink well but who are not turbulent will go from the uncle’s side. So they would bring the bride. It’s tough to let go of your daughter. The girl will be taken aback by the sudden departure. She might say she won’t go. That’s why people from the groom’s side… The bride’s side will certainly never chase her away, you know. They would just stay there, ‘let them take her’. That’s why there’s the bridesmaid there, just as I have said to you, you know. The bridesmaid is from the uncle’s side. There are two or three strong men who will hold her on either side in case she doesn’t want to go. In that case they will take her by force and make her mount the horse. Thus they will take her away. Perhaps it’s tough for her to leave her place, poor thing. Then she’ll be brought home and the wedding will begin. It’s very hard for the wedding to begin. The female’s side, the bride’s relatives will come to the wedding, you know, to sit at the right side. The groom’s relatives will have the left side and there will be two sides. Then a senior will make a speech. “This beautiful day we are beginning the wedding feast. Shall we begin it? Yes”. Then in our homeland the feast begins with singing a song. First the groom’s side sings and then the bride’s side begins to sing. The first part consists of singing and presenting the groom and the bride. The Kazakhs call it ‘ayazas’. Then, in the afternoon the feast becomes widespread and koumiss is served out. The groom’s side and the bride’s side come also with alcohol. They drink and eat. Then they match all the remaining alcohol of the two sides. They begin singing and feasting. It’s sort of like that. Then the bride comes in. I’m talking in much confusion. The bride comes, right? I have forgotten to tell you that when the bride comes in she is welcomed in a fabulous way. The groom’s mother’s comes and the groom’s uncle or his wife’s daughter or bride comes. If there’s a girl of the same age as the bride, she also comes. Then they welcome the bride and spread out a beautiful felt rug outside. It’s like the present day carpet. It is made of felt. She walks on the felt rug. Do you understand it? When she comes, she walks on the rug. The carpet, well, let’s say the felt rug. They put a new felt rug, they don’t put an old one, you know. They make a new felt rug especially for the bride. Two people lift her from each side and bring her to the door. Do you understand? When she comes to the door her mother-in-law gives her a cup of milk. The bride tastes from it. After tasting from the cup of milk she goes into ger. There are the groom’s side females in the ger. They might be his mother or his sisters. The bride wouldn’t come out of the ger in the same clothes. She has brought special clothes from her home.

Ariun-Undrakh -

Fancy clothes?

Bataa -

Yes, she comes with her fancy clothes on. Then she takes off the fancy clothing. There are only two women in the ger, others are not let in. She is made to take off her clothes and keep them somewhere. Her family prepared her all her clothes from the socks and footwear and the T-shirt and sweater, Mongolian deel and whatever there is. Everything should be according to the Mongolian custom, you know. The Mongolian deel and the hat will be put on with the assistance of the bride’s side people. Her clothes are put away, as I have said, right? The clothes she came in. And that family will do everything for her. Then one from the two women will come out and say ‘the outsiders are waiting’, you know. OK, everything is ready. Then the guests are instructed to be ready and the bride is made to worship the fire. Do you understand? I’m talking about the olden time things and not the present time things. The new ‘ail’ has a new stove and the stove is filled with dried dung. Do you understand? The stove is full of dried dung and she would be given matches to light the fire. Then the bride is becoming that ‘ail’s person, you know. She strikes the matches and lights the fire. By that time the parents of the groom and the groom and the main guests are gathered in the ger. The rest of the guests haven’t yet come. Do you understand? The fire will blaze well and she will worship the fire. She will worship it three times and put the cauldron on the fire. So she has become the ‘ail’s person. So, the bride after worshipping the fire she opens the stove and puts the cauldron on the fire to make tea. Then she offers tea to the guests. That’s how they feasted. After that the bride makes some tea and she gives the best of the tea to her husband. She would give first to her husband and not her father when he is still there, you know.

Ariun-Undrakh -

She first gives to her husband?

Bataa -

Yes, first she gives to her husband. He is the one who is making a new ger. The next cup of tea is offered to the father-in-law and then the mother-in-law. Then, the rest of the guests are treated to tea. That’s it.

Ariun-Undrakh -

There’s detailed significance in it.

Bataa -

Yes, there’s much detailed significance in it. I’m not prepared for this discussion. I have a lot of things to tell you if I get prepared for it. I’m talking very briefly and in general, you know. Are you going to publish a book? People would say, oh, this Bataa is speaking. They would say I talked nonsense.

Ariun-Undrakh -

No.

Bataa -

There are people who eavesdrop. If you publish a book, people will read it, you know. The thing I’ve been telling you about is very detailed. If I talk in detail, it will take a whole day. Let’ see…

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Interviews, transcriptions and translations provided by The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia, University of Cambridge. Please acknowledge the source of materials in any publications or presentations that use them.