Böhöö


Basic information
Interviewee ID: 990583
Name: Böhöö
Parent's name: Tseren
Ovog: Choird
Sex: m
Year of Birth: 1945
Ethnicity: Urianhai

Additional Information
Education: higher
Notes on education: sports teacher
Work: retired
Belief: Buddhist
Born in: Mönhhairhan sum, Hovd aimag
Lives in: Jargalant sum (or part of UB), Hovd aimag
Mother's profession: herder
Father's profession: herder


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Translation:



The Oral History of Twentieth Century Mongolia

Otgonbayar -

Tell me, in what family were you born? How did you spend your childhood?

Böhöö -

My name is Böhöö. I’m a citizen of Alag bag of Mönh-Hairhan sum of Hovd aimag.

Otgonbayar -

Mhhm.

Böhöö -

Ah, first, it is said I was born in a place called Hushan of Uliast of Alag bag of Mönh-Hairhan sum of Hovd.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

My father died when I was small, so I have my mother’s name as a surname. My childhood was spent just like the other children’s. I assisted my mother. Around the age of five or six I rode horses and tended the cattle. The year before going to school I began to ride race horses.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

I went to the first grade of the elementary school of Duut sum in 1956. I studied there till the fourth grade. In 1960 we relocated to Mönh-Hairhan sum from the Duut sum centre, and I entered the fourth grade there and finished the elementary school.

Otgonbayar -

In your native sum?

Böhöö -

Ahaan. Since Mönh-Hairhan sum was a newly established sum, I went to Möst sum to study to the seven-year school there. After finishing the seven-year school I went to Ulaanbaatar to study in the Teacher’s school in 1963. I studied in the Teacher’s school from 1963 to 1966 and after graduating from it I went to Santmargad sum of Zavhan aimag to be an elementary school teacher.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

After working for some time there I moved to my own homeland. I came to Mönh-Hairhan sum in 1967 and continued as an elementary school teacher. I received a class of 35 pupils and I taught them till the fourth grade. Those pupils are now mostly old people of over fifty years old.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

After that I taught elementary classes and then I began teaching secondary classes. I was a physical education teacher in the elementary classes. Since my childhood I was interested in sports, and beginning from 1966 I began to take part in various competitions. From 1970 I took part in track and field national championships. Generally I participated in all the state championships till 1985. There used to be KB badge state championships held and I participated in it five times. Three times I became state champion.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

My young years I spent mostly in the countryside as a PE teacher and taking part in competitions. Then in 1972-1979 I worked as a Revolutionary Youth League darga in Mönh-Hairhan and Uyench sums.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

I had worked in Mönh-Hairhan sum and then I moved to Uyench sum to work. Their sum darga’s name was Muushaar.

Otgonbayar -

Muushaar?

Böhöö -

Yes, Muushaar.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

High level officers of the agricultural sector of that period taught me how to work and live and how to communicate with the people, they taught me to labor and they trained me a lot. The party organization darga Tserenbadam of that period helped me to become an adult and get educated.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

In 1976-1979 I worked in Mönh-Hairhan sum and also I did League organization work there. I studied in a Teacher’s correspondence school at the same time, so from 1979 to 2000 I worked as a teacher mostly in Duut sum. I worked for twelve years in Duut sum school as a PE teacher. I spent my young years around children. You learn a lot from working with children. You teach them and at the same time you learn from them. It’s a wonderful relationship. During this time I visited the Soviet Union as a tourist via the union organization channels. I took part in three Congresses through the physical education organization channels. I took part in a Trade Union Congress for good achievements in the local trade union activities.

Otgonbayar -

Do you mean a Trade Union Congress?

Böhöö -

Yes, I took part in the Trade Union Congress. Besides teaching good things, generally the teachers and the doctors and the specialists who worked in the countryside sums, they were all involved in the activities and the required works that were needed for the development of the local community. For instance, I came to Duut sum and I didn’t know how to take a picture. Cameras were rare at that time. I was supposed to take a picture of the aimag deputy Yura. The camera was adjusted but the dormitory schoolchildren interfered with it and the adjustment was lost.

Otgonbayar -

Oh, poor thing.

Böhöö -

Well, somehow I managed to take his picture. We used to build the fences and go haymaking and I used to teach. In this way I spent my time in the countryside. In 1990 I came to my Mönh-Hairhan sum and I did the teachers’ job. I had my first tenth grade pupils that finished school. There were seven-year school, eight-year school and ten-year school. The graduates from the first tenth grade are now the trained staff of the local community and in the aimag. They live and work there. Though it seems we haven’t done anything grand, we have trained the staff in all the sectors. That’s the result of our work generally. That’s what I think. As for my private life, I got married in 1971.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmm.

Böhöö -

My wife’s name is Dulamsüren. She lived and worked in Duut sum. She was a cook at the Duut sum school. She did most of the work there. She washed the linen and she nurtured her children. We have lived together for almost forty years. We have seven children. The youngest one is working in Nagoya in Japan.

Otgonbayar -

Ahaan.

Böhöö -

His elder brother is working at the Höshööt coal mine. We have two sons and five daughters. One is a doctor, the rest of our daughters are teachers. One daughter graduated from University and went to Germany. She studies now at the University in Frankfurt.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

She is studying there the seventh year. This winter she’ll graduate. So our youngest one has been everywhere and she got married.

Otgonbayar -

You two are left now.

Böhöö -

The two of us are left. Now the children of our children are growing up and going to school. There are many of us bustling and making noise. We want to educate them in the right way.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Since I became a teacher I always had a thought. Our nation and the government make all the efforts to give the citizens’ children education, knowledge and make them skillful. They are still making those efforts to give the youth education and qualifications. I worked as a teacher for thirty years and my entire life I worked with children. Therefore I understand it is right to get education and get qualifications. As a result of education people get shaped and they grow up. The most important thing is that a person must be shaped. That’s what I always make sure I tell the young people. There are many people who have only four-year, eight-year and ten-year educations after which they go to live in the countryside and they tend the cattle and manage their household well. There are many young people who have become good drivers and they transport freight and they manage their lives well. But there are also those who graduated from two or three institutes abroad but they still didn’t make certain their life positions. And they also got addicted to alcohol and their lives are going up and down. I observe such things. Therefore, as a senior teacher I think the future generation should be well shaped along with getting well educated and qualified. The issue of getting shaped has a great role for the young generation.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Well, and as you just said as a teacher what is not written in the 20th century history is that we did everything in the countryside and locally that we were supposed to do. This all couldn’t be written …

Otgonbayar -

Just as Sürenjav’s poem says, “There’s no job that’s not being done by a teacher”.

Böhöö -

There’s no job that a teacher doesn’t do. There’s nothing a teacher can’t do. Even if he can’t, he’ll strive to do it.

Otgonbayar -

Right.

Böhöö -

It’s like in a story. In the army the commander asked the soldiers if there was anyone who was familiar with the carpenter’s job. One man raised his hand but he never knew what a carpenter was about, you know.

Otgonbayar -

/laughed/

Böhöö -

So he was shifted to the economic branch where he learnt carpentry and he was later demobilized. The rest of his life he spent as a carpenter. We participated in the concerts in the cultural halls and we organized and managed all the sports activities. Then just as I said, we took pictures and built fences. In other words, we seemed to be teachers though … But it is all our life and our history. The history of the Mongolian countryside is inseparably linked with its people. Our citizens and the people at the same time spent their entire lives for the better of their nation and gave away their young lives and their labor and the forces selflessly for the benefit of their nation. That’s the history.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

I had never claimed money and I had never requested anything from the state. That’s it. I went to school from the 1960s. Since this time until 1988 or 1989 … and 1990 we had been unaware of any religion. I would like to talk about religion.

Otgonbayar -

Mmhm.

Böhöö -

I had never known about religion. It was concealed from us. We had a man in our homeland who had been repressed. His name was Choisürengiin Riimet. He was sentenced to imprisonment for ten years. He passed away after I had grown up.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmhm.

Böhöö -

I thought those people were really powerful in religion. Are there any facts that I had seen with my own eyes? There were two trucks going together and the front truck stopped for there were some engine problems. The old man Riimet was seated in the second truck. The front truck had refused to take the old man. It was on the Bayan-Ölgii bridge. The old man had been repressed and he was going from the prison and he had shabby clothes. That’s why the first truck refused to take him in. It’s a real story happened in life, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmmm.

Böhöö -

The next driver … he stopped at the bridge because his engine was damaged. There was rain and the first truck was all wet and the second truck was dry, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Dry …

Böhöö -

There was another man. His name was Akhar Zakhar. And there was a horse that bucked and took the bridle pit into its mouth. It was a chestnut horse with such a character. I was then in the fourth grade. I used to ride race horses since my childhood and it was a horse that never let anyone close. I had never seen that old man before. I saw him when I was in the fourth grade. At that time one drunken old man was mounted on my chestnut horse. I wondered why my horse became so mild all of a sudden. In fact, that was then when such things related with religion I first saw with my own eyes. And in the modern times, beginning from 1990 religion had flourished powerfully and various denominations came into our country. That’s what we see. There are many also who support that religion.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

There are many who follow Buddhism. Especially the Christian religion has been very much supported by our young generation recently. People say those who worship it are successful in work and have no health problems. But I have a different opinion.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

A person can worship any religion and he has the right not to worship it. But I think the management of our Lamaism and the reading of the sutras are associated with the ability of those who carry out the activities. I think it’s related with their ability, their acquisition of the philosophy of the religion, with their ability to give belief.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

For instance, there’s a man in the aimag centre. His name is Jügderbaram. He used to be the head of the aimag planning commission. His father is said to have been Tsagaandagva who was the citizen of Manhan sum. He died. His daughter is a doctor. Her name is Dariimaa. She is still alive. Tsagaandavaa asked his son when he came home having graduated from the University, “My son, what do you learn within four years?“ In fact, he himself had studied in Tibet for seventeen years and came home after the People’s revolution had won. So once the people’s revolution had won, he couldn’t carry out his religious activities. Therefore, he was said to have been a bag darga. So those people had spent so many years studying and … His children and us have connections. Doctor Dariimaa and ourselves communicate with each other for we are the same generation intelligentsia. As she had told us, her father told her that three Mongolians came there and each of them was given a concrete slab. They knelt in prayer for several days and marked a line on the slab. When a depression appeared [from prostrating in the same place so often] they begin their religious study. But without the cavity they don’t begin. Such were the regulations.

Otgonbayar -

Wow.

Böhöö -

So I don’t know how many thousands of time they prayed and their elbows and knees developed sores. The old Dagva prayed for three or four months when he was young. And one day it was checked by the line and said, “OK, Dagva, you are ready to start”.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

That’s how it was. So you can see how strict the regulations of religion were and how many years they studied and to how many people it was effective. Do we today have people who graduated from such schools? Well, certainly we worship Buddhism, but I think we lack that level of people.

Otgonbayar -

Mmmm.

Böhöö -

Well, and those who worship Christ, especially our young people sit there bursting into tears. It’s a great respect, you know, to cry so much with respect for the religion. I had surgery on my left leg in the city. And the daughter of my acquaintance who lives downstairs attends the Christ … what do you call it.

Otgonbayar -

Attends a church.

Böhöö -

Yes, she attends a church. She put her hand on my leg and prayed, “Let heal my Böhöö bagsh’s leg”.

Otgonbayar -

She prayed …

Böhöö -

Yes, she prayed and her tears rolled down. She cried sincerely from her heart. It is evident how great an impact it has on people when you see how they respect their religion. Personally what do I think about having religious faith or not having it? What do I think about it as a senior? My opinion might be right or it might be wrong. It might be uncommon. Actually to have a religious faith means to have the ability to concentrate fully on your actions, attention and life issues. That’s what I think. But today we … I say I believe in Buddhism. Well, in case of grief or ailments, children might get sick or there might be various problems in the family, we visit lamas and bring some cedar. But we can’t reach the level of that girl who cries. I think it’s associated with our inability. Well, we watch some lectures on TV and I observe that one from among dozens of people say right things. When you observe life and talk with people …. There’s a child of Riimed guai from our homeland. He is a lama in our aimag centre.

Otgonbayar -

Aaan. He is the child of that old man.

Böhöö -

Ahaan. He is the child of that old man, lineal. His son is also a lama in Mönh-Hairhan sum. When I was the mayor of Mönh-Hairhan sum in 2000 I tried to establish a temple there.

Otgonbayar -

Oh, I see. Talk about that history, please?

Böhöö -

…I visited Baldanjav guai after tsagaan sar …

Otgonbayar -

Is Balsanjav guai Riimed’s son?

Böhöö -

Yes, he is Riimed’s son.

Otgonbayar -

That old man became secular and married …

Böhöö -

Yes, he married and had children. Then I visited him around the 5th and 6th of tsagaan sar.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

His poor parents were sitting there looking quite weary. Their household was shabby and in a difficult situation because of too many visitors. I asked, “How many visitors did you have today?” They said, “18 people, 18 families came with their children and vehicles”.

Otgonbayar -

Asking the old man to tell them various things…

Böhöö -

Yes, asking him to read sutras and eliminate burdens of the coming year … To call all the good omens, you know. I was the mayor and I couldn’t prohibit reading the sutras.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

I was thinking … 18 people riding vehicles. That was for only one day.

Otgonbayar -

Right.

Böhöö -

There are about 600 families in a sum. Perhaps they would all come to this ‘ail’. That means how many people would come, how many vehicles would be required, how much petroleum would be needed, how much working time would be wasted and how much burden is it for this family?

Otgonbayar -

Right.

Böhöö -

I thought about it and said to the people …”My friends, the situation is such and such. It has become a citizen’s requirement”.

Otgonbayar -

Right…

Böhöö -

Well, it has become the mass requirement, you know. Why not then we establish it in the centre of the sum. There are over 600 families and the population of the sum is 2600, 2700. We can establish at least one temple here. I addressed the people sincerely at the meeting of the bag day and they supported me and some contributed money and some gave cattle.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

There’s Shirnengiin Adishaa from Ulaanbaatar. He is the head of the regional development. He gave us some money …

Otgonbayar -

Is that Adishaa who was at Customs?

Böhöö -

Right you are.

Otgonbayar -

He is from my course, you know.

Böhöö -

Yes, we are from the same place.

Otgonbayar -

Aaan, is Adisha from Mönh-Hairhan?

Böhöö -

Yes, we are from the same place. He gave 350.000 tögrögs and the head of the parliament Demberel guai also gave some money …

Otgonbayar -

Is Demberel from your sum?

Böhöö -

He was elected from here.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

So the masses supported us. The director of the Tulga company Myagmarsüren had been building a hydro-power station there. He gave us various construction materials like cement and timber. We all worked together and the temple was erected. The children’s dormitory was being renovateded into new classrooms then, and two engineers and other workers were decorating the place by the Japanese Grassroots grant assistance. Ganbaatar was the engineer from our Torguud Bulgan. He organised the project of the temple building. “Teacher, this temple building shouldn’t have the form of a house, you know. Our Mongolian temples have four columns and there’s an outside frame from the middle. That’s how it is. You have to build it this size and like that”. In an instant we had built a temple. The people had built it instantly.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

When it came to cover it with plaster at the end and we needed people who could plaster and paint, people from all over the sum brought various things, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Work was distributed among the people, like Böhöö and Otgonbayar would plaster four meters of the place from here to there. Then it had to be whitewashed and painted. Then we did the ceiling till 4am and we stayed there overnight. The next morning we were short of some cardboard and the like for insulation and we sent a car to get it from the sum centre. It was erected on the 17th of the mid autumn. There’s an old lama Gaaguu in our aimag … he has gone to the city just now. He told his lamas and together with our Baldanjav ah they finished the temple. Our Adishaa contributed his money to buy 108 volumes of Ganjuur Danjuur and exalted them here. Was it Erdene ... the head of Gandan monastery department from Ulaanbaatar?

An old woman -

Erdenehüü …

Böhöö -

Erdenehüü …

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

He organized a pleasant religious activities (lit: measures) with 7 or 8 lamas and strong wrestlers … exalted the 108 volumes …

Otgonbayar -

Seating the old man there …

Böhöö -

Seating the old man there and sending his child to the religious school. Now he is working there and the old man’s health is a bit … His daughter has got a job here. And they help the commoners.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. That temple in Mönh-Hairhan sum is still working?

Böhöö -

Yes, it is.

Otgonbayar -

How many lamas are there?

Böhöö -

There are two or three children there. There’s that young man there primarily.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

And the religion … What kind of religion was worshipped in the Urianhai province? They brought the Buddha’s altars through Gandan and the 108 volumes were brought and worshipped. People gathered and some of them also brought sutras to keep them here. .

Otgonbayar -

Ahaan.

Böhöö -

A man named Banzaryn Arvaga had brought sutras bundled together, “I’m old now. Let them be in a proper place instead of keeping them in a bundle in my place. They were preserved by my parents. Keep them in a proper place, please”. We kept them and once the temple was erected we put them here. In this way we work.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

We are totally unaware of religion. But we had built the temple. So, you see, we can’t say we don’t believe in religion or we do believe. So there are people like us who are generally over sixty years old. We worked for the state for 40 years. I had worked exactly for 40 years and I had seen various things within this period.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. In the socialist regime religious issues were prohibited, right?

Böhöö -

Right.

Otgonbayar -

Were there cases when the local people and especially among the teachers when they visited lamas and worshipped them? What was the situation then?

Böhöö -

Oh, certainly, there were. It was secret.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

For instance, there was a citizen of Erdenebüren sum Ania. I don’t know his exact name. Was it Mania … He was an old man.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

His hand was a bit deformed. He is a little brown old man. His ger was at the north side of the public service and the industrial complex. I went twice to take part in the national championship in the 1970s and came back without any medals. My friend Noonhöh who had been the head of the airports in Gobi-Altai and Uvs …

Otgonbayar -

Yes, Noosonhöh …

Böhöö -

We are from the same place.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

His wife’s name was Chimedregzen… My wife and Noosonhöh are cousins. So Chimedregzen seeing me said, “Hey, I’ll take you to someone”. We visited Mania and he told me, “You’ll be a good sportsman, sonny. I will read sutras for you tomorrow morning. I see that you have to go tomorrow”. And he gave me something. I think it was cedar.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

It was 1972… He gave me cedar and said, “In fact, this year you might not get anything but you’ll get one thing. From the next year you might get two or three”. I was thinking to myself then on the plane flying over the old man’s ger, ’I wonder if he’s reading the sutra’. Then, that year I got a bronze medal. The next year, 1973 I got silver medal at the Trade Union sports festival. The next year I began to get gold and silver medals at the countryside youth sports festival.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

That’s how I kept on going … It’s also associated with the one’s feelings, you know. In other words, I had faith in it.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

There are many such cases and it’s not only me. The only thing was, I sort of concealed it from others. My wife was young then. We were young and I was a party cell darga. I made tea and offered it and my wife noted, “You are a party cell darga”. (Laughs) There was a party cell darga Zurgaadai in Mönh-Hairhan sum. He had worked for many years. He was a firm communist. He used to destroy the balin, you know.

An old woman -

During the Tsagaan Sar…

Böhöö -

Balin are made of stones. In the morning of tsagaan sar a chest was burnt and the treats were sprinkled…

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He said we followed the religious customs … In the morning of Tsagaan Sar our homeland people burnt the sheep chest and put the tsang. Then circling around …what do you call it we returned home. We sprinkled the treats and greeted each other at the balin. The balin is a round thing made of stones.

Otgonbayar -

Kind of an ovoo?

Böhöö -

Yes, it’s sort of an ovoo.

An old woman -

Our homeland people call it balin.

Böhöö -

He used to destroy it, you know. And that darga now is over ninety years old. He is very active now to worship it. (Laughs)

Otgonbayar -

Certainly, for he is a party darga.

Böhöö -

He was a party darga and now … I came to Mönh-Hairhan in 2004. We visit the balin in the tsagaan sar morning and in the first turn we greet Zurgaadai darga, you know. Our darga …

Otgonbayar -

The one who used to destroy …

Böhöö -

Yes, he had been destroying. Generally, I have lived such life in the 20th century. I’m not sure what kinds of beliefs are awaiting us. This is the 20th century local people’s religion. There are also people in the countryside whom we worshipped and visited to ask our fortunes. There were people among them who really had certain knowledge.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Do you see that blue horse?

Otgonbayar -

Yes, I do.

Böhöö -

In the 1970s one old man visited our place. His name was Göltön.

Otgonbayar -

Göltön?

Böhöö -

Yes, Göltön.

An old woman -

He was sort of a shaman …

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

My mom… my dad was also a lama.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

My dad had eleven brothers and sisters, two sisters and ten brothers.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

The youngest was my dad.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

But seven from the ten brothers were lamas...

Otgonbayar -

Wow.

Böhöö -

Yes, such were they. There’s a Hoton man of my father’s generation.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

When he had come after so many years, my mom was still alive. He was my father’s friend and they studied together in the religious school of Jargalant in Bulgan sum of Bayan-Ölgii aimag. He came to meet us.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

He gave me his snuff bottle and we talked. I observed, to some people he gave the snuff box and to some he didn’t. He greeted some of them. Then he said, “You go out and bring me a picture of a horse drawn on a white cloth”. So the bottom words he wrote himself and he sewed the three-color cloth. He gave it to me and said, “Sonny, keep it. Your father was this kind of a man”. That’s what he said to me and I’m not so good in worshipping relics and I hadn’t become a lama. I know very little compared to those high rank religious monks. He had travelled in most of the Mongolian territories and revived about 200 springs. It seems there are also waters harmful to human beings, cattle and plants …

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

He told me he had dedicated his life to drying up those kind of waters. I always remember that.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

So, that means they are certainly well educated like Jügderbadam, the father of Dariima doctor.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Generally, in our homeland … his name … at that time our homeland people called him Aldaa. He was a tall lama. I couldn’t recall his name. What did he practice? We had plenty of grasshoppers in our land.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Every second year we had grasshoppers. Actually, our Mönh-Hairhan sum originated from Bayan-Ölgii. It is one Urianhai of Bulgan sum, you know. In other words, we are of the same land. The grasshopper … the grasshopper is still there. When the grasshopper appeared every second year … that lama was called Aldaa, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Because he was tall… I really can’t figure out his name. Anyway, that lama was sent to Serüün ovoo.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

He used to go to Seruun ovoo to read the sutras. He read the sutra and the black larks with white chests would come. My mom used to say the lama was reading the sutra. In three or four days it rained heavily and those birds flew in veiling the sun. In such a large amount they came. The so called black parchin bird eats the grasshopper, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

A flock of birds came to eat up the grasshoppers.

Otgonbayar -

And they would go back?

Böhöö -

Yes, they would go back. And now we have neither the lamas, nor the sutras, nor the birds.

Otgonbayar -

Is there a grasshopper?

Böhöö -

Yes, there is. There are too many of them. They are the real enemies of life. Our Baldanjav ah reads the sutras taught by his father and a few black larks fly in to Mönh-Hairhan, you know. They still come. In the olden times they flew in big flocks, as the old people used to say. But the religion … it has name of a religion… even with a name of a lama they are separate. For instance, the lama that called the black larks was educated in the geography and environmental issues. And there’s a man named Dagva who says he had been trained in obstetrics for 17 years, you know. “I only help at childbirth…”

Otgonbayar -

He is a religious healer.

Böhöö -

“I can’t do anything else reading other sutras. I can only help pregnant women who are unable to deliver”. So they… the ancient religion … they were educated in certain fields. We are unaware of it and we visited every lama, but the main point is that they were specialized. That’s what I think.

Otgonbayar -

That horse that the Hoton man had done for you… What year was that?

Böhöö -

I think it was 1976.

Otgonbayar -

1976?

Böhöö -

Yes.

Otgonbayar -

Really? How had you preserved it since 1976?

Böhöö -

I keep it at home fastened with a string at the top. It has words…

Otgonbayar -

Right.

An old woman -

It bears the fate of a family … and it also has to be consecrated… it has certain canons…

Otgonbayar -

Oh, I see. Had that man told you about it?

Böhöö -

Yes, he had.

An old woman -

He said to consecrate it three days in a month and not to reveal it to others… not for everyone to touch it. He said the fates of our children were ensured in it and when one of the children gets sick we burn cedar and smoke over them and they are healed. That man named Göltön seemed to be a very educated man. But he seemed to be educated in shamanism.

Böhöö -

When the Megjid Janraisag god was erected I donated 999 tögrögs…

An old woman -

When the Megjid Janraisag god was erected 999… how much was it? We donated 999999 tögrögs, you know. Then he came from the Gandan monastery.

Otgonbayar -

You donated almost one million tögrögs.

Böhöö -

Yes, I did.

Otgonbayar -

That time one million is a big amount, you know.

Böhöö -

It’s a large amount.

An old woman -

It was sent from the Gandan monastery.

Otgonbayar -

Did you have any other relics besides this?

Böhöö -

No, I didn’t have.

An old woman -

No, we didn’t. It’s an olden thing from the time when the Janraisag god had been erected. The Mongolian people erected it by their own contribution. For a one off donation it was …

Böhöö -

This is the picture of my homeland. It’s the mountain Mönh-Hairhan. OK, what else you have, my sister?

Otgonbayar -

Ok, it was during the socialist time. In 1990 you even erected a temple, right?

Böhöö -

(Laughs)

Otgonbayar -

Since when did you have clear religious feelings? Before, you were just aware of it and you occasionally visited lamas, right? Had you become a firm believer?

Böhöö -

Not exactly. (Laughs) The most important thing is considering our children rather than yourself….

An old woman -

We always ensured that our children were healthy and well educated and not be involved in wrongdoing in foreign countries. My husband burns cedar and incense and I offer milk to the Big Dipper. It has become a habit. When I got married and came to this family my mom gave me a sprinkler and said, “Offer milk to the Big Dipper every evening. If there’s no milk, get one liter of milk and keep it and offer it to the Big Dipper till it ends”.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

An old woman -

And offer tea every morning to the sun, to the morning sun…

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

An old woman -

If you follow this custom, nothing bad will happen to you. That’s what my mom used to teach me. So my entire life I followed what I had learnt from my parents. I’m not actually a religious person. In other words, you know, we are connected with the planets and stars for we were originated from the nature. After death we’ll disappear and merge into nature. That’s why I worshipped …

Otgonbayar -

For how many years?

An old woman -

Well, it was … since the 1970s.

Otgonbayar -

Since the 1970s…

An old woman -

We got married in 1976, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Right. So in the socialist regime when it was strictly prohibited you still offered milk?

An old woman -

I had been offering tea when I saw our party cell darga walking towards me. I nearly fainted. I was scared if he had seen me. But he hadn’t noticed me. He came in and went out having had some tea.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

An old woman -

I was so frightened. I thought he would ask me, “So you get up in the morning and manage all …” I didn’t know what he would tell me and I was scared.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

An old woman -

That was our parents’ upbringing. I’m not sure if it was a religion … or a worshipping of the heaven and the nature … anyway it was what we had inherited form our parents.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

An old woman -

I also tell my daughters, “Once I had followed it, you also have to follow and stick to it. It was passed from generation to generation. So, before going to bed or maybe a child got sick, or you might not be in peace, actually when you have some grief, then you whisper it and offer milk to the Big Dipper”.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

An old woman -

That’s what I say. It’s much better than anything else. Perhaps, my parents had been doing the same thing.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

An old woman -

That’s what they had been doing. That’s what I think. Sometimes in the evening I forget and go to bed and all of a sudden I remember and I get up …/laughed/ We know all, this Joohnoo, who came to stay overnight … she had stayed with me for two or three days and went back. She is a small girl of 3rd or 4th grade. “Hey, granny, what happened with offering milk to the Big Dipper? Have you forgotten about it or not?” Even a child… my grandchildren... thus… And when I go out to offer milk they ask me, “Why are you talking to yourself? Are you saying something or not?” And I say my thoughts: my children to be healthy and well. My child who is there, please take care of him … that’s what I say to myself. They heard it and ask, “What are you talking about?”

Otgonbayar -

Are there Kazakhs in Mönh-Hairhan?

Böhöö -

No, there aren’t. But we are neighbors.

An old woman -

We neighbor with a Kazakh sum.

Otgonbayar -

Ann, the Bulgan sum of Bayan-Ölgii …

Böhöö -

Yes, we have the same land.

Otgonbayar -

But there are no Kazakhs in your sum…

Böhöö -

No, there aren’t.

Otgonbayar -

You have only Urianhais?

Böhöö -

Yes, only Urianhais.

An old woman -

In fact, there are mostly Urianhais.

Böhöö -

One bag of Duut sum is situated on the Halh side.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

And the rest are the Urianhais. And in Bulgan of Bayan-Ölgii there are mostly Kazakhs and the rest are the Urianhais. Right in Mönh-Hairhan there are only Urianhais.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. What are the peculiarities of the Urianhais? For instance, the Öölds are different. They have their own peculiar traditions and customs, you know. Do the Urianhais have peculiarities?

Böhöö -

Certainly, we do. The land and the territory of the Urianhais are mountainous and they live in severe conditions. Their character is associated with it.

Otgonbayar -

You mean they are quick?

Böhöö -

Yes, they are straight. It might be associated with it. Originally, there are about 3500 families living along the snowy mountains in Mönh-Khairkha, Duut and Bulgan of Bayan-Ölgii.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

The weather is very severe there. Though, this severe weather makes these local people very amicable. They cooperate with each other.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

I would mention two things concerning the severe weather. When I worked as a teacher I didn’t notice many details. On the 7th of April in 2002 and on the 16th of April of the next year it’s the time when the green pokes through, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

At that time actually 76 or 77 ewes gave birth to young animals in the herder’s court yard. The lambs were dead with their mothers.

Otgonbayar -

Frozen?

Böhöö -

Isn’t it terrifying? A considerable amount of cattle died. I felt very awkward… Firstly, they were fallen covered with show in a sheltered fence, you know. Secondly, in naadam time when you had tethered the horse thinking of going to naadam the next morning and you find the place full of snow the next morning. It’s an extraordinary phenomenon, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Wow.

Böhöö -

Yes, it’s an extraordinary thing. The heavy rain of 1991 was very dangerous. That year Baljinnyam champion …I think he won in 1992… that year we didn’t have the naadam, you know…

An old woman -

We couldn’t celebrate the naadam…

Böhöö -

17.8 thousands of heads of cattle were frozen within the sum…

Otgonbayar -

Frozen in naadam time?

Böhöö -

Yes, it was the naadam time. Then, Dambadarjaa was the head of the cultural department. He used to say, “It’s such a severe climate and the people’s temper is adjusted to it. They have the music and melody fit to it. They recite the epic poems, they play the tovshuur”. I’m very bad at it.

Otgonbayar -

Do you have a tovshuur?

Böhöö -

The children took it…

An old woman -

Our daughters took it when they got married. (Laughs) The two of us are left with nothing.

Böhöö -

We recite wonderful epic poems, therefore we’re different from others. Even now the old people over eighty play ikel and dance biyelgee, you know. Even children play tovshuur saying the Altai praises, you know. There was a man named Avirmed who played ikel and he recited the epic poems. He was a genius, actually. When we were elementary school teachers we used to go to collect firewood for two or three days. There was a lack of transportation, therefore we, the men, set up a ger and together with the cooperative industrial brigade went for firewood.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

Then, Avirmed ah would come … he was building a plant there… He had labored his entire life and he recited epic poems. He would recite till 1am or 2am. And he wouldn’t finish it saying, “I will continue tomorrow”. He would recite for two or three days. Then he finished all the epic poems. Then, from the Academy of Sciences…

An old woman -

One man came from the Academy of Sciences. Right then I had been a cook at the hotel. I remember it quite well. He called Avirmed and I made him recite two epic poems. He had recited one poem for two days, you know.

Böhöö -

Having drunk his tea…

An old woman -

He would eat and drink and continue reciting.

Otgonbayar -

Had he recorded it?

Böhöö -

Yes, he had.

An old woman -

He had been recording it. He had recorded everything. There are approximately eight thousands paragraphs of poems, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Wow.

An old woman -

Yes, and he continued telling it without missing a single one.

Böhöö -

He’d sit there playing his instrument…

An old woman -

Well, he was fully submerged in it. I think it is kept in the Academy of Sciences. I forget the name of that person. .

Böhöö -

I asked that man the reason why he was recording it. He said Bal darga had been introduced to the work of the Academy of Sciences…

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

Bal darga asked whether there were many people who recited the epic poems. The answer was: there was only one person. He asked where he lived. They replied to him that he lived in the countryside. “But what if he dies falling from his horse?” That’s what he asked, it is said.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

he asked, “What if he dies?” So, having had the idea they took it to celebrate it to parchins of Uvs and the people of Mönh-Hairhan, Duut and Bulgan sum of Bayan-Ölgii.

Otgonbayar -

Ahaan.

Böhöö -

He had recorded it and then traditional folk festivals began to be organized. It is said, Bal darga had told them about it.

An old woman -

He still has it. He had sat there for three, four or five days. We made him recite the epic poems. Then we estimated there were 8000 paragraphs of poem, you know. How could he…so much…and still he was illiterate…

Böhöö -

Yes, he was illiterate.

An old woman -

He was totally illiterate. His father… his grandfather was a great reciter of epic poems, it is said. His name was Tseher. He followed him and listened to his poems wherever he visited ‘ails’ and thus he memorized them all from the beginning to the end word for word. .

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

It is said, he followed Avirmed guai. He took one child from among many of them in a family for he knew that the boy would learn the epic poems. He gave him the tovshuur and all other things when he took him…

An old woman -

It is said, he had learnt from his grandfather by following him. I hadn’t learnt a script and I hadn’t learnt reading either. What kind of a book it was … this epic poem… Then we didn’t have books. So, the epic poem seemed to have been circulated from the ancient times orally.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

An old woman -

Yes. So he recited then two epic poems that I never forget. Then a Mongolian radio correspondent came and took …what you call it. What was it? I don’t remember. Anyway they took something. He was really great. He knew not only two poems but he knew over ten poems. Yes, his grandfather used to recite over ten epic poems. And he recited…two poems from among them…

Böhöö -

When he memorized six or seven poems he visited the families to recite them.

An old woman -

…it was recited in the winter time with long nights… not in summer time…

Böhöö -

Perhaps in the summer they were busy…

An old woman -

Whether they were busy in the summer time or it was just the custom, I’m not sure. They hadn’t recited in summer.

Böhöö -

Perhaps it replaced the present TV sets. There was nothing else to watch.

Otgonbayar -

Less work in winter, right?

Böhöö -

he had been enlightening the people…

An old woman -

They didn’t sleep after a meal. The long winter nights they listened …

Böhöö -

…moved from one family to another…

An old woman -

…moved from one family to another…

Böhöö -

It had a meaning, though…

An old woman -

There was a meaning in it.

Böhöö -

There are also epic poems that granted children to the childless.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

There are also poems for the the wellbeing of those who had small property.

Otgonbayar -

Therefore the epic poems also have religious meaning, right?

Böhöö -

Ahaan.

An old woman -

There is a religious meaning, you know. It was dedicated to certain families, you know. So it had such canons. It wasn’t recited carelessly.

Otgonbayar -

The tovshuur and the other things were much honored, right?

An old woman -

Certainly.

Böhöö -

They still have that tovshuur.

Otgonbayar -

Avirmed guai’s?

Böhöö -

His child has it. There a young nice man. His name is Baldandorj. Probably …

Otgonbayar -

Does he recite poems? Is he in the aimag?

Böhöö -

Avirmed guai’s wife is still there.

Otgonbayar -

Really? Then I have to meet her.

Böhöö -

She is very close to here. That young man hasn’t been seen recently. He married a woman from Uvs. Maybe he moved there or he might be in the city. He has the real voice.

Otgonbayar -

I see.

Böhöö -

He’s got a real voice…

An old woman -

The only thing is whether he can memorize it all or not…

Böhöö -

I’m not sure if he is perfect or not.

An old woman -

…I don’t know. I had heard once his recital of the Altai praise. He has a wonderful voice.

Böhöö -

He’s got a real father’s baritone.

An old woman -

That child has a real wonderful baritone.

Böhöö -

There is Seseer and a few more people who recite the epic poems.

An old woman -

Plus there are few such Urianhai people. It will be eliminated if you don’t inherit your father’s things.

Böhöö -

The most important thing is how carelessly and shallow they teach that Altai praise...

Otgonbayar -

Right.

Böhöö -

Not going deeply into it…

An old woman -

To memorize 8000 paragraphs of a poem is really … for people who don’t know… It is told in consistency without moving the events back and forth. Such great wonderful things our Urianhai people had. So, my children, you have to continue it. And there are many other things…

Böhöö -

Concerning religious feelings, why can’t we follow it firmly? The reason is we can’t read the religious books. The most important thing is we can’t read the religious books.

Otgonbayar -

Yes.

Böhöö -

It is related with the fact that we can’t read the books in Tibetan. The Mongolian translation of … for instance, the Fortune Incense and so on … it was a translation that was hard to understand with many repetitions. Is it the same in Tibetan or not? Do we have Tibetan teachers?

An old woman -

Yes, we have only one.

Böhöö -

Yes, it’s a serious issue to translate the right meaning from Tibetan into Mongolian, you know.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm.

Böhöö -

I think it’s related with the translation and the fact that we are unable to understand it.

An old woman -

This religion has become a little …to interpret the traditional elements and so on.

Otgonbayar -

Perhaps, so.

An old woman -

Our children don’t have faith in religion … they couldn’t follow it the traditional way and they have no comprehension…

Böhöö -

…because they are fake mostly … The people who have faith in Christianity do not follow it because they know it’s fake. Otherwise it’s not that the young people believe in Christ and the elderly believe in Buddha. It doesn’t influence my life… Buddha exists in such a way, you know. In fact, the flowing in of the religious denominations might be related to that. In the olden times the religious schools, as Dagva guai mentioned, taught things inevitably. It’s a serious word that Dagva akh had said, “What do you learn in four years?”

Otgonbayar -

It’s a serious word.

Böhöö -

It’s a serious word.

An old woman -

Over ten years… Even my father used to tell me, “A person who has been out for over ten years and then we heard he came back. He must have learnt quite a lot”.

Otgonbayar -

Mmm. OK, let’s finish the first interview. Thank you very much.

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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.