Who Are the Mongols?
The Mongols are a range of tribal groups that share a common heritage, culture and language. Genghis Khan united nomadic tribes and formed the Mongol Empire that eventually stretched from Eastern Europe to the Pacific. Although Mongol expansion often came via war and violence, the resulting Pax Mongolica (Mongolian Peace) allowed trade to flourish along the Silk Road, while Mongolian law protected religious freedom. Genghis Khan’s court included Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Shamanists.
Descendants of these mighty warriors can be found in many places across Asia today, yet most Mongols now live in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China and in the independent country of Mongolia. This vast, sparsely populated region of high plateau includes the Altai Mountains in the west and the Gobi Desert to the east. Between these are extensive steppes that support immense herds of livestock. There is a saying: “A Mongol without a horse is like a bird without wings,” and indeed nomadic herding and good horsemanship is the soul of Mongolian life. However, a typical Mongol today drives a car and lives in a town. But even when settled, Mongols have nomadic hearts and yearn for nature, travel and exploration.
Typical Mongolian religious life is a mixture of indigenous shamanism, nature worship, animistic rituals, reverence for Tenger(“Heaven” or “Blue-Sky God”) and Tibetan Buddhism. Yet, due to the influences of communism and modern life, many Mongols are non-religious or atheists. It was only after the fall of communism in Mongolia that Christianity reappeared in the 1990s. Now there are reckoned to be tens of thousands of believers around the country, making it home to a higher percentage of Christians than any other part of the Tibetan or Mongolian regions. Inner Mongolia has multitudes of Christians too, but the vast majority of these are Han Chinese.