With distinct ethnic features, Naadam Fair is an annually-held grand gathering of Mongolians. “Naadam” is the transliteration of Mongol language, meaning “entertainment” or “recreation”. It falls on June 4 of the lunar calendar, at which time the grass is luxuriant, the flowers are blooming and the horses grow stout.
Naadam Fair can be traced back to the initial stage of the Mongol Empire. As early as 1206A D, Temujin was elected as the Great Khan of Mongol. He was then widely known as Genghis Khan. In order to pray for and celebrate a good harvest as well as inspect the army, Genghis Khan convened annual gathering of clan leaders and organized contests of shooting, horse racing and wrestling.
By the late Qing Dynasty, Naadam Fair had evolved into a recreational activity which was regularly held by the government.
Three Feats of Naadam Fair
Horse racing, Mongolian wrestling and archery are the fixed sports items in the Naadam Fair. Later these “three skills” are shortened as “Naadam”by the Mongolians.
The Mongolian grassland abounds in the well-known Mongolian horse, which is reputed for its racing and fighting skills as well as its great stamina. Since time immemorial, the Mongolians have developed a special feeling toward the horse.
Horse racing can generally be divided into three parts: running, walking and galloping. In walking horse racing, horses are competing not only for speed, resistance, but also for steadiness and beauty while the horse runs in side steps, alternating between the front and rear hooves. The racehorses are generally over five years old and the riders are always adults. The race requires the rider to be able to hold his horse at a walk, as fast as possible, without breaking into a run.
Mongolian wrestling is different from both Chinese wrestling and Japanese sumo wrestling. It is distinguished from other forms by its rules, methods, uniforms and fields. There are no weight or age disticinctions, nor fixed numbers, as long as the numbers are even numbers. All wrestlers are matched by drawing straws or by respected judges.
There’s no time limit for the match. A wrestler loses if and when he touches the ground with any part above his knees. The sport requires good coordination between waist and leg movements. A wrestler is expected to fully display his strength and skills in the match.
There are two types of archery; shooting arrows when standing still, or when riding a horse. There are no restrictions on the arrow’s pattern, weight or length. Generally, each participant has nine arrows to shoot in three turns. The distance from the target to the archer depends on conditions, but is usually in a fixed place throughout a single competition.
Today’s Naadam Fair
Every year on the Naadam Fair, the herdsmen will put on festive costumes and ride a horse to the spot of the Fair where numerous tents will be set up. In the daytime, other than the three traditional items, sports events such as polo, horsemanship, track and field etc. will be held; during the night, a great variety of art performances will be put on, adding to the vast grassland an exciting and bustling atmosphere.