Mongolia 2014

Table of Contents

Exploring Mongolia: Where the Sky is a Deity

“Their ancestors lived in the same way for a thousand years, feeling the change of the seasons like moods and moving with them. Their knowledge of this land is ancient, the wind is their breath, the earth is their bed, and the dust of the steppe runs in their blood.” – Ian. D. Robinson

In the book “Wind-Up Bird” by Haruki Murakami, an old soldier, Lieutenant Mamiya, tells a story about his activities in Mongolia during the 1930s wartime. While on a spy mission in enemy territory, his outfit is captured by Mongolian and Russian soldiers. After being forced to watch one of his comrades skinned alive, Mamiya is left to die at the bottom of a well.

The images that came into my mind while listening to this story made me want to see Mongolia with my own eyes. I was particularly curious about Genghis Khan, the Thirteenth Century Mongol conqueror who worshipped the sky as a deity and declared it the ultimate source of power as he established the world’s largest empire. I yearned to witness the remnants of his glorious reign.

Travel Route: Ulan Bator – Bagan Garmin Chuluu

Ulan Bator’s Ger Dwellers: Affordable Housing Amidst Heating Challenges

For centuries, Mongolian nomads have lived in Gers, felt-made tent-like structures. However, in recent times, the allure of better education and job opportunities has led hundreds of thousands to migrate to the city. Today, Ulan Bator is home to nearly half of the country’s population, with 1.3 million residents. Among them, Ger dwellers constitute a significant portion, owing to their affordability and familiarity.

Unfortunately, the city’s residents face a severe challenge: they have no access to central heating, and the frigid winter temperatures, which can reach an average low of 41.3 degrees Fahrenheit below zero in January, leave them with no option but burn coal for warmth. The harsh winter weather, which lingers until April, exacerbates the problem. Consequently, the skies over the city are often filled with clouds of smoke as the burning of coal continues unabated. In fact, Ulan Bator is considered the coldest capital city globally.

Despite its name, which translates to “Red Hero” in Mongolian, the pollution levels in the city have caused locals to adopt a more cynical moniker, “Smoky Hero.” The smog poses a significant threat to the health and well-being of the city’s residents, making Ulan Bator’s unfortunate nickname all too fitting.

The Changing Face of Ulan Bator: From Nomadic Tents to Industrialized Metropolis

Ulan Bator, the capital city of Mongolia, is rapidly developing. However, it is far from the typical old Asian urban center that is commonly portrayed in literature and movies. The narrow alleyways and oriental ambiance of ancient temples, market aromas, and beggars are non-existent in this Soviet-style town. Instead, the city is shrouded in a cloud of dust, the result of the rapid industrialization and urbanization of the region.

One of the major contributors to Ulan Bator’s poor air quality is the extensive use of coal-fired power plants, which are the primary source of electricity for the city. Additionally, the growing number of motor vehicles on the roads has led to an increase in exhaust emissions. Unfortunately, the combination of these factors has resulted in Ulan Bator being classified as one of the world’s most polluted cities.

The Winter Palace: A Symbol of Freedom and Resurgence of Buddhism in Mongolia

The Winter Palace served as the residence of the final Bogd Khan, a revered Buddhist leader and prominent political figure who held the esteemed title of third in line to the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.

While I personally find the visit to be a sensory delight, awed by the Palace’s captivating display of hues, for the Mongolian people, it symbolizes a rekindling of their spiritual heritage and newfound freedom, which was suppressed during the communist regime (1921-1990).

Under this oppressive rule, religious communities in Mongolia were severely restricted, and monasteries were destroyed. Many monks were killed or imprisoned, causing immense suffering to the people.

However, since the liberation in 1990, Buddhism has experienced a resurgence, with flourishing monasteries and renewed interest in spiritual practices.

From Flock to Fashion: The Journey of Cashmere Production in Mongolia

Mongolia is renowned for its exceptional natural resources, which include valuable commodities such as copper, gold, and the luxurious fabric, Cashmere. Despite having a population of only three million, Mongolia boasts over 50 million livestock, half of which comprises goats. This impressive number of goats produces the world’s softest wool, used in the production of Cashmere. The Gobi Corporation is among the five esteemed companies globally that specialize in processing camel wool and Cashmere to create high-quality finished products. During my visit, I had the pleasure of touring the Gobi and conversing with their marketing managers, and was thrilled by the vast business potential that Cashmere represents. However, before pursuing this promising opportunity, thorough research is required.

Baga Gazriin Chuluu: A Sacred Oasis in the Semi-Desert Steppes

Located approximately 160m (255km) from Ulan Bator, Baga Gazriin Chuluu is a breathtaking natural wonder. The vibrant greenery that surrounds the area creates a stunning panorama of silver, blue, purple, and beige hues. While en route to this site, we were treated to a rare and magnificent sight – a massive herd of over 2,000 gazelles crossing the road.

Baga Gazriin Chuluu is a sacred granite rock formation situated in the semi-desert steppes, a unique landscape that is characteristic of Mongolia. The steppes are vast, grass-covered plains with a gentle slope that create a picturesque setting. Our tent campsite was strategically positioned, offering spectacular views of the incredible rock formations, including the majestic Chuluun Sum, a Rock Temple that was built to honor the area’s spiritual significance.

Travel Route: Bagan Garmin Chuluu – Mandalgov – Tsagaan Suvraga

Finding Adventure and Comfort in Mongolia’s Untamed Wilderness

Touring Mongolia is a challenging adventure due to limited public transportation and sparse accommodations outside of Ulan Bator. The rough terrain is mostly unpaved, and long distances can pass without encountering human habitation. To navigate these challenges, I joined forces with an experienced English guide named Jess, who operates a tour company alongside her local driver, Turuu. Our group consisted of four tourists, including a Swiss couple, a Canadian woman, and myself, driving in a sturdy Russian UAZ/Furgon. Over the course of 23 days, we traveled together, relying on Jess and Turuu’s expertise and guidance. Throughout our journey, we were provided with comfortable sleeping accommodations, including tents, Gers, and hotels, as well as delicious and nourishing meals.

Mongolia: A Land of Vastness and Nomadic Traditions

Mongolia, a vast country that spans an area half the size of Europe, is bordered by two powerful nations, China and Russia. While half of its population of three million people reside in and around the capital city of Ulan Bator, the remaining population consists mainly of nomadic people living in traditional Gers, reminiscent of their ancestors from the time of Genghis Khan.

From Ulan Bator to Mandalgov: An Adventure into Mongolia’s Untamed Frontier

Located in the North Gobi region, Mandalgov is a small frontier town that shares a similar appearance to many of the places we’ve visited so far, including the capital city of Ulan Bator. These areas possess a distinct “wild-wild west” vibe, evoking the image of a rugged and untamed frontier.

The Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project: A Family-Run Conservation Effort

The Gobi Oasis Tree Planting Project is a conservation site managed by a family. During my visit, I had the opportunity to plant a tree in the Gobi Desert, contributing to the efforts of managing carbon emissions. Despite the seemingly small contribution of a single young tree, it has the potential to absorb up to 26 pounds of CO2 per year, making it a meaningful step toward mitigating climate change.

Tsagaan Suvraga: The White Stupa and Its Breathtaking Beauty

Tsagaan Suvraga, also known as the White Stupa, is a stunning limestone formation characterized by its remarkable color combinations. Witnessing its natural beauty was a truly exhilarating experience that filled me with a sense of pure joy and ecstasy.

Journey to the Endless Horizons of the Gobi Desert

“The desert is so huge and the horizon so distant that it makes a person feel small as if he should remain silent.” from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Venturing 75 miles (120km) south towards Tsagaan Suvraga, one is met with an expansive and uninterrupted horizon illustrating the vastness of the Gobi landscape. This region is characterized by its stark and unforgiving terrain, an expanse of emptiness and isolation that offers the ultimate escape from modernity. The morning sun rises over the Gobi as camels gather for their daily drink of water. A camel’s firm and the tall hump is a sign of good health, while a floppy hump signifies the need for food and water. Living in the Gobi demands a resilient mindset, and the locals have adapted to this rugged way of life with grit and determination.

Travel Route: Tsagaan Suvraga – Gurvan Saikhan National Park – Khongoryn Els – Arvaikheer

Exploring off-road in a rugged UAZ Furgon

We are cruising in a Russian UAZ or Furgon made by Ulanovsky Automobile Zavod, renowned for its reliability and impressive 4×4 off-road capabilities, thanks to its high wheelbase. Our UAZ is equipped with notable upgrades, including a Hyundai engine instead of the standard UAZ engine. It also features abundant storage space, a comfortable layout with forward and backward-facing seats, and interior colors that reflect the ambiance of a Buddhist temple – it would be complete with prayer wheels. Moreover, the vehicle is furnished with convenient amenities, such as a simple mobile kitchen, a sunshade, a small library, and a 220v inverter/charger.

Is touring Mongolia the ultimate road trip experience?

Undoubtedly, it is the ultimate ‘Road Trip’ in every sense of the term. Some days, we drive for up to 10 hours, while other days, we park at one site to rest. Although spending long hours on unpaved roads can be challenging, it provides a unique opportunity to immerse myself in the country’s culture and people. Exploring Mongolia’s vast landscapes is all about experiencing the power and beauty of nature. By traveling through these landscapes, I can witness the local way of life without being intrusive. This type of travel offers a chance to disconnect from the modern world and let each day and journey unfold, providing ample time to think and gain a fresh perspective.

Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park: Where Mountains and Desert Meet

We embarked on a 150-mile (240km) journey to Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park, where mountainous terrain emerges from the vast desert plains. Interestingly, this mountainous region was created by the same tectonic activity that formed the Himalayas.

The Majestic Khongoryn Els: A Journey Through the Singing Dunes

We embarked on a 44-mile (70km) drive along the base of Khongoryn Els, where sand dunes rise in both height and stature. These dunes are famously known as the Singing Dunes for the melodic sound they make when the wind moves the sand. Climbing to the top of the 300-meter dune was both exhilarating and challenging, leaving me covered in sand. Our final night in the Gobi was spent with a hospitable host family, singing and drinking together.

Discovering the Beauty of Central Mongolia on a Long Drive to Arvaikheer

The 200-mile (320km) drive from the south Gobi to Arvaikheer in central Mongolia was a 10-hour journey filled with stunning scenery. During the drive, I reminded myself of the age-old adage, “It’s not about getting to the destination, it’s about the journey.”

Upon arrival in Arvaikheer, the vibrant market scene was a feast for the senses. The colorful sights and sounds of the bustling market, along with the fascinating process of butchering raw meat, left me in awe.

The Legacy of Soviet Rule in Mongolia

Mongolia served as the first satellite state of the Soviet Union, and many of the economic methods that were later implemented in Eastern Europe were first tested in Mongolia. Even today, the governing style of Mongolia can be traced back to the Soviet era.

Travel Route: Arvaikheer – Khogno Khan

A Hike Through Khogno Khan Nature Reserve

“The steppe has one other unchanging characteristic: day and night, summer and winter, in foul weather or fine weather, it speaks of freedom. If someone has lost his freedom, the steppe will remind him of it.” – Vasily Grossman 

As we continued our journey northward, the landscape underwent a dramatic transformation. The once-clear skies gave way to dark, foreboding clouds, and a powerful rainstorm engulfed us. Despite the weather, the scenery around us took on an awe-inspiring quality, with a sense of majesty emanating from the endless and silent expanse. Upon arriving at the Khogno Khan Nature Reserve, I embarked on a hike along the dunes, allowing myself to wander aimlessly in their lightly dampened state following the rain. It was an unforgettable experience, with the limitless space and stunning vistas leaving me completely mesmerized.

Del: A Versatile Garment of Mongolian Culture

The Del is a versatile garment that has been a longstanding tradition in Mongolian culture. Functionally, it serves as a protective layer against harsh weather conditions, acting as a raincoat and windbreaker during the day and a warm blanket at night. Additionally, it boasts a rich variety of designs and patterns that represent the diverse ethnic groups within Mongolia, making it both a traditional and cultural icon.

What were the reasons behind the fall of the Mongol Empire?

“With Heaven’s aid I have conquered for you a huge empire. But my life was too short to achieve the conquest of the world. That task is left for you.” – Genghis Khan

The demise of the Mongol Empire can be attributed to several factors. One of the main reasons was the difficulty of managing such a vast and diverse empire, which stretched from China to Eastern Europe. As the empire expanded, it became increasingly difficult to govern effectively, and regional rulers became more autonomous and less loyal to the central authority in Karakorum.

Another factor was the exhaustion of the Mongol army and resources due to constant warfare and military campaigns. The Mongols’ military prowess was their strength, but it also became their weakness as they struggled to maintain the same level of military dominance over time.

Additionally, the empire suffered from internal conflicts and succession disputes among the ruling Khan’s descendants, leading to a fragmentation of power and a loss of central authority. This weakened the empire and made it vulnerable to external threats, such as the rising power of the Ming Dynasty in China.

Travel Route: Khogno Khan – Kharkhorum – Tsetserleg – Great White Lake

The Meat-Lover’s Heaven: Exploring the Mongolian Diet

The Mongolian diet consists primarily of meat. Mongolians are not shy of enjoying fatty meat, a necessity to withstand the harsh cold winter. Almost everything has meat in it; you think you order pancakes only to discover a broiled mutton in it. Heaven for meat lovers. Not exactly my thing but no complaints.

Milk is plentiful from varied sources and tastes: horses, camels, yaks, goats, cows, and sheep. The milk is stored in leather sacks to ferment, which produces about 3-5% alcohol.

Two of the most popular restaurant menu options are Buuz and Khuuuushuur.  Buuz are steamed dumplings filled with mutton and sometimes slivers of onion or garlic. Khuuuushuur are fried mutton pancakes. Miniature Buuz, known as Bansh, are usually dunked in milk tea.

In a Ger in the countryside, traditional meals such as boiled mutton (Makh) do not require silverware or even plates; just trawl around the bucket of bones until a slab catches your fancy. Eat with your fingers and try to nibble off as much meat and fat as possible. Mongolians can pick a bone clean and consider leftovers to be wasteful. There’ll be a buck knife to slice off larger chunks.

Meals are occasionally interrupted by a round of vodka. Before taking a swig, there’s a short ritual to honor the sky gods and the four cardinal directions. There is no one way of doing this, but it usually involves dipping your left ring finger into the vodka and flicking it into the air four times before wiping your finger across your forehead. This tradition began centuries ago. Its original motive was to determine whether the vodka was poisoned – namely if the silver ring on your finger changed color after being submerged, it was probably best not to drink it!

Eating like a Mongol: A Nutritional Perspective

The Great White Lake is a mesmerizing destination, showcasing breathtaking views of an alpine lake that lies at the heart of the region. The panoramic scenery is a delightful blend of volcanic craters, jagged peaks, meandering river valleys, and verdant rolling hills. Our hosts, Batbold and Jargaa, were incredibly hospitable, treating us to a delectable Mongolian feast called Makh. This classic dish features tender chunks of boiled sheep cuts, including bones, fat, and meat, paired with some delicious potatoes.

Mongolian cuisine is renowned for its emphasis on survival over taste, resulting in hearty yet somewhat bland meals centered around boiled mutton bones, fat, and various organs. While the introduction of wheat, rice, and potatoes has added some variety, many rural Mongols continue to subsist on a diet of animal protein and fat due to the harsh climate and the traditional nomadic lifestyle.

The Mongolian meat is 100% organic, with animals being grass-fed and free from antibiotics and hormones. With little industry outside the capital, the air, water, and earth are clean, making these some of the most natural animal proteins available. But the question remains, is this diet healthy?

I recently became vegan after being influenced by powerful documentaries like ‘Forks Over Knives’ and ‘What the Health.’ These movies presented a strong case that most “Western” illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, are caused by the consumption of animal products and processed foods. The film’s solution was clear: if we want to live healthy, we should switch to a plant-based diet, which is essentially veganism.

Comparing Mongolia’s lifespan to Laos, a developing country with a rice-based diet and significantly higher vegetable consumption per capita, both Mongolian men and women live longer. This simple analysis raises a red flag, suggesting that the consumption of animal-based foods may not be the sole contributor to Western illnesses.

As I contemplate the merits of a plant-based diet, Jargaa, our host lady, hands me a wet rag to wipe the animal fat from my fingers. Mongols often eat with their bare hands, and I washed my meal down with some Airag or fermented mare’s milk, a sour Mongolian beer-like beverage clocking in at around 2%-3% alcohol. It’s interesting to note that in Mongolia, even the booze is derived from beasts.

I’m not a huge fan of mutton, and I plan to stick with my version of a predominantly plant-based diet. However, based on the crude statistics, I wonder if the documentary films and the science they rely upon should distinguish between the consumption of animal-based foods with the consumption of processed foods.

Courageous Expedition: A Tale of Riding Across Mongolia to Lake Khovsgol

Today, I had a fascinating encounter with Tal, an Israeli gentleman. He intends to purchase two horses and embark on a 280m (450km) journey to Lake Khovsgol. His plan is incredibly audacious and demands immense courage.

Where Desert Meets Taiga: The Extraordinary Beauty of Arkhangai

The Arkhangai region is a unique oasis situated in the center of Mongolia’s extreme climatic zones. It is an extraordinary region that acts as a buffer between the hot Gobi Desert to the south and the frigid Siberian taiga to the north. This picturesque region boasts of a diverse landscape comprising of rocky mountains, tranquil forests, and sweeping grasslands.

The Arkhangai region offers a unique glimpse into the traditional Mongolian way of life. The nomadic herders who call this region home still practice their age-old traditions, and visitors can witness their way of life up close. The locals are hospitable and welcoming, often inviting visitors into their gers to share a cup of airag (fermented mare’s milk) and listen to stories of their nomadic lifestyle.

Kharkhorum: The Sacred Heart of Mongolia’s Religious and Cultural Identity

Kharkhorum, located in central Mongolia, is a historic city that served as the capital of the Mongol Empire’s second Great Khan, Ogodei Khan. It was a center of trade and commerce, connecting China, Russia, and Europe. The city was home to many significant landmarks, including the oldest and most revered monastery in Mongolia, Erdene Zuu Monastery. The monastery was built in the 16th century and surrounded by a massive wall with 108 stupas, symbolizing the 108 beads on a Buddhist prayer mala. It was a place of pilgrimage for many Mongolians, considered the sacred heart of the country’s religious and cultural identity.

During the communist period, the monasteries’ power was abolished to break their hold on the Mongolian way of life, which was considered to be corrupt and unfair. However, the destruction of monasteries resulted in the loss of many historic buildings and artifacts, leading to a cultural void. In recent years, the government has been rebuilding the monasteries, and the religious aspects have been restored. The monasteries remain a vital part of Mongolia’s culture and tradition, with many visitors coming to witness the beauty of the monasteries and the serene surroundings. Today, the Erdene Zuu Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracting many tourists who come to experience the spiritual and cultural essence of Mongolia.

Remembering my Father: Reflections on Life, Legacy, and Interconnectedness

On this day, the 9th of Av, or Tisha b’Av, I remember my father who passed away seven years ago. As I reflect on his life and legacy, I am also reminded of the interconnectedness of all things, from his generation to mine and my son’s. We are not merely individuals, but part of a larger web of existence, constantly circulating and cycling through the ups and downs of life.

The Fascinating World of Lichen: A Natural Abstract Painting

Lichen is a type of fungus that can grow on nearly any outdoor surface under specific environmental conditions. Lichen tends to thrive in areas with high moisture, low light, and good air quality. Personally, I find that the presence of lichen can give a surface a unique appearance resembling an abstract painting that human hands cannot replicate. I documented numerous surfaces adorned with this captivating organism during my time in Mongolia.

The Brutality of the Mongol Army: “Surrender or Decimation” Tactic

During the Mongol invasion, a tactic was employed known as “surrender by capitulation or face decimation.” However, the term “decimation” is a euphemism for the brutal reality of the consequences of resisting Mongol rule, which included rape, murder, and enslavement of entire cities. The Mongol invaders understood the power of fear and made sure that their atrocities were known to the world, making this one of the earliest examples of psychological warfare.

Travel Route: Great White Lake – Jargalant – Zuun Nuur – Khatgal – Lake Hovsgol

Building a Ger: Traditional Practices and Considerations

Mongolians are renowned for their exceptional hospitality, as evidenced by their popular saying: “Happy is the one whom guests frequent. Joyful is the one at whose door guests’ horses are always tethered.”

Due to their nomadic lifestyle, Mongolian people typically do not stay in one place for an extended period of time. As a result, they reside in gers, also known as yurts. These homes are easily assembled and disassembled, which is ideal for their transient lifestyle.

While setting up a ger can be a quick and straightforward process, it is a tradition for the entire family to participate, and any passerby is expected to lend a helping hand.

During our travels, we had the opportunity to assist a group of herders in constructing a temporary ger between their summer and autumn grazing locations.

The small space of a Ger creates tight-knit family relationships, and the tradition dates back 2,500 years. Marco Polo recorded the extensive use of Gers during his stay in the Mongolian Empire.

Genghis Khan’s legendary Ger was rumored to have been mounted on a wheeled cart pulled by 22 oxen. The word Ger means “home,” and thoughtful considerations are given to building one, such as not placing it on a previously vacated foundation.

Traditional practices are also followed, such as facing the door southeast, which is a promising direction – the sunrise side, which helps to keep track of time, and it is the side with the most light and warmth.

The stove fire is a central feature in the Ger, and when entering the Ger, it is customary to move clockwise around the stove.

Who was Baron Ungern-Sternberg, and why is he not mentioned in Mongolian history?

I discovered the answer to this question through James Palmer’s book, “The Bloody White Baron – The Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia.” Although I had never heard of him, I learned that in the history of the modern world, there had been few characters more sadistic, sinister, and deeply demented than Baron Ungern-Sternberg. A fanatic antisemitic with a penchant for Eastern mysticism and hatred of communists, Baron Ungern-Sternberg, took over Mongolia in 1920 with White Russians’ ragtag force,  Siberians, Japanese, and native Mongolians. While tormenting friend and foe alike, he dreamed of assembling a horse-borne army to retake communist-controlled Moscow.

I found it peculiar that the epic saga of Baron Ungern-Sternberg is not mentioned at the Mongolian National History Museum, nor is he a topic of conversation Mongolian people are eager to discuss, maybe because it’s a shameful chapter.

Landscapes of Freedom: Mongolia’s Eternal Blue Sky

Mongolia is known as the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky because of its unique climate and geography. The country has over 250 sunny days per year and a clear, bright blue sky that seems to stretch on forever. The vast, open landscapes of Mongolia, with its grassy steppes, rolling hills, and soaring mountains, provide a breathtaking backdrop for this never-ending expanse of blue. The endless blue sky has also become a symbol of freedom and independence for the Mongolian people, who have a strong connection to the natural world and the spiritual forces of nature.

Travel Route: Lake Hovsgol – Selenge Gol – Bulgan – Khustain Nuruu – Ulan Bator

The Pristine Beauty of Lake Hovsgol: A Jewel of the Siberian Taiga

“From the air Mongolia looks like God’s preliminary sketch for earth, not so much a country as the ingredients out of which countries are made: grass, rock, water and wind.” – Stanley Stewart

Located in northern Mongolia along the border with Russia, Lake Hovsgol is a majestic body of water that forms an integral part of the vast Siberian Taiga. Its crystal-clear waters are a treasure trove, containing an impressive 1-2% of the world’s freshwater resources.

The Unique Role of Mongolian Women in Society

What sets Mongolian women apart is that in traditional Mongol society, they took on the roles of men when they went off to war, and were skilled in all aspects of animal farming and hunting. This resulted in a fundamental equality between men and women.

Additionally, unlike other societies in Asia, Mongols placed more value on fertility than on female purity. Nowadays, women in Mongolia are not only equal to men, but they often hold positions of power.

Due to men being occupied with herding livestock, traveling to markets, or fixing things, women often attend school for longer periods. In fact, around 80% of higher education students in Mongolia are women.

It’s also worth noting that in Ulan Bator, the capital of Mongolia, women hold an estimated 70% of skilled jobs.

Tengerism and Shamanism: The Indigenous Religion of Mongolia

I did not encounter Shamanic rituals, but for hearing a particular drumming sound in the middle of a full moon night, which was later confirmed as the sound of a nearby Shamanic ceremony. Shamanism in northern Asia and Europe is a religion characterized by believing in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits responsive only to shamans. Tengerism, the indigenous religion of Mongolia, which Chinggis Khan practiced, forms the basis of Shamanism. Tengerism encourages people to be responsible for their actions, thank the gods, and live in harmony with nature. After being suppressed by both Buddhism and Communism for decades, Mongolia is now reclaiming its ancient religion.

The aspect I find most interesting in Mongolian Shamanism is natural healing. This natural healing is not only about giving an ill person medicinal herbs or chanting over them to cure their energy fields. Shamans believe the sick person carries an underlying supernatural evil or a natural harmonious imbalance that causes the illness. To help an ill person, a shaman enlists the help of spirits to identify and address the source of the disharmony or evil. The spirits also provide protection for the shaman as they embark on their supernatural journey. The strength of the shaman’s effectiveness is tied to the power of the spirits that inhabit them.

My book recommendations

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World, by Jack Weatherford

Genghis Khan, Emperor of All Men, by Harold Lamb

The Bloody White Baron, The Russian Nobleman Who Became the Last Khan of Mongolia, by James Palmer

The Hollow Bone: A Field Guide to Shamanism, by Colleen Deatsman

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel, by Haruki Murakami