Inner Mongolian Naadam Grassland Festival
Naadam, short for Eriyn Gurvan Naadam ("Three Manly Games") means "Entertainment!" in the mind of the typical Mongolian. The Naadam Grassland Festival of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is China's Mongolian ethnic minority's most magnificent yearly entertainment event, combining the traditional "Three Manly Games" of Naadam – wrestling, horse racing, and archery – with cultural exhibits and even a livestock fair, making the Naadam Grassland Festival of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region slightly less a macho-fixated event and more akin to a County Fair in the U.S., a seemingly minor change that is nonetheless forward-looking compared to the traditional Naadam, since it opens up the possiblity of utilizing this popular festival to bring positive change to the people of this region, especially to its youth who, like most youth everywhere, hunger for modernization.
The Naadam Grasslands Festival is the largest and most representative festival in the region, with a history that dates farther back than to the Yuan (CE 1279-1368) Dynasty, where the first instance of the term, Eriyn Gurvan Naadam, was recorded, since Genghis Khan himself had earlier established wrestling as the unofficial sport of his empire, believing that it kept his warriors fit for fight, both physically and mentally. Naadam-like games – reminiscent of the ancient Roman Games, where it was the gladiator who has been most remembered by later generations – became a fixture during and after the reign of Genghis Khan, where they might form part of the celebration of a successful military campaign, the inauguration of a clan leader, and of course the enthronement of a khan.
The annual Naadam Grasslands Festival is generally held in late August to early September, to coincide with the culmination of the harvest season. Mongolian herdsmen travel from near and far to participate in the festival, where the 'three manly games' share the billing with cultural activities that appeal to a broader public, and where there is also room for a commercial focus on the region's ethnic products, including trade and investment initiatives aimed at developing the region further, making the Naadam Grasslands Festival of Hulunbuir in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region something of an embryonic trade fair, not unlike the concept of the County Fair in the U.S., which combines broad family entertainment with the commercial exploitation of local and regional agricultural production.