This summer, I returned to Mongolia to further understand the Mongolian culture and continue my plans here for Mongolia.
I went to a traditional all-Mongolian school called Zhenglanqi Mongolia Nationality Middle School to give a talk about my experience in Beijing and the United States, as well as how much Mongolians should value their own culture. The students in the audience told me that their school barely teaches them Mongolian, and almost only teaches them Chinese, as a result most of them have already forgotten their mother tongue. They are afraid that, as the last generation of herders fades away, Inner Mongolians will soon forget their own language. When I talked to them about my time in the United States, they asked questions ranging from “Is there racism in America?” to “Is there almost no homework in American schools?” Although they seemed reserved and orderly, I could see their willingness and curiousness to discover and learn about the outside world. And towards the end when we gathered together to sing, their happy faces encouraged and inspired me to do more for them. I wish to become their bridge, to give them more opportunities to see and understand the world outside Mongolia.
I also visited an expert, Professor Liu, who specializes in Mongolian culture. Being a Mongolian himself, Liu is currently the leader of a government-funded project exploring the origins of Mongolia as well as searching for the tomb of Genghis Khan. He told me that along with China and Mongolia, Russia and Japan are also investing a lot of funding and personnel into the search, however without much success. On the other hand, Professor Liu’s team has already discovered a certain amount of archaeological evidence including ruins, stone carvings, and tools. I realized that the exploration of roots was not just my own personal wish, but it was also the mission of the people and the need of the country.
One weekend, I went home with Uliji, one of the students from the Mongolian school I visited. On the way, I saw rows and rows of blue-tiled houses, which the government had built for the herders. Uliji told me that this generation of herders, one by one, abandoned their old yurts and moved into the government houses. Although the houses might be more comfortable, he said, permanent settlements and permanent grazing had led to grassland deterioration. Livestock, dairy, and herbal medicine production had decreased substantially. As a result, in order to maintain their own livelihood, many of the “herders” had to go to factories to work, and others could not afford their children’s education. Reflecting on the days I’ve been here, I realized that, while I enjoyed the convenience of the highways in the grassland, I also saw the damage dealt on the environment by the construction of roads, factories, and especially coal mines. I realized that our priority should not solely be to modernize the country using technology, but first to understand the histories, culture, and wisdom of Mongolia. On this basis, we can then combine technology and the knowledge and respect for Mongolian tradition to move Mongolia forward.
Uliji and I visited several homes in his village and gave their inhabitants daily necessities and school supplies for their children.
There is a famous Chinese saying: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In order to help Mongolians economically, we can spread livestock farming techniques to improve livestock production, upgrade product processing and packaging design so brands can increase their profits, establish product database management, and start online marketing to expand sales. Most importantly, by helping the herders expand their vision and learn more up-to-date strategies, including setting up their own brands and practicing market consciousness, we can help them achieve sustainable development. I have decided to refine these ideas into practical steps to take, and I would like to encourage more individuals and organizations to help herders and their families.
Because the United States is a country full of diversity, I would like to bring the knowledge that I have learnt and the souvenirs I have collected in Mongolia to the United States, specifically Deerfield. Through a showcase of pictures and items of Inner Mongolia, I wish to spread knowledge of Mongolian culture in all its richness and fascination.
Therefore, through my experience of journeying through the vast grasslands, visiting museums, communicating with students at Mongolian schools, and talking to experts in Mongolian culture, I have learnt a lot about Inner Mongolia, and I wish to share my experiences with others and bring people together to help Inner Mongolia flourish.