[Paleopsych] NYT: Ulan Bator Journal: The Mongolians Are Coming to China! With Heavy Metal!

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Ulan Bator Journal: The Mongolians Are Coming to China! With Heavy Metal!
NYT November 26, 2004

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia - China built the Great Wall more than
2,000 years ago to keep out invaders from the north. But
the Chinese are having a harder time repulsing modern
interlopers like these: long-haired Mongolian men in black,
whose office décor features a wolf pelt, a portrait of
Genghis Khan and a music store poster of Eminem.

So the Chinese police got nervous when they heard that Hurd
was crossing the Gobi Desert, coming down from Mongolia,
600 miles to the north. With their new hit CD, "I Was Born
in Mongolia," Hurd, a heavy metal, Mongolian-pride group,
was coming for a three-day tour, culminating Nov. 1 with a
performance in Hohhot, capital of the Inner Mongolia
Autonomous Region.

"The morning we were to get on the train, the translator
guy called and said 'Your performances are cancelled,' "
Damba Ganbayar, Hurd's keyboardist and producer, said
glumly as he lounged in a white plastic chair. "He said, 'I
will call with details.' I never got the details."

The details, according to reports from Hohhot, were that
riot policemen and trucks surrounded the college campus
where the group was to play. They checked identity cards,
detained four people overnight and dispersed about 2,000
frustrated concertgoers into the autumn night.

In the next several days, the Chinese authorities shut down
three Mongolian-language chat forums, according to the
Southern Mongolia Human Rights Information Center, a New
York-based group that tracks "Chinese colonialism" in what
some call the southern end of Greater Mongolia.

"Banned in Hohhot" may not have an epic ring to it, but it
is a sign of the times.

With reports of local protests almost daily fare in China,
the authorities are increasingly nervous also about ethnic
minorities. In late October, several days of fighting
erupted between Hui Muslims and Han Chinese - China's
dominant ethnic group - in central Henan Province after a
traffic accident.

During the 1960's, the Chinese-Soviet split kept Mongolia,
a Soviet satellite nation, apart from China's Inner
Mongolia. Today, the Chinese region is home to four million
ethnic Mongolians, almost double the 2.5 million in the
country of Mongolia. But Chinese migration to Inner
Mongolia over the years has left the ethnic Mongolians
there vastly outnumbered by 18 million Han Chinese.

In recent years, barriers have gone down between those two
Mongolias as China has become its northern neighbor's
largest trading partner and foreign investor. With Inner
Mongolia's economy growing by 22 percent during the first
nine months of this year, officials in the two Mongolias
agreed in October to open a free-trade zone where the
Trans-Mongolian Railway crosses into China.

On the cultural front, music groups from here often appear
on Inner Mongolia's Mongolian-language channel. Hurd, which
means speed, has done three concert tours in Inner Mongolia
since 2000. It claims to be the most popular rock group for
Mongolians on both sides of the border.

"In 2000, it was very Soviet-style, with lots of policemen
around with flashlights, very disciplined concerts," Mr.
Damba Ganbayar recalled. "Later, it became more relaxed,
like normal rock concerts."

"Even so, they advised us not to say, 'We Mongolians are
all together!' or 'All Mongolians rise up and shout!' " the
keyboardist continued. "People would shout, 'Genghis!' But
it was nothing political."

But on later visits south of the border, he noticed a
growth in Mongol pride.

"More and more the young people say, 'We want to keep the
Mongolian language and the traditions,' " he said. "I met a
guy with a Mongolian name, and he shouted, 'I am
Mongolian!' - in Chinese. I met many like that."

Encounters between Mongolians and Inner Mongolians are a
bit like encounters between Mexicans and New Mexicans. Many
Mongols here say they consider Inner Mongolians to be more
Chinese than Mongolian. When people here travel south, they
do not say they are going to Inner Mongolia, but to China.

"We don't have an Inner Mongolian problem," a Chinese
diplomat in the region said in an interview. "Most of the
Inner Mongolian population has been 'Han-ized.' They speak
Chinese, think like Chinese. Hohhot is like any other
Chinese city."

Munh-Orgil Tsend, Mongolia's foreign minister, said in an
interview, "For us, Inner Mongolia is a province of China
that happens to have ethnic brother on other side of the

On the northern side of the border, Hurd's nationalist
identity has grown over the last two years, a time when the
group did not record any new songs.

"Hurd's national pride and love of homeland takes the ethos
of Bruce Springsteen's 'Born in the U.S.A.' to a new
level," said Layton Croft, an American foundation
representative and musician here, who attended one of their
concerts in October. "There is a loyal, mostly rural,
Mongolian fan base for such music."

Hurd's Mongol nationalism is aimed at that audience: young
Mongolians who now leave the country for work, the men in
construction in South Korea, the women as 'hostesses' in

But the "I Was Born in Mongolia" CD, with its paeans to a
"land of great legendary heroes," came out here as ethnic
Mongolians in China were discovering that a Han
Chinese-owned company was taking over administration of the
Genghis Khan Mausoleum, the region's biggest tourist
money-maker. Entrusted to the care of the Darhad Mongolian
tribe since 1696, this shrine holds relics of the great
conqueror, including his saddle and his black bow.

The actual burial place of Genghis Khan, who died in 1227,
is not known, and has been the object of several
archeological expeditions. But construction of a new
"mausoleum" by Dong Lian, the Chinese company, prompted
protests by Mongolians who see the move as another power
grab by Chinese settlers.

>From the Chinese side, "anything associated with
nationalism, separatism, political rights, they want to
suppress it," said an Inner Mongolian trader here who asked
not to be identified.

In the best-known case, a bookstore owner who goes by one
name, Hada, is serving a 15-year sentence after being
convicted of separatism in 1996.

But with the canceling of concerts by Hurd and Horda, an
Inner Mongolian band, some fear new restraints on Mongolian
cultural expression.

"The government is shutting down a lot of music shops,
confiscating a lot of music tapes," said Enhebatu Togochog,
who runs the Southern Mongolian information center in New
York. "They say they are purifying the cultural market."


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