Collection Description

Brief Culture Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

A nomadic pastoral society, the Mongols in 13th century conquered most of Asia to form the largest empire ever. In the 16th century they adopted Buddhism. The range of Mongolian culture extends from northeastern China westward to eastern Xinjiang, China and from Ordos Desert in Inner Mongolia, China northward to Lake Baikal in Siberia. Mongols also live in Qinghai Province, China and along the lower Volga and Don rivers of Russia. There is a small remnant Mongolian community in Yunnan Province, China. This file contains information about the Mongols generally, but focuses particularly on Mongolia. The Khalkha Mongols constitute the majority of the population of Mongolia.


Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.


Asia --Central Asia







OWC Code


Collection Information

Number of Documents


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Number of Pages


Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography and are referenced by author, date of publication, and eHRAF document number.

There are 21 documents in the Mongolia collection. Documents cover Mongolia proper (the present country of Mongolia) and historical Mongolia which includes Imperial Mongolia and tribes living in Russia and China. The major works include a handbook on twentieth-century Mongolia (Far Eastern and Russian Institute 1956, no. 13), two books on kinship system and structure (Krader n.d., no. 10; Vreeland 1973, no. 16), tribal organization (Lattimore 1933, no. 4), and Mongolian law (Riasanovsky 1937, no. 5); Bulag writes about contemporary Mongolian identity and politics (Bulag 1998, no. 18), and Bold (2001, no. 22) argues for a unique Mongolian political economy before and during the Imperial period. Period snapshots include the work of Montell (1937, no. 11) on the Torgut Mongols in 1920s and 30s, and a report from a 1910s Russian expedition (Maiskii 1921, no. 14.) Friters (1949, no. 12) writes about the early twentieth-century independence movement. Three chapters from the book "Mongolia in Transition" cover the post-Soviet era: Bruun writes about post-Soviet era social changes (Bruun 19986, no. 19) and the transition to a market economy (Bruun 1996, no. 20), and Odgaard (1996, no. 21) writes about poverty. Also from this era is a study of the decollectivization of a herding cooperative (Goldstein 1994, no. 17.) Articles from the book "Modern Mongolia" include an overview of Mongolia culture and history with photos (Altangerel 2001, no. 24), a recap of twentieth-century history (Bumaa 2001, no. 25), a look at twentieth-century material culture and fashion (Bikales 2001, no. 26), and a discussion of the democratic roots of Mongolian culture and society (Sabloff 2001, no. 27.) The collection is rounded out with articles on music (Emsheimer 1953, no. 2), milk-wine cultivation (Montell 1937, no. 11), and personhood and personal property (Humphrey 2002, no. 23.) For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in the collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

The culture summary was written by William Jankowiak in May, 2005. We thank Paula Sabloff for recommending references to use in the collection. Ian Skoggard wrote the Synopsis and with John Beierle, the indexing notes in May, 2005.

Collection Indexing Notes

AIL-group of labor-sharing households-use ANNUAL CYCLE (221), HOUSEHOLD (592) and COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)

AIMAK-sub-tribal division-use TRIBE AND NATION (619)


administrator-use DISTRICTS (634)

DEL (DEEL)-traditional costume-use NORMAL GARB (291)

ERLIIZ-person of mixed Chinese-Mongol parentage-use ETHNIC STRATIFICATION (563)

GUSAIKAA-banner chief-use DISTRICTS (634)

HALA-surname group-use SIBS (614)

HOSHUN-banner-use DISTRICTS (634)

IDESH-exchanges among kin and households-use GIFT GIVING (431)


JASAK-banner chief-use DISTRICTS (634)

LAMA-priest, monk-use PROPHETS AND ASCETICS (792) and PRIESTHOOD (793)

MOKAN-patrilineage-use LINEAGES (613)

NADAAN-national holiday-use REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)

NEGDEL-rural herding collective-use ANNUAL CYCLE (221), PASTORAL ACTIVITIES (233), COOPERATIVE ORGANIZATION (474), and TOWNS (632)


OBAG-league, administrative unit-use DISTRICTS (634) and PROVINCES (635)

SUM-district administrative unit-use DISTRICTS (634)

TÖREL-patrilineal descent group-use SIBS (613)

TAIJI-noble, prince, chief-use STATUS, ROLE, AND PRESTIGE (554), CLASSES (565), and PROVINCES (635)

YAAMAN-district administrator-use DISTRICTS (634)


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