The NZCFS Mongolia and North Central China Tour Group has returned from their July 2015 travels. The key focus for this tour was the impact of Genghis Khan on Mongolia, China and the world. Through a range of sites the delegation developed an understanding – the historic site of Kharkorin east of Ulan Bataar and the modern commemorative mausoleum in Erdos, Inner Mongolia brought different perspectives of this man. The answer to the enigma of the man began to materialise as: Genghis Khan, the maker of the modern world. The mosques and temples side by side presented a symbol of tolerance, a reflection of acceptance and accommodation.
Mongolian culture and landscape are quite unique, with the vastness and harshness of the landscape reflected in the culture. Nadaam, the annual festival, brought the culture of horses, archery and wrestling to us all on a very hot and crowded day. The two nights we spent in the gers brought us closer to the openness of the grasslands, the horses and sheep, and the rocky outcrops.
In China, while Genghis Khan remained with us for much of the time, the sites and activity continued to draw breath. The excellent grottoes and cliff carvings of Yungang in Datong, the cliff hugging temple of Xuankong, and the more recent Qing dynasty preserved town of Pingyao reminded us all of the long and successful civilisation of China.
A day with Ma Baoru and Kathleen Hall in Anguo and Dingzhou brought us all a little closer to the history. In a less heart-warming way, so did the all too brief visit to Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing, where we were confronted with the evil that our heroine had bravely confronted.
We enjoyed a number of cultural performances. In Mongolia, the music, dance, contortionists, and of course the strangely endearing throat singing, was complemented by a polished representation of Genghis Khan in Erdos. A very contemporary show by Zhang Yimou in his ‘Impressions” series presented the recent history of the town of Pingyao, once a financial centre for the Qing dynasty. Based on true stories of the ‘escorts’ of money to far flung markets, we the audience moved through the set as different scenes unfolded around us. Of major impact was the ghostly scene of sons of Pingyao who did not return, wailing their laments from a wall, swaying in their sorrow in half- lit gloom. Finally in Beijing, most opted for a performance of Il Travatore at the National Theatre, while several enjoyed an acrobat show.
Food? In Mongolia of lesser variety, but the Mongolian barbecue was definitely a highlight to the non-vegetarians. Joined by Wang Fang in China, we slipped too readily into the enjoyment of the culture of food. Complaints of too much food were rarely accompanied by an inability to eat it all up!
Dave Bromwich, Tour Leader