Aobao ritual toasts Horqin grassland wedding in Inner Mongolia
Chanting sutras, one hundred Mongolian couples gathered around Aobao, a cone-shaped mound adorned with colorful ribbons, to celebrate traditional ethnic ritual in Huolin Gol (Huuliin Gol), Tongliao, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, on July 7.
The Aobao ritual is a Mongolian custom in which people pray to the spirits for peace, blessings or a good harvest. This time the ritual was held for married couples or people in love, as part of the Sixth Horqin Grassland Wedding Festival.
During the ceremony, the priests prepared sacrificial offerings, including bottles of holy water, milk tablets, libation, scriptures and grains, near the mound.
The sacred rite was accompanied by typical Mongolian ethnic shows such as throat singing and matouqin, a bow-stringed instrument with a scroll carved like a horse’s head.
Near the end of the ritual, couples and lovers circled around the Aobao, three times from the left and three from the right, to wish happy marriage and children.
Originally a landmark for herdsmen navigating the grasslands, Aobao is usually piled with stones, sand and branches. After the reign of Genghis Khan, Aobao served as a sacred tomb honoring warriors who died during combat, with the swords and axes of martyrs placed in the mound’s peak.
Aobao has gradually become a place for sacrificial offerings where locals pray to the mountain or spirits, as well as their ancestors. Nowadays, people offer corn, meat and alcohol at Aobao to pray for good weather, harvest and fortune.
The ethnic rites can be of a small scale or a grand ceremony. Some people also dress in unique Mongolian-style costumes holding hada, pieces of different colored silk cloth which symbolize respective auspicious meanings.
As for Mongolian ethnic people, Aobao has functioned as a place to date and give birth to romance.
In recent weeks, Huolin Gol, located in the hinterland of Horqin Grassland, has turned traditional customs such as ethnic wedding ceremony into a tourism brand to attract visitors.
Mongolian priests offer sacrifice to the spirits as part of the Aobao ritual held on a mountain in Huolin Gol, Tongliao, Inner Mongolia autonomous region on July 7. [Photo by Zhao Xiao/chinadaily.com.cn]