Nadam Sports Fair

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A man shoots an arrow during the annual Nadam Fair of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in Hohhot, north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, July 23, 2016.

Nadam means “entertainment” or “game” in the Mongolian language. It is a traditional sport of the Mongolian people in China. The five-day annual Nadam Sports Fair (那达慕大会) which begins on the fourth day of the sixth month on the lunar calendar is a grand gathering of the Mongolian people.

The Nadam Sports Fair includes archery, horse racing and wrestling. In the Yuan Dynasty, the rulers stipulated that all male Mongolians had to acquire the three basic skills of wrestling, horse riding and shooting arrows. Therefore, the Nadam fair became a military sports contest. In the Qing Dynasty, Nadam gradually became an officially organized entertainment activity held at the sumu (equivalent to township), with banner (equivalent to county) and league (equivalent to prefecture) levels every six months, 12 months or three years. The custom continues even today.

Nadam fairs are divided into three types: large, medium and small. At the large fairs, which last 7-10 days, 512 wrestlers and about 300 fine horses participate. The medium-scale fairs are attended by 256 wrestlers and 100-150 horses, and last 5-7 days. The small ones are attended by 64 or 128 wrestlers, and about 30 to 50 horses, and last 3-5 days. People of all ethnic groups and religions can enter.

When a Nadam fair is held, people of both sexes and of all age groups, wearing festive clothing, come to the fair by vehicle or horse. They either participate or watch the horse racing, wrestling, archery, dancing and singing activities.

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