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Mongolian Archery Sports in Naadam Festival
Archery is one essential part of the Three Manly Sports and it is also very ancient. This sport was created to improve the skill of shooting at a distance as far as possible, to hunt as much game as possible, to celebrate a hunting ceremony, and to let the shooters shoot while the hunting-dance is performed.
There is no limit of the participants’ number in this sport, but the winner is chosen by their ability to shoot at a great distance. A stone inscription found in a place near the vicinity of the Onon River says, “Esynkhe, grand-son of Chinggis Qahan shot a target of thirty-five feet, when Mongolians gathered and shot at a target at the place Bukh Sochikhai.” This inscription attests to the fact that these Mongolians had great success at shooting arrow-heads at great distances. At the end of the last century, eastern Mongolians called their shooting-match the “arrow-flying.”
The shooting of Mongolian bow and arrows has traversed many centuries. In these competitions, posts were driven into the ground in a row. Skin-balls were hung from each post. The archer, who rode on his horse at full gallop, shot every hanging skin-ball without missing. This was called ‘ball-shooting’. The sheep skin or cow hide was stretched out. Each archer shot at this stretched skin or hide with twenty arrows. Then the score was reckoned. It was called Sarampai kharvakh (thin worn skin shooting). Eight sheep skins were joined. The figure of a human being was drawn onto the middle of this stretched skin, which was stretched on the square frame. This figure was called the ‘enemy’. Archers shot twenty arrows at it from the behind a hill or ravine. The distance of shooting was forty feet. Whoever got more scores at shooting was the winner. It was called ‘enemy shooting’.
The distance of the contemporary sport of archery is 45 feet or 75-80 meters. We make shooting targets by weaving leather strips into a tub-shape. There are two forms of shooting targets. One is a walled target, another is an individual target. The wall target is the arrangement of targets in a stack. The individual target is the arrangement of targets in row. The archers can use only blunted arrows. Then two shooting teams alternately shoot and test their skills. There are two forms of shooting. One is an individual, the other is a team sport. The amount of shooting for individuals or teams is fixed. Then the result is reckoned.
There is no special poem for shooting. But in various epics heroes say a spell before shooting. Such passages in the literature are very common.
At present our archers say ‘Khurai, khurai, khurai.’ This is an encouragement of archers to shoot. There are three types of encouragement: an encouragement to shoot; congratulations for good marks; and acceptance of congratulations. Our archers chant these khurai’s three times in a tuneful voice at a single turn. The winners can get the title of Mergen or ‘good marksman’ and also an epithet. For instance, winners used to get titles and epithets, such as ‘a very marvelous shooter’, ‘a very bold shooter’, ‘a sharp shooter’, ‘a very accurate sharp shooter’, ‘more prosperous’, ‘graceful shooter’, ‘most trustful’, or ‘exceptional shooter’. At present there is a new system to confer titles upon archers.