Traditions of Practical Measures of Nomadic Health
Traditions of Practical Measures of Nomadic Health

Social health elements were considered to be initially developed among the sedentary societies, yet the Mongolians created preventive health measures which suited their nomadic lifestyle and they have been converted to daily routines and traditions over the years.

To keep drinking water clear, the Mongolians prohibited letting the animals graze around the beginning of any river, throwing any garbage, food, and drink or milk products into water. Our ancestors treated water with great respect calling it Chindamani (the wishing jewel), and taught their children not to pollute any areas with water. There was a tradition not to spoil the north side of areas by excreting there. Observing wind directions (which usually blows from the north to the south) of the country, the Mongolians avoided spreading viruses from the north by the winds, by never polluting on the north sides of land. Generally, they treated human waste very carefully. Women usually relieved themselves on the south east side of their ger (traditional Mongolian dwelling), while men relieve on the south west side of the ger. They use euphemisms instead of direct expressions to relieve themselves. For example, men say “to watch their horse,” but women say “to watch a mare or cow.” In addition, ash and other dry wastes were thrown to the west side. Before moving to other places, wastes had to be buried, any holes of stakes were to be filled with soil and surrounding areas were to be cleared up.

Furthermore, our ancestors developed many traditions to form healthy lifestyles by preventing infections. Traditional dress of the Mongolians was derived from the ancient times. They had clothes for 4 seasons which suited their daily activities well, such as riding horses, dealing with horses and livestock and hunting. A Japanese writer Shiba Reotaro (1997) wrote that “every year the savages (the Hunnu) attacked southern settlements in the territory of Jao state from autumn until spring. Jao was beaten in every battle. Finally, U li Van found out the reason why they always had been defeated and they concluded that if they wanted to fight against the Hunnu, they must reassemble their army’s policies and battle clothes. U li Van suggested “Hu fu chi shi,” which means let’s dress and fight likes the Hunnu. Civilized Chinese men’s clothes had long sleeves and a skirt, in particular the nobility wore heavy baggy clothes. On the contrary, the northern dwellers (the Hunnu) wore more practical clothes such as leg length pants, knee high boots and jackets with long narrow sleeves. These practical clothes became the basis for future European clothes. A short deel (describe), loose pants and boots worn by Mongolian soldiers were one factor in defeating Jao soldiers who wore clothes with long sleeves and skirts. The Mongolian deel has many important uses. It can be used as a blanket when someone needs to sleep outside, it can be used as a shield when they relieve themselves, and it protects the upper and lower parts of the body from heat and cold equally. Mongolian boots have a turned up nose and are made in this fashion to protect the nose from digging into the ground and soil.

All Mongolians had their own special cups. When they visited families, men sat on the right side and women sat on the left side in accordance with their age. Hostesses took their cups from them and filled them with tea. The cups were carried in small bags. In the beginning, wooden and gradually copper, silver and golden cups were used. Having their own cups helped to prevent from any infections.

Another thing is the Mongolians carried their own handkerchiefs and they never exchanged them. Giovanni Del Plano Carpine noted that wealthier ones carried woolen cloth and after eating they wipe their mouth and hands with the cloth.

Girls were given sexual education from their teen ages. They had a law against promiscuity and anyone who had broken the law was severely punished. According to Giovanni Del Plano Carpine, their women were clever and they never behaved promiscuously. Anyone who behaved promiscuously, males and females both, were punished by death.

Belts are of special significance in Mongolia. Belt, belly or back bands were important to keep them healthy, especially to protect their back from cold winds. The belt was considered to keep a man’s spirit, so it was always treated with respect. When the Mongolians were traveling in the countries of the west, a poor man presented a goat leather army belt to the Khaan. The Khaan appreciated him and rewarded him. The history of the Mongolian belt influenced their neighbors, the wide belt used by Russian was originated from the Tatars. In early times, both men and women wore belts. When later distinction between men’s and women’s work appeared this was reflected in the wedding ceremony was developed, and women eventually stopped wearing them. When they performed a wedding ceremony, the groom cut his bride’s under belt which was made of animal hair. Thus women got the name “busgui,” (literal translation of it is without belt) after their marriage.

The Mongolians had a unique tradition to bring up their children; especially infants were treated quite specifically. They made nappies by latticing wood pieces or using sheep fur. From the 13th century nappies were made of metal and Mongolians also used nappies made of animal wool and ash. The woolen nappy was placed in the crotch and it absorbed the liquid preventing the infant’s skin from getting wet. But ash nappies were placed under the bottom of the infants.

Apiece of a tail of a sheep was been given to infants to suckle to make them healthier. Sheep’s tail has been identified to include unsaturated fatty acids. It is amazing that the early Mongolians discovered the benefits of this and put it into practice.

When boys were three years old, the Mongolians tied them to a saddle on a horse and galloped, leading them. When boys reached four or five, their parents prepared them a small sized bow and arrow and gave them introductory tips on how to hunt. Therefore, the children grew up strong, lively and skillful. Besides all those, they also paid special attention to maintain healthy diets. For instance, children were not allowed to eat marrow which enabled them to avoid early sexual development. Also, they were not allowed to drink tea with different ingredients until marriage to prevent them from increasing body heat which may hurt the liver and bladder. Instead, they drank boiled water with milk.

There were a number of taboo concerning health and hygiene among the Mongolians. It was forbidden to visit the mother and the baby within a month after the birth. If a boy was bom, a sign was hung on the right. On the contrary, if a girl was born, a sign was hung on the left.

The Mongolians have been producing their dairy products since they domesticated animals. Over 2000 years ago the Hunnu fermented horse milk and started to make curds. Because milk products have been considered a healthy food, and a basis for a long healthy life, milk products have been a main part of the diet. The Mongolians have gained much knowledge to prepare and use milk products. For instance, raw milk is rarely drunk. Instead they drank boiled milk or milk tea. A wide range of products such as tarag (similar to yoghurt), curds, cheese etc can be made from milk.

People in the olden days used to live longer as they followed correct lifestyles in comparison with modem people whose constant craving for sweets will lead to their downfall as they ignore advice and refuse to follow a healthy life plan.

People, who understand the need for a right lifestyle, do not consume excessively – meat and fat. They restrict yearnings and desires, emotions, and also keep a good physical physique thus saving strength. They tolerate sadness and depression, ignore unnecessary desires, avoid inappropriate appetites and concentrate on solidifying internal strengths, thus keeping their composure.

The person, who takes care of onself, usually does not eat until he gets hungry. They do not eat when they are full. They drink when they are thirsty. They usually do not eat and drink in large quantities. Overfeeding damages the lungs but hunger hurts your strength.

  • Do not lie down when you are full. It causes various diseases.
  • Do not be exposed to wind or coldness after having hot food and drink when you are sweating. This is to prevent headaches, exhaustion etc.
  • Do not eat too much late in the afternoon. Avoid sleeping in areas where it is cold and possibly there is a draught.
  • Do not ‘relieve yourself’ in a north westerly direction.
  • Go to the toilet at regular intervals.
  • Do not ‘relieve yourself’ in the direction of the sun, moon, stars, temples, monasteries or springs.
  • Do not hum or make loud noises during the night time.
  • Do not eat 12 parts of meat relating to birthday organs on you or your parents birthday.
  • Sit straight and try to concentrate.
  • Stand straight and concentrate.
  • Do not stand for long hours. It will harm your bones.
  • Do not sit for long hours. It will damage your blood.
  • Do not walk for long hours. It will damage your sinews.
  • Do not lie for long hours. It will kill your strength.
  • Do not wash your head after eating.
  • Restrict love affairs if your eyes were hurt. Otherwise this could lead to albugo.
  • Do not be exposed to coldness or any wind after washing your body as the skin pores is open.
  • Do not go in and out during strong winds, heavy rain, cold or hot temperatures.
  • Do not blow out candles. It will weaken your strength.
  • Do not stare or glance straight at the sun when it is bright as it will hurt the eyes.
  • Do not attempt to see long distances with great intensity as this will affect eye strength.
  • Do not sit or lie on the wet ground.
  • Do not sleep in candle light.
  • Close your door and burn incense when lightning strikes during heavy rain. The Gods may pass by.
  • Do not spit in your immediate environment.
  • Do not have tea on an empty stomach.
  • Do not eat rice soup after the hour of the monkey.
  • Our ancestors taught us to boil down glass noodles, meat and to have less vodka.
  • People in olden times took care of themselves all throughout their life while people in the modem era neglect their own personal welfare until their bodies start to complain.
  • If you press your eyes with your palm after rubbing them before sleeping, it will prevent eye diseases.
  • If you massage gently your face with your palm after rubbing them before sleep, it will prevent the appearance of ‘chancre’.
  • If you massage gently your face with your palms after blowing and rubbing them, it will prevent the onset of wrinkles and make your complexion bright.
  • If you wash your eyes with hot water in the morning, you will not suffer from any eye diseases
  • If you comb your hair 100 times before sleeping, you will not suffer from any migraines or pounding headaches.
  • If you steep your foot in warm water, this will prevent them from damage as a result of climate extremities.
  • Do not wash your head with cold water during the hot summer. Otherwise it will hurt your eyes.
  • Do not wash yourself with autumn rain water. Otherwise your skin gets dry and ‘scurf’ may occur
  • If you maintain your composure and keep calm you will not lose your strength.
  • Be conscious of your emotions and remain in control of them.

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