Mongolia, a country of Asia, part of the Chinese empire, lying between lat. 37° and 54 N.. and about Ion. 85° and 125° E., bounded N. by Siberia, N. E. and E. by Mantehooria, S. by the Chinese provinces of Chihli, Shansi, Shensi, and Kansu, and W. by East Turkistan and Dzungari area, about 1,300,000 sq. m.; pop. about 2,500,000, of whom 500,000 are Chinese. It is chiefly a plain, about 3,000 ft. above the sea, almost destitute of wood and water. In the central part the great sandy desert of Gobi stretches N. E. and S. W., occupying about a third of the entire area.' The chief mountain ranges are the Altai and its subordinate chains, which extend eastward, under the names of Tangnu-Ooln ami Kenteh, as far a; the Amour; and the Ala-shan, In-shan, and Khingam ranges, which commence about lat. 38o and lon 107o . and run N. E. and N. to the Amour, crossing into Mantehooria. The rivers are chiefly in the north. The Selenga, Orkhon, and Tola unite and flow into Lake Baikal. The Keruleti and Onon rise near each other on opposite sides of the Kenteh range, and flow N.E. to the Amoor. In the south, the country S. of the In-shan range is traversed by the Hoang-ho or Yellow river.
In the N. W. part of the country lakes abound, the largest of which are the Upsa-nor, the Kossogol, and the Ike-aral. - Mongolia is divided into four principal regions: 1, Inner Mongolia, between the great wall and the desert of Gobi; 2, Outer Mongolia, between the desert and the Altai mountains, reaching from the Inner Khingan to the Thian-shan; 3, the country W. of the Ala-shan; 4, Uliassutai and its dependencies. Inner Mongolia is divided into 6 corps and 24 tribes, which are subdivided into 49 standards, each comprising about 2,000 families commanded by hereditary princes. The Kor-tchin (about 200,000) and the Ortoos (400,-000) are the principal tribes. Another large tribe, the Tzakhars (180,000), occupy the region immediately north of the great wall. Outer Mongolia is divided into four circles, each of which is governed by a khan or prince who claims descent from Genghis Khan. The Khalkas (250,000) are the principal tribe, and their four khanates are divided into 86 standards, each of which is restricted to a particular territory. The country W. of the Ala-shan is occupied by Torgots, Khoshots (120,000), Khalkas, and other tribes, arranged under 29 standards. Uliassutai is a town of 2,000 houses in the W. part of Mongolia, and lies in a well cultivated valley.
Its dependent territories comprise 11 tribes of Khalkas divided into 31 standards. - Mongolia is supposed to be rich in metals and minerals. Its immense plains and forests are inhabited by multitudes of wild animals, among which are the elk, the stag, the wild goat, the wild ass, the yak, the brown and black bear, the ounce, and two species of tiger, besides hares, squirrels, and foxes. The wolves of Mongolia are large and fierce; they will pass through a flock of sheep to attack the shepherd. Among the birds are pheasants and eagles. The eagle is very common, and makes its nest -where it pleases, the people never molesting it. The double-humped or Bactrian camel exists in both the wild and domesticated state, supplying excellent milk and large quantities of butter and cheese. - The soil of Mongolia is poor, and little of it is fit for cultivation on account of the want of moisture, neither rain nor snow falling in sufficient quantities except on the acclivities of the mountain ranges. From the great elevation of the country and the dryness of the atmosphere, the climate is excessively cold. Mercury in some parts often remains frozen for weeks in succession. The winter lasts nine months, and is immediately succeeded by summer, in which there are sometimes days of Stirling heat.
The nights are almost invariably cool. At all seasons the weather is subject to great and sudden changes. In the southern part of the country, where Chinese immigrants have introduced agriculture, the temperature has risen with the increase of cultivation, so that kinds of grain which formerly would not ripen because of the cold are now raised with success. In this part of Mongolia villages are frequent, and a portion of the native race have adopted a settled life. The greater part of the Mongols, however, are gradually retiring toward the north, and the Chinese population is rapidly taking their place. - The Mongols belong to the so-called Turanian, Mongolian, or Uralo-Altaic division of mankind. Their branch, best designated as that of the Mongols proper, is composed of three families, of which the East Mongols are the inhabitants of the present territory of Mongolia; these are subdivided into Shara Mongols, occupying the southern portion, and the Khalka Mongols, living in the north. The West Mongols, comprising Calmucks, Torgots, and others, were driven out of their land at the time of Genghis Khan, and a portion of them now lead a nomadic life in the steppes between the Volga and the Ural, while the others dwell on the slopes of the Altai mountains, and are generally known as Black Calmucks. On the Chinese frontier, in the region of the Lena, and from the Onon as far as the Oka, is found the third family, called Buriats. Some Mongols proper, still speaking a Mongolian dialect, inhabit the northern portion of Iran, where they are known as Aimaks or Hezarehs. Though the name of Tartars is generally applied also to Mongols proper, there can be no doubt that the Tartars form a distinct branch of the Mongolian or Turanian division. (See Tueanian Races and Languages.) The present inhabitants of Mongolia are generally stout, squat, swarthy, and ugly, with high and broad shoulders, pointed and prominent chins, long teeth distant from each other, eyes black, elliptical, and unsteady, thick, short necks, bony and nervous hands, and short muscular arms.
Their stature is equal to that of Europeans. They are, with few exceptions, nomadic, living in tents and subsisting on animal food. The Mongol tent for about 3 ft. from the ground is cylindrical; it then becomes conical. The portion made of wood is a trelliswork of crossed bars which may be folded up or expanded. Above these, a circle of poles fixed in the trelliswork meets at the top, like the ribs of an umbrella. Over the woodwork is stretched a thick covering of coarse felt. The door is low and narrow. At the top of the tent is an opening to let out smoke, which can be closed by a piece of felt hanging above it, to which is attached a long string. The interior is divided into two compartments, that on the left being for the men, while that on the right is occupied by the women and is also used as a kitchen, the utensils of which consist chiefly of large earthen vessels for holding water, wooden pails for milk, and a large bell-shaped iron kettle. A small sofa or couch, a small square press or chest of drawers, and a number of goats' horns fixed in the woodwork, on which hang various utensils, arms, and other articles, complete the furniture. Household and family cares are assigned entirely to the women. The men conduct the flocks and herds to pasture.
They sometimes hunt wild animals for food or for their skins, but never for pleasure. When not on horseback, the men pass their time in absolute idleness, sleeping all night and squatting all day in their tents, drinking tea or smoking. The only persons who learn to read are the lamas or priests, who are also the painters, sculptors, architects, and physicians of the nation. The Mongol is so accustomed to horseback that when he sets foot on the ground his step is heavy and awkward, his legs bowed, his chest bent forward. The Mongols marry very young, and their marriages are regulated entirely by their parents. A plurality of wives is permitted, but the first wife is always the mistress of the household. Divorce is very frequent. The husband who wishes to repudiate his wife sends her back to her parents, without any formality except a message that he does not require her any longer. This does not give offence, as the family of the lady retain the cattle, horses, and other property given to them at the time of the marriage, and have an opportunity of selling her to a fresh purchaser. The women come and go at pleasure, ride out on horseback, and visit freely from tent to tent.
The chiefs of the Mongol tribes and all their blood relatives form an aristocracy who hold the common people in a mild species of patriarchal servitude. There is no distinction of manners or of mode of living between these classes; and though the common people are not allowed to own land, they frequently accumulate considerable property in herds and flocks. Those who become lamas are entirely free. - The ancient religion of the Mongols was a species of Shamanism, but in the 13th century they embraced Lama-ism. Their religious system at the present day is similar to that of Thibet, and they acknowledge the spiritual supremacy of the grand lama at Lassa. (See Lamaism.) Mongolia abounds in well endowed lamaseries constructed of brick and stone, with elegance and solidity, and ornamented with paintings, sculptures, and carvings. The most famous is that of Urga or the Great Kooren, on the bank of the river Tola, in the country of the Khalkas. Thousands of lamas dwell in this lamasery, and the plain adjoining it is always covered with the tents of pilgrims. In these lamaseries a strict monastic discipline is maintained, but each lama is at liberty to acquire property by any occupation not inconsistent with his priestly character.
Nearly all younger sons of the free Mongols are devoted from infancy to the priesthood. Almost every lamasery of the first class has a living Buddha, who like the grand lama of Thibet is worshipped as an incarnation of the deity. The influence of these personages is very great, and the Chinese emperors spare no pains to win over to their interest those who manage these deities. - The trade between China and Russia passes through Mongolia at Kiakhta, a town on the borders of the two countries. This trade, which is entirely under the supervision of Mantehoo officers" introduces among the Mongols European poods in moderate quantities. - The Mongolian language was reduced to writing about the 14th century. Its literature consists in great part of translations of Chinese books, but it embraces a few original histories and many poems, relating chiefly to Genghis Khan and 'to Tamerlane. ' The history of the Mongols properly commences with Genghis Khan. At his birth (about 1160) the Mongols were divided into petty and discordant tribes. He united them into one nation, and led them forth to conquer the world.
Under his banners they subjugated the whole of Tartary, and a great part of China, Corea, Afghanistan, Persia, and Russia. Under his sons and successors the conquest of China was continued, the caliphate of Bagdad was overthrown, the sultan of Ionium in Asia Minor made tributary, and Europe overrun and devastated as far as the Oder and the Danube. The Mongol empire was at this time the most extensive that the world has ever seen. Kublai Khan, the grandof Genghis, established the first Mongol dynasty in China (1279-1368), and conquered also Cochin-China and Tonquin. He is known in Chinese history as the emperor She-tsu, and the founder of the '24th or Yuen dynasty. In 1368 the native race rose in insurrection and established their independence under the Ming dynasty. The Mongol empire was split into several independent sovereignties in the 13th century, but was reunited by Tamerlane in the 14th." After his death (1405) the Mongol power slowly declined, and in the early part of the 17th century the Mongols gradually submitted to the sovereignty of the Mantehoo emperors of China. Hut they yield little more than a nominal obedience. The Chinese government watches and humors them with incessant anxiety, and conciliates their chiefs by annual presents of considerable value.
The Mongol empire in India, however, established by Tamerlane's descendant Baber in 1526, last-ed nominally till 1858. (See Moguls.) - See Hue's Travels in Tartary. Thibet, and China" (2 vols.. 1852), and Wolff's GeschicJde der Mon-yohit (Breslau, 1872).