The National Mongolian Archery Tournamant
(Part of the Naadam Festival in
Ulaan Baatar (pronounced with the stress on the Baa) in Mongolia hosts the annual Naadam Festival. Said to be the second oldest Olympics in the world, it features competition in all the sports of Mongolia. Shown here is the Archery competition.
Since the days of Ghengus Khan, Mongolian archers have been known as the finest in the world.
The bow is an ancient invention going back to the Mesolithic Period. Until the time of Ghengus Khan, the bow had been designed as a simple bowed piece of wood with a drawstring attached. Mongolians made their contribution to the design of the bow as a combat weapon. The Mongols redesigned it to a "double curved" shape, giving it a much greater amount of power and distance. It also allowed them to invent a bow which was much smaller than the ancient "longbow", thereby allowing their warriors to fire arrows from horseback, quickly switching from side to side, as the battle warrented. Europeans did not have this capability, which is one of the reasons the "Mongol hoards" so \ easily conquered Europe.
Thanks to "George's Pictures" web site for this excellent example of the double-curved bow.
Archery is the third element of the national games at Naadam. Five lines engraved on an ancient Mongolian target immortalize the phenomenal record of Yesuhei- baatar, saying that his arrow hit the target at a distance of 536 meters (1758.5 feet).
Today Mongolian's use less complicated form archery than in ancient time; the target is ‘wall' made of cork cylinders braided together with leader straps. It is four meters long and 50cm high. The target is placed on the ground at a distance of 75 meters for men and 60 meters for women. In the past Mongolians used three types of bows; “big hand” (165-170cm),”average hand” (160cm), “small hand' (150cm). Today Mongolian's mostly use the average hand bow which requires a force of 22 to 38kg to draw it.
Arrows are usually made from pine wood and had feather fins which help the arrow to reach distance of 900 meters. Naadam archery also attracts individual archers as well as Teams of 8-12 people. Every male archer has forty arrows to shoot at each target.
The judges dressed in national attire, stand by the targets with hands held up after the arrows have been shot. They praise the best shot in a drawing recitative voice. The contests are accompanied by colorful national rites. Before the competition starts you hear the recitative song “uukhai', calling on the archers to be good marksmen and hit the target.
One western observer at the festival was watching the archery competition as the targets moved farther and farther back. He noticed that the judges still stood right beside the target, less than 3 feet from the bullseye and more than 500 yards away from the archer.
"Isn't that dangerous?", he asked his guide.
The guide smiled and replied, "Only if you expect the greatest archers in the world to miss by a yard."
The Women's tournament
These photos and other photos of the Archery competition and the Naadam Festival can be found at the Notre Dame website:
For those who worked descriptors of the location, the "Archery and Wrestling" complex is shown in the background of the women's archery photos.