Religious Beliefs and Practices. Historically, the primary religions of the Mongols were shamanism and animism. Mongols believed that the shaman had the capability of "soul travel" and could cure the sick. In the sixteenth century Lamaist Buddhism incorporated into its cosmology many shamanistic symbols and rites. Under the Manchus Lamaism flourished. Monastic centers were developed. The 1921 Revolution in Outer Mongolia brought an attack on Buddhism as a superstition. During the Cultural Revolution all but two of Inner Mongolia's 2,000 temples and shrines were destroyed. In the MPR the state has restricted the performance of festivals associated with shamanism and Lamaist Buddhism. In the IMAR, however, the obooshrine ritual festival continues to be an important community event. The oboos are thought to be inhabited by spirits and deities of localities. In the southwestern Ordos region the Chinggis Khan Memorial continues to draw Mongols from throughout the IMAR. There is also a small community of Mongolian Moslems located in the Alshaa Banner in western IMAR.
Arts. Mongolian culture is noted for its epic poetry and music. Modern Russian folk songs and dances, performed in Mongolian, are popular in both the MPR and the IMAR.
Medicine. Diease and sickness were regarded as the result of evil influences and wrongdoing. The most common diseases were smallpox, typhoid fever, bubonic plague, and syphilis. The Russian and Chinese doctors cured syphilis and reduced the occurrence of the other dieases. Modernization has meant increased access to Western medicial facilities. In the MPR women now give birth in hospitals, whereas in the IMAR herders and farmers continue to give birth in their homes. Longevity has increased in both rural and urban areas, primarily due to hygienic and medical development.
Death and Afterlife. After the introduction of Lamaist Buddhism, Mongols switched from earthen burial to "sky burial"—the body was left on the steppes to be eaten by wild animals. Today "sky burial" continues only in the Ujemchin districts of Shiliingol and among the Oirat (or Deed) Mongols living in the Haixi Prefecture of Qinghai. In other banners and districts, rural Mongols bury the dead in community graveyards. In urban China they are cremated.