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The question whether Mongolia really is an East Asian country is quite an interesting topic to discuss. History and politics have influenced Mongolia’s current situation greatly and there are many misconceptions as to what people may believe to be true about Mongolia.
Geographically Mongolia is situated north of China and south of Russia, and served mainly as a buffer state since gaining their full independence in 1924. If we are talking mostly about geography of Mongolia, it is more on the north eastern side.
The Mongolian climate can have two different extremes from extremely cold blizzards during the winter to dry and arid summers. Hence, the reason why Mongolian nomads moved migrated to different places was mostly due to the harsh environmental conditions. Nomads in today’s modern day Mongolia in fact have Uvuljuu, Havarjaa, Suzlan, otherwise known as locations where they migrate to and settle during the different seasons.
Culturally, Mongolia is mix of many different worlds. While at its root Mongolia was founded by Chinggis Khaan who believed in Shamanism and Tengrism, he was really open to many different cultures and so was his famous grandson Kublai Khan. Hence cultural practices and religious teachings like Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam were openly welcomed. In fact, many Mongolians converted to the religions and the cultural practices of the lands they settled in.
While the roots of Mongolian culture such as The Naadam festival, Mongolian proverbs, and superstitions still is commonly practiced to this day, which is mostly unique to only peoples of Mongolian descent, in modern day Mongolia, since the 15th century, Buddhism has had a great influence and different cultural practices from the south and east Asian regions were adopted in the eastern part of the Mongol empire.
These cultural adoptions are still practiced and is quite noticeable today in modern Mongolia. If you ever visit Ulaanbaatar, or Karakorum, you will find monasteries, Tibetan writings that are influenced by Sankrist, and most of all, the Tsagaan sar. If you are not familiar with Tsagaan sar, in short it’s similar to many other east and south-east asian countries which observe the new year according to the lunar calendar.
Linguistically, Mongolian is one of the most difficult languages to master; it’s quite complex and requires extensive knowledge to become a Zuir Tsetsen ugch, a Mongolian poet, or a well respected philosopher/professor of the Mongolian language.
Although Mongolian is not widely spoken today, ~15 million people with different dialects speak the language. It’s roots are theorized to have originated ~2000 years ago in the Central Asian plains which formed into its own language around neighboring regions. There is an eerie resemblance of Turkish, Kazakh, Central Asian languages with Mongolian.
Some people have the misconception that Mongolian is similar to Chinese and Russian, while some Mongolian words are borrowed from Russian and Mandarin Chinese, the whole language itself is its own thing.
For more information about the Mongolian language.
The answer in conclusion is that Mongolia is not entirely East Asian nor Central Asian. It is a mix of different cultural practices that were adopted during the Mongolian empire while still holding on to its founding roots.