China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Standardization of Ethnic Material Culture with the Increasing Foreign Visitors to Mongolia

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Chinar, First Floor

The number of foreign visitors to Mongolia has increased since the 1990s and reached 470,000 (15% of the population of Mongolia) in 2016. Accompanied with it, uses of wool felt which has been parts of mobile residence called “ger” was extended to souvenirs, mainly to sell to foreigners. The aim of this paper is to indicate a kind of standardization found through the process that ethnic material culture comes to be a symbolic souvenir of Mongolia.


Ger felt has been produced for domestic uses, by herders’ handwork, and in mechanized factories. Since the 1990s, when the political and economic transition started, international NGOs have come to Mongolia and have taught women trades by holding felt making workshops specified in producing accessories and small things. Consequently, local sheep wool was converted to the Western things by the Western technique. The products were imitated and multiplied in the domestic market. Some producers cooperated with a global model of business such as Fair Trade.


Despite Mongolian economic growth and increase of peoples’ movement, many foreign visitors expect Mongolia to be with material simplicity. Felt souvenirs are chosen by a foreigner because they have local and handmade values as well as their design and related ways of business are with standardized “simplicity”. Not only souvenirs but also ”Traditional craftsmanship of the Mongol Ger and its associated customs“ including felt making was certificated as a cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2013. We can point out that various standardizations are intermingled domestically and globally on Mongolian ethnic material culture.

Mari Kazato

Hokusei Gakuen University, Japan

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2 - Standardization of Ethnic Material Culture with the Increasing Foreign Visitors to Mongolia



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