Profile Source: Copyright © Operation China, Paul Hattaway
Although they are officially considered part of the Mongolian nationality, the small number of Khamnigan Mongols speak their own distinct language and have major cultural differences with other Mongolian groups. The Khamnigan Mongols have also never embraced Tibetan Buddhism.
Little is known of the historical background of the Khamnigan Mongols. Their past has been intertwined with the Ewenki people for centuries. They have traded and intermarried with them for many generations. Today the two groups share many similar cultural traits.
Khurund is a milk curd thickened in the sun until it dries into a hard, gray cheese. In the days of Genghis Khan a warrior would mix a lump of khurund with water and put it into his saddlebag. "By their motion in riding," wrote Marco Polo, "the contents are violently shaken, and a thin porridge is produced upon which they make their dinner."
Unlike most other Mongol groups, the Khamnigan Mongols have never adhered to Tibetan Buddhism. Their primary religion is shamanism. They worship the elements of nature, not unlike the Mongols at the time of Genghis Khan.
One missionary visiting the Khamnigan Mongols in 1995 revealed that there are no known Christians or churches among them. Some may have heard the gospel through the witness of the Ewenki, who number more than 100 Eastern Orthodox believers in China. Most Khamnigan Mongols in China, however, remain completely without knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ.