Jangar epic of the Mongolian ethnic group
The Epic of Jangar is believed to have originated among the Oirat Mongolian tribe in China during the 13th century. Developing to nearly 100,000 lines by the 17th century, it spread to other Mongolian settlements in Mongolia and Russia and gained popularity with the migration of the Oirats. The epic depicts how legendary heroes, captained by Jangar resist evil forces and protect their beautiful hometown of Bomba. It consists of dozens of episodes, each with its own protagonist and independent storyline. In the early 19th century, this literary masterpiece, until then recited by singers called Jangarchi, started to be put into written words.
The Jangar performances can be divided into two forms: accompanied and unaccompanied. The instruments for accompaniment are basically tovshuur (a two or three-stringed lute), khuur (a bowed four-stringed instrument), sanxian (a three-stringed lute) and morin khuur (a horsehead fiddle).
A Jangar performance accompanied by tovshuur and morin khuur in Bortala Mongolian autonomous prefecture, Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region in 2021 [Photo/IC]
The Jangar performances are generally not restricted by time, place and environment, but certain codes and rituals have been established in different tribes. The Oirat Mongolians Jangarchi, for example, must play a whole episode of the epic in one performance, and the audiences should listen till its end. The Qahar Mongolians living in Bortala , Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, usually close the skylights and doors of their yurts, light incense and light butter lamps, before performing a Jangar epic in the evening.