Delger (Professor, Inner Mongolia University Library)
Mongolian nomadic civilization has a long history stretching over thousands of years – a culture that has developed in line with the natural considerations of the weather, land and nature of the Mongolian plateau and has become an important part of human culture and an ideal example of an environmentally friendly and sustainable form of living. Modernization, industrialization, and development, on the other hand, have caused a great increase in environmental pollution, hastened global warming and led to the near exhausting of certain material resources, damaging the relationship between man and his environment. Yet, if human beings wish to live in harmony with nature, new and environmentally friendly means of energy generation are required in order to preserve and uphold the ecological balance.
Mongolian nomadic civilization is one example of an ancient culture that has centuries of experience with regard to the utilization of eco-friendly energy. The methods used by the Mongolian nomads are both scientific and relevant to our aims to safeguard our present ecosystem and revolve around the use of argal, a type of dried animal dung used as fuel, which is an excellent example of a means of energy generation that is not damaging to the environment and is, at the same time, renewable.
One Types of Argal and Green Fuel Invention
In Mongolian, dried cattle dung is called argal, of which there are many different kinds, depending on when it is collected. The frozen variety, collected in winter, is known as khuldegusu, that collected in spring is called habur-un argal, the summer variety is known as jun-u argal and the autumn variety as namur-un argal. In addition, the dung of goat and sheep is known as khorgusu, the dung of horses and donkeys is known as khomool and the dung that is collected and compressed in the sheep yard is known as urteng or sigeng. The most important of these in terms of daily nomadic life is the argal collected from cattle.
In most Mongolian areas, other forms of dung, such as khomool, from horses, or khorgool from sheep, goats and camels are also used to make argal, as well as the thick, compressed dung from the sheep yard, which is called urteng or sigeng. But in the end, cattle dung always remains the main resource of argal, because it has a larger volume and more density.
Over the course of the long history of nomadic production processes among the Mongols, they have invented and utilized a type of cheap, green fuel, which is both renewable and is favorable to the environment. It is part of the cultural heritage of the Mongols and also has value for today”s society. Argal is a waste byproduct of animal husbandry and one that can be easily collected, avoiding the need to cut down trees for wood or the need to mine coal and damage the earth and the soil. Argal is a truly green fuel that has no expensive production costs and is not harmful to the environment.
Two Characteristics of Argal Fire
The fire from argal has its own special characteristics.
1. It has a very low ignition point. Argal is easily ignited when it is wet or in low oxygen conditions. Only dry grass, dry twigs and wood crumbs are needed to ignite it.
2. Argal is a form of waste based on the grass eaten by animals, so the main components of argal consist of herbaceous materials and plant fibers. When it is burnt, there is no smoke and it may have a pungent smell and is light blue in color.
3. It burns with steady combustion for a long time and its fire is not as strong as that achieved with coal or wood, but it does still generate significant heat. Therefore, there is no danger of asphyxia when using it as a source of heat in confined spaces.
Three Usage of Argal Fire
The temperature of argal fire is well-suited for cooking, food processing, heating, making handcrafts and for certain industrial uses. The different kinds of food cooked on argal fires in Mongol areas are things such as traditional Mongolian meals and drinks, cooked cream, butter and fried millet – which all have their own unique flavor. The argal fire is also very good for heating the home. The argal fire has a longer burning duration, so fires set in the evening can burn right through to the following morning, and the fire is very suitable for maintaining temperature indoors. The long burning duration of argal fire is also good for fire banking. It is convenient to make the fire when getting up in the morning. The argal fire has a complete combustion, so there is less carbon dioxide and no damage of poisoning even in poor ventilation conditions.
Mongols not only use argal fires in their daily life, but also in industry. As the argal fire has a temperature of about 950-1000?C, the temperature is especially well-suited for manufacturing porcelain and clayware.
Four Medicinal Functions of Argal
The nomadic Mongols discovered that animal dung contained certain medicinal properties and could be used in a special medical treatment called the sebesulekhu method. The rumination matter in the animal dung is called sebesu in Mongolian. The word sebesulekhu denotes a kind of treatment in which the patient”s diseased organs are placed directly in the hot animal excrement. The sebesulge is a very ancient folk treatment and later became a very important surgical treatment in practical Mongolian medicine. This treatment is good for healing rheumatic diseases, arthropathy, women”s gonorrhea, broom symptom of sir-a usu and pulse diseases etc.
As the argal mostly consists of plant material, there are plenty of methyl carbonates or mixtures of KNO3. The methyl carbonate has functions of sterilization and killing bacteria. Argal has also been used in Mongolian veterinary science, too.
Five The Feed and Fertilizer Functions of Argal
Argal is also used as feed. According to experiments, it consists of proteins, crude fats, nitrogen-free extracts, crude fiber, coarse power and calcium. Almost of the protein in argal is a good digestion feed for non-ruminant animals.
The urteng or sigeng fertilizer: Mongols usually harvest urteng or sigeg fertilizer from the animal gardens of their winter herding places and put it into the field as a fertilizer. As urteng is an eco-friendly fertilizer which has a high nutritional value, the crops grown on urteng fertilized fields grow strong, with dark green stalks, better immunologic competence, draught resistance, good blossom and pollen acceptation, and excellent seedling. The rest of the dung on the pasturelands is decomposed by the sun, wind, rain or snow, or by dung beetles and is absorbed naturally as fertilizer into the soil.
The argal ash is used as a kind of alkaline fertilizer. The fertilizer has good functions of chlorine resistance; therefore, Mongols usually put potato seeds in the dry ash of argal before they plant the potato seeds in the field, as potatoes are not grown so well in soil rich in chlorine. The potassium can increase a plant”s oxygen supply, metabolism and synthesis and transmission of the saccharine, so that it helps the healthy growth of the plant bar, immunologic competence, resistance to natural disaster and its draught resistance. Therefore, it is very useful to animal husbandry and agricultural production. So argal or urteng or sigeng are real green fertilizers which are particularly well-suited for human health and environmental protection.
Six. The Significance of Argal Fuel
The argal fuel is often regarded as being somewhat laughable, or even as something simple, backward or dirty among some industrialized communities. On the contrary, to herding people, the argal is a kind of clean fuel for their traditional stove burning cultures and a symbol of a hot and warm life and indispensable energy resources for their daily life. A summary to the forgoing parts are as follows: in order to supply the different kinds of needs of everyday life, people have to breed livestock. A reasonable sized herd is good for preventing the grass or pasture from dying by subtilis grown in the previous year and hardening of the soil. Animal products are renewable. The discovery of the fuel of argal, not only solved the energy needs of the Mongols, but also decreased the dung covering the pasturelands, and prevented the necessity of cutting wood and destroying the forest, or digging coal mines and damaging the earth. The argal is also used as kind of feed or fertilizer, or used in medicine. It is a prime example of putting a waste product to good use. The circulation of “grass→animal→argal→heat→life→protection→grass” is a form of ecological circulation and has became a very scientific choice for life and production, in Mongolian nomadic civilization.
If we refer to the recycling truth of “grass→animal→argal→heat→life→protection→grass” in Mongolian nomadic civilization, we may begin to create a similar recycling truth of “the earth→coal and oil→energy→life and production→protection→the earth”, and we would save our planet from destruction, have a harmonious coexistence with nature so that we humans could exist healthily on this blue planet forever. Therefore, drawing lessons from and developing further study on the argal culture of Mongolian nomadic civilization is important for practical and long-term significance for saving the ecosystem in which we human beings exist.