Into Their World… The Durbet of Mongolia

Photo source: Bethany
World Prayer Center

© 1999.

Less than one percent of
the Durbet people are

Located on the western side of Mongolia, the Durbet have long been a people involved in animism (a belief that non-living objects have spirits) and shamanism (a belief in an unseen world of gods, demons and spirits). With far less than one percent of the Durbet being Christian, this group of people needs both physical and spiritual healing.

In the early 1600s most of the Durbet’s ancestors (the Oirat) left their homeland in the Xinjiang region of China in the hopes of settling in the rich pastures of the northern Caucasus Mountains. After staying in this region for over one hundred years, the majority decided to return to their homeland in 1771; only a handful of those who left survived the long and difficult journey back. Those who survived were accepted under Manchu rule and given pastures for their herds. In addition to their great love for fine horses and horse racing, many of the Durbet also enjoy raising cattle and livestock. The Durbet live the nomadic lifestyle, dwelling in portable tents called gers or yerts, which are made of felt on lattice frames. Oral historic poetry, accompanied by two-stringed lute called a dombr, is an important part of Durbet culture. Many Durbet also enjoy storytelling, singing, archery and wrestling.

Although some Durbet still live in extended family units, many do not. When a son marries, he and his wife will often live in a home near his parents. People generally are married by the time they are in their mid-20s. Traditionally marriages have been arranged by the parents and a zurkhachi (astrologer) is consulted about the compatibility of the bride and groom. Sadly, divorce is becoming more frequent and abortion is the most common means of birth control.

Up until (and even after) the late 1500s, the Durbet depended upon shamans or medicine men to cure the sick by using magic, communicating with the gods and controlling daily events. For some time Buddhism was also prevalent in Durbet society.

The Durbet need both the proclamation of the gospel and medical help. Medical facilities among these people are inadequate and a limited water supply, poor hygiene, deficient diet and alcoholism are common. Christian medical missionaries are needed to combat these problems.

For more information on the Durbet of Mongolia, visit:

(Information compiled from

(Note: The website links above are intended to provide you with more information about this people group. Some of the links are to groups that are not religious in nature but who provide information and background that may be helpful in researching this people group. The content of each of the websites linked to is the sole responsibility of the linked-to organization. Views expressed on these websites do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of the staff or writers of Lausanne World Pulse or those of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Institute of Strategic Evangelism, Evangelism and Missions Information Service or Intercultural Studies Department.)

Laurie Fortunak Nichols is editorial coordinator of Lausanne World Pulse. She also serves as editorial coordinator for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and managing editor and book review editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ). She has edited a number of books, including the recent Extending God's Kingdom: Church Planting Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, with A. Scott Moreau and Gary R. Corwin.