It was exciting for me when I finally met a Mongolian person for the first time in my life (and that means that I had been waiting a very long time). In the past I had studied the history of Central Asia and China, with a special interest in the religions that have popped up there, among Mongols and Turks.
Ariunaa turned up at our local supermarket a few years ago, serving at the checkout section. "I am not Chinese", she explained (not to say exclaimed) to inquirers.
In our brief conversations while packing and paying, on one occasion I mentioned to her the Mongolian film I have seen about a camel who would not relate to her new-born offspring, but music was the solution to the problem.
Learning of my interest, Ariunaa lent me a book which would refresh my memory about Mongolian history and inform me about Christianity in Mongolia at the present time. The book has a clever title: STEPPE BY STEP. I know the author, as I had dealings with him at Massey University when I was a teacher there ("Senior Lecturer"); he is now in England, and I sent him a message to let him know I am reading it. The book has 543 pages, and I have not finished studying it yet, but I will have to part with it soon.
More recently I have heard Ariunaa speak about her land and people, in an illustrated lecture at the Palmerston North public library.
At our first encounter at the counter I had a particular question for Ariunaa. I remembered from reading Mircea Eliade's monograph SHAMANISM (1964) that the peoples of Central and Northern Asia had a celestial great god, like "our Father in Heaven", who went by such names as Tengeri and Tangara. She confirmed that the Mongolian word for "sky" or "heaven" is tenger (the g is sounded as g, not j).
In this connection, Hugh Kemp reports in his book (p. 493), that a new translation of the New Testament, for use in Inner Mongolia, will have Tenger for "God". (I would add that the Gospels speak of "the Kingdom of God" or "the Kingdom of Heaven", and this shows that God and Heaven are interchangeable.) Hugh notes that Chinggis Khan worshiped munkh tenger, "eternal heaven".
Now, as I told Ariunaa, I have long been thinking that there is a connection between Asian Tenger or Tangara and the Polynesian divine name Tangaroa or Tangaloa.
In Mâori religion, Tangaroa is the deity of the sea and all its wealth; but in Samoa and Tonga the equivalent god Tangaloa is supreme creator; in Hawaii he is called Kanaloa and rules the underworld.
In the Mâori form, Tangaroa, the roa can mean "long" or "longlasting" and this reminds us of Mongolian munkh tenger, "eternal heaven". (Of course it is also found in the name of New Zealand, Aotearoa, the land of "the long white cloud").
The Polynesians and other Pacific peoples must have come from the land originally, and all indications are that their ancestors lived on the mainland of Asia, rather than America. When they took to the sea, their great god Tangaroa watched over them from above.