Mongolian Yurt

Mongolian Yurt

The yurt is an important signification of the way of living of the historic Mongol people (1000-1500 CE). The Mongols were nomads, meaning they had no permanent home. They traveled from place to place searching for fresh pasture for their animals. Because of this, the Mongol people invented these circular structures that were very easy to pick up and move as they travelled to new areas.

The housing structures were made of skins and felt and were meant to help the people adapt to the harsh conditions of their daily lives such as the cold, wind and sun. The yurt is one of many examples of the ways in which Mongol people were able to develop smart, practical tools and methods to improve their daily activities. In fact, these structures were so indispensable to their way of life that they are still used by one third of the Mongolian population today.

Khubilai Kahn and Chabi on a Cookout

It was common during this time period for the exterior of the yurts of the elite to be decorated with elaborate patterns and figures. However, the decorations had more meaning than just an exhibition of the personal taste of the inhabitants. The patterns and figures that were depicted on the exterior of the housing structures were symbolic, and were meant to bring strength and protection to the home. For example, it was common to use powerful beasts such as lions and dragons to ward off evil spirits.

Direction and geographical areas also played a large role in the history of the yurt. During this time period, it was essential that all entrances of the yurts faced south. In addition, inside the yurt, there were several sacred and perpetual locations. For example, the most honorable spot in the yurt was on the north side, directly behind the fire. This was the sitting place of highly respected individuals such as chiefs and elders. It was common for inhabitants of the yurt to place religious images and objects here and to use this space as a shrine. Other geographical areas of the yurt also had prominent meaning. The eastern side of the structure was the sitting place for women and their objects like cooking utensils and cradleboards. The western side of the structure was the sitting place for men and their objects like saddles and weapons. Lastly, the northern side of the yurt was the sitting place for young people, as it was the least regarded area in the yurt. 

As you can see, traditional yurts were extremely practical and sacred to the Mongol people, and they play an important role in their history. 


-Brittany Cutler