In my last post on Inner Mongolia, I discussed Shirley’s and my arrival to Inner Mongolia’s grasslands. After arriving, we took our guests to build yurts – traditional nomadic housing with a circular wooden frame and burlap/felt covering.
Yurt building, I learned last Wednesday, is easier than one might think. After all, a yurt had to be quickly constructed and disassembled according to nomads’ cattle, horses, and lambs. Mongolians had to be prepared to move at the drop of a hat if sustenance for their animals, their main source of food, was no longer available.
At around 4 pm that afternoon, Shirley and I divided our guests into three teams to build yurt frames. The first step required teams to stretch out a few latticed wooden siding, which was curved to make the circular shape of the yurt. Once these wooden frames were stretched out, a few nomads instructed our guests on how to tie these sections together. By looping thin rope from the top to the bottom of the sections, the guests ensured that the yurt frame would be sturdy. (This is important for keeping warm during the night, when temperatures drop significantly and wind chill on the grasslands increases.) After finishing this, the guests tied the door frame to the last two untied sections of the frame, completing the circular shape and entrance of the yurt.
The next section of the yurt required a lot of coordination and teamwork between the nomads and our guests. Going through the door frame, a nomad stood on a short ladder and held up a circular wooden yurt top, known as a “crown”, which would hold the support roof poles in its slots. As he held the crown, our guests took red and yellow poles, secured them in the top’s slots, and then secured them to the latticed frame.
We finished the entire frame in about 30 minutes. While nomads could easily put these up in about 10, our first try at constructing nomadic housing wasn’t bad.
Yurt building successfully finished, we retired to our nomadic housing for some rest before the night’s festivities.
Stay tuned for more of my stories from Inner Mongolia on the WildChina blog.