The tents of the Central Asian nomads are a very important part of nomadic life and provide the only form of formalized housing for the peoples. They are extremely durable and perfectly suited for use in the mountainous regions of Central Asia. Each tent itself is a work of art and takes almost 12 months to build using yak wool that is hand spun into yarn.
Building a Central Asian Nomadic Tent
The tents built by Central Asian nomadic tribes are generally mid-sized and are held up by handmade yak wool rope and eight to twelve (depending on the size of the tent) treated wooden poles. The hand spun fabric used to cover the tent is relatively thin and does let in a certain amount of light during daylight hours. The tent is built to include a large opening at the top of the tent that is used as a chimney or smoke hole to release the smoke form a central dung fire stove situated in the tent. During warmer months of the year these holes are also used to allow fresh air and warm sunshine into the living area within the tent. A multitude of Buddhist prayer flags are also attached to the outside of the tent.
The inside of most Central Asian nomadic tents are relatively basic with Spartan features and few belongings. However, there are a few basics that are generally found in all nomadic tents of Central Asia and these include sleeping mats, warm woolen blankets, a dung fired stove, a wooden table of some sort, clothing and food storage areas and religious symbols including a picture of the Dalai Lama and a Buddhist art thangka painting.
Directly outside of the tent traditional Central Asian nomads keep yaks and dogs tied up. The dogs are used as a form of security as well as companionship and the yaks are used for their wool and their dung as a fuel source that is burnt in the ovens found inside the tents.
Central Asian Nomadic Tents in the Modern World
The use of traditional nomadic tents in Central Asia is declining rapidly due in part to the urbanization of parts of the traditionally nomadic peoples of the area, but also because more and more of the Central Asian tribesman are starting to live in mud-brick homes. Currently the only areas of Central Asia that still have an abundance of traditional nomadic tents that people use as a residence can be found in the prefectures of Nagchu and Ngari in Tibet (known in China as the Tibet Autonomous Region) and in the Yushu and Ganzi prefectures of China proper.