Intangible Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific

Ger, Mongolian herder family house © Ganbaatar Luvsangombo

Practice of Constructing the Mongolian Ger

The ger, a traditional dwelling created by nomadic Mongolians, is specifically designed to fit their way of life. Its semi- sphere shape helps the ger endure storms and tempests. It has solutions for heat control and ventilation. It is flexible in terms of size and design, and it is portable and lightweight. At the same time, it is also comfortable to live in and easy to build and dismantle. Moreover, the ger is used as a measure for time and directions.

The ger can be seen as an eco-residence. It is constructed from all-natural materials, and it doesn’t affect the land and plant roots when it is built.

Over the course of history, Mongolians have re-created and developed the ger and have accumulated extensive knowledge associated to its ritual, craftsmanship, and traditional customs. A variety of ger-making practices and elements of intangible cultural heritage have been created and transmitted over generations.

Components of the Mongol Ger

Today, the Mongolian ger is composed of the following three main elements:

  • Framework structure
  • Cover burees, crown cover orh, and a felt strip on the lower edge of the wall hajavc (cover insulations)
  • Busluur, cagtaga, oosor, and hoslon (ropes and ribbons for bonding)

The framework structure contains the following items:

  • Crown toono (a wooden compression wheel on the top of the roof for ventilation and light)
  • Spokes un’ (wooden sticks that create the roof by linking the crown and lattice wall)
  • Lattice wall hana (folding-unfolding wooden structure)
  • Door haalga
  • Pillar bagana

The ger cover consists of the following pieces:

  • Roof deever (felt cover for the top-body of the ger)
  • Sheathing tuurga (felt cover that encases the lattice wall)
  • Orh (quadrangle felt that covers the crown)
  • Tarpaulin cover brezenten burees (waterproof cloth that covers the ger)
  • Outer cover gaduur cagaan burees (thin cloth that covers the ger)
  • Inner cover dotuur cagaan burees (thin cloth that is placed under the roof felt)
  • Curtains hosig (cloth that encases the inside lattice wall)
  • Hajavc (outer felt strip that is placed on the lower edge of the wall)

The ger bonding is composed of the following items:

  • Cagtaga (rope made of animal hair and tied on the center of the crown to protect the ger during storms)
  • Busluur (animal-hair rope that encircles the ger and holds the lattice wall)
  • Hanyn boolt (laces that bond the folded walls)
  • Sigsig (laces on the four sides of the crown that bond the crown to the walls)
  • Orhnij oosor (laces on the four sides of the crown cover to tie it to the busluur)

Ger Constructing Practices

The Mongolian ger is the most adapted dwelling for a nomadic way of life that characterized by moving with the four seasons. Mongolians choose the time and place to build a ger by examining and evaluating the seasonal and geographical conditions based on traditional astrology and knowledge system. And it should be noted that it is forbidden to have a slanted crown and to have a ger directly facing a mountain pass.

The first thing to do to build a ger is to place the crown on the building spot and then encircle it by erecting the lattice wall in a clockwise direction, starting from the right side. Then, the walls are bound together with the wall laces and eventually with the door.

After the erection of the walls and the door, the pillars are fastened to the crown, and the crown is lifted upright in the center of the circled wall. Then the sigsig laces are linked and bound to the crown with the walls. After this, the roof spokes are set up by inserting their top end into the crown holes and fastening the bottom end to the wall heads.

When the ger frame is set up, the covers are attached in the following sequence: inner cover, sheathing felt, roof cover (placed first on the front side and then on the backside), tarpaulin cover, and outer cover. After this, the outer ribbons and ropes are fastened neatly and carefully. At the end, the ger flooring is made with various felt rugs, cushions, and floor pieces.