The Intricate Symbolism of Mongolian Gers

Mongolian woman making yurt decorations

The Mongolian ger (or yurt) is an intricate combination of technical necessities and symbolism.

The yurt itself is a representation of the universe. You enter the yurt with the right foot first and progress clock-wise; following the sun shining in the yurt over the course of the day.

In this edition of the Groovy Yurts blog, we’ll dive into some of the wonderful symbolism of Mongolian yurts, deeply rooted in tradition and full of meaning to the Mongolian people.

Yurt Symbolism, from Top to Bottom

Beautiful blue Toono with mosquito netThe toono (dome) symbolizes the sky and the transition to the spirit and the universe. It is supported by two bagaanas (central poles) that represent the woman (east) and the man (west), who equally support the universe.

North, opposite to the door, is the most sacred place (or place of honour). The door faces south in Mongolia, although it seems that it used to face East, like most North American native dwellings.

Throughout history, the North American indigenous people have shared many symbols with the Mongolians.

The amount of roof rafters (hunis) is significant as well. The 5-wall ger, possibly the most common, supports 81 hunis, which is 9×9. Nine is the sacred number for Mongolian nomads.

Additionally, the ger is not anchored to the ground, as not to harm the earth. This is a perfect reflection of the Mongolian’s respect for and relation to the environment.

How Colour & Religion Play Roles in Mongolian Yurts

The orange colour, most often painted onto the woodwork of the yurt, represents the sun shining over the grassland, or fire.

Blue, a symbol of good luck and respect, represents the Mongolian eternal blue sky.

In the 16th century Buddhism was reintroduced to Mongolia, which brought additional symbolism to the ger.

Beginning with the toono, which has taken the shape of the wheel of Dharma and represents the 8 teachings of the Buddha.

The ulzzi (the infinity knot), which is seen in several different variations in the paint and is also often sewn into the canvas, represents the connection of everything in the universe.

Honouring & Respecting Mongolia, Its People & the Yurts

We do want to make it clear that this blog is the result of a few years working of with gers and a deep love for Mongolia. It is not the result of scientific research. We do welcome comments and additional information!

Below, we’ve included some symbols and comments from Enerel, our friend and team member in Mongolia:

white shell symbol of Tibetan Buddhism

White shell, or lavai, came to us with Tibetan Buddhism in the 16th century. The white colour means something positive and good in life, erudition.

endless knot Mongolian symbol of lifelong happiness

Ulzii, the endless knot, is for luck and means life-long happiness.

hammer pattern Mongolian symbol of long life

The hammer pattern means eternal life.

khas pattern Mongolian symbol of life power & Strength

The khas or tumen nasan pattern means eternal life, power, and strength.

Your Source for Yurts & Yurt Information

Got any questions about Mongolian yurts or the connection between yurts and the Mongolian people?

Feel free to reach out to Groovy Yurts!

We’re always happy to talk about yurts and about Mongolia.