The Tibetan Tent


Tibetan nomads have lived in their black yak hair tents for as long as anyone can remember. Depending on the area they live in and the condition of the pasture, they move with their animals every few weeks or months in the summer and build a more permanent camp in the winter, which in most areas has now been replaced by houses.

A Tibetan nomad tent is a not comfortable dwelling. While a Mongolian gher affords some comfort, in some cases upgraded with wooden floors, glass skylights and wooden doors that shut out the wind, the Tibetan baku is a drafty, smoky affair with a grass floor and a drippy ceiling that doesn’t hold off the rain. It may have had a certain charm in the old days when the large families lived in spacious bakus furnished with altars and low tables. People would huddle around the hearth to hear stories at night, the walls of the tent lined with skin sacks full of food and suppliesand, and their earth over graced with ornate teapots and brass pans. These days are over, the families smaller and the ones who still stick to their baku do it out of nostalgia. It is heavy and hard to transport and has to be maintained, replacing one twelfth of the fabric, which the families wove themselves from yak hair, every year, so that the whole tent would be renewed after twelve years. The pasture which used to be dotted with black tents is now the site of the white or green specks of military tents, easier to handle for the now smaller families and lesser number of hands.

When Yidam Kyap created Norden camp, he wished to base its lifestyle concept on the baku, which he successfully transformed into a living area offering all the comfort one would wish for. He elevated the ceiling, made it waterproof, provided a stove pipe for the hearth and added wooden floors. Norlha furnished the Norden tents with carpets and felt soft furnishings.

The Lungta Cooperative, near Norden provides an example of a grand tent of the old days. Its walls are lined with traditional skin bags, woven blankets and skin covered wooded boxes used to store supplies, as well as the wooden cupboards used for altars or the family’s porcelain cups and the low tables where visitors would be entertained. The center of the baku is dominated by the earth stove that was built and rebuilt every time the family moved camp.