Union of Mongolian Artists
National Artist and State Prize Winner of the Mongolian People's Republic (M.P.R.)
U. Yadamsuren


Introduction and brief explanations by L. Sonomtseren
Editor B. Sodnom
State Publishing-House Ulan Bator 1967
The national dress of the Mongols has a rich history and an artistic tradition of many centuries. It is closely connected with the way of life of the Mongolian people, with the specific features of their economic system and with the natural conditions of the country. The costumes must meet the most different situations of life, whether, for example, somebody is riding on horseback over the steppe, whether he is sitting at home in his yurt (felt tent), or whether he is dancing at a national festival. The different conditions of climate, too, influence the kind of dresses worn; thus costumes have been developed that are intended for the different seasons of the year. In summer the Mongols wear a light coat or frock, the "Törlök", in autumn and winter a wadded coat, the "Khovontei Dööl", or a lambskin coat, the "Khurgan Dotortoi Dööl", in winter a sheepskin dress reminding of a fur coat, the "Tsagaan Nökhi Dööl".
The age of the wearer, too, is reflected by the dress. The costumes of elderly people are, as a rule, modest and plain, while young people prefer gay, stylish clothes.
The female dress shows differences between the attire of the girls and of married women. The costumes of the latter are decorated and adorned more splendidly.
From remote times the Mongols have worn coats with oblique braid, the "Tashuu Öngertei Dööl", and a coat with straight border, which reminds of a long waistcoat, the "Sadgai Öngertei Dööl". This is confirmed by the costumes from the Hun era, found during excavations in the burial-mounds of Noin Ula. The design of the garments, the combination of colours as well as the decorative ornaments speak of an old culture of the Mongolian people. The materials of which the dresses are made, reveal a connection of the Mongolian culture with the cultures of the neighbouring countries of the East. But, at the same time, the contribution of the Mongols themselves to the art of costumes can be clearly recognized: the national-original character of Mongolian dress. Later, the "Durbölzhin Öngertei Dööl" with rectangular border became very popular. In the course of adaptation to the ever-changing social and economic conditions the national costumes underwent further changes, the ancient traditions, however, have been retained in a refined manner. And up to thepresenttime, the Mongols are wearing the coat with the oblique border, the "Tashuu Öngertei", and the coat with the rectangular border, the "Durbölzhin Öngertei Dööl".
The materials from which the dresses were sewn were either produced by the Mongols themselves, such as "leather, wool, and fur", or they were imported from abroad. Nobody knows when the Mongols started to produce textile fabrics on their own, but it is an established fact that they have been making dresses of silk, cotton fabric, woollen material, and brocades for a very long time already. Some of the fabrics were, especially in the times of the Huns, introduced from other countries of the East. It is self-understood that the garments for the different seasons were made also of different materials. The lining for the winter dresses consisted of sheepskin, goatskin, or wolf's fur, of the pelts of corsacs, lynxes, wolverines, racoons, foxes, and sables. The winter fur coat might have consisted simply of sheepskin, but sometimes it was covered outside with fabric, such as cotton cloth, tussore, silk, brocade, and satin.
Often the white sheepskin was dyed yellow or green and provided with ornaments.
For summer clothes the materials mentioned above were used, but also woollen cloth and velvet. As linings, thin fabrics were used.
As a rule, the dresses were richly adorned. The national artisans created jewelry and ornaments of gold, silver, corals, pearls, and precious stones.
When studying the national costumes the history of a people, the history of its culture and civilization can be seen as though it were materialized. The making of dresses has always been considered an art. There were many genuine masters whose "golden hands" were famous, the garments having been sewn not only by women, but also by men. A tailor had to have comprehensive knowledge and the most different faculties. He was simultaneously an artist and embroiderer, he was able to glue, quilt, and stuff with wadding, he knew the symbolism of the ornaments used on the dresses, the symbolism of the colours and their combination. The symbolism of dress is altogether of great interest. Thus, for example, the heavenward directed peak of a cap resting on a cupola-shaped base symbolizes prosperity and happiness. The eyelet at the upper part of the Sampin of the cap symbolizes the moon, the knot of the Sampin means simplicity and strength, while the lower part of the Sampin, which is called Tav, represents the sun. Below the Tav four strips have their origin, which represent home and family, while 32 narrow strips of lace symbolize the beams of the sun. With most caps the Sampin and the lace strips are of the same colour, usually red or brown.
Embroidery in different styles is also widely applied for adorning the garments: back-stitching, stem-stitching, etc.
Of old tradition are the ornaments on the dresses, each garment displaying a definite and strictly observed type of ornament which, as already said before, has a symbolism entirely of its own. Interesting is the colour scale of Mongolian costume. The national costumes were chiefly brown and dark blue.
As is well known, Mongolia is inhabited by various national groups, such as the Khalka, Buryat, Dörbet, Torgut, Barga, Dariganga, Uzumchin, Bayit, Uryankhaits, Khoton, and Mingat groups, the Sakhchins, Darkhats, Ölöts, and Kazakhs. Of course, the national peculiarities will be reflected by the clothes. The differences between the dresses of the various national groups refer to the design, the colour, the style, and the ornaments. Different are, for example, the borders of the coats, the style of the waistcoats worn over the coats, the trimmings at the edges of the borders, the adornments and ornaments. In the costume of the Khalkha blue and brown are the predominant colours, while the dress of the Buryats shows blue and that of the Khotons clark shades as the chief colours. Almost all nationalities use black velvet for trimming the border and, moreover, a thin strip of black velvet at the extreme edge of the border. However, the style of these trimmings is not uniform: sometimes they are cut rectangularly and sometimes not. The women's waistcoats, "Uuzh", are generally similar to each other, but even their design will differ in detail. Both the Khalkha and the Mingat women are wearing dresses with sleeves full of pleats, but with the Khalkha women the quilted seams on the pleats are arranged horizontally, while with the Mingat women these seams extend vertically. A few men wear coats with slashes as the women do. The differences between the national costumes of the women refer to the ornaments as well.
A few words ought to be said also regarding the coiffure, an important part of the female toilet. The coiffure of the Khalkha and Mingat women is somewhat "wing-shaped"; the hair is plaited into two braids widening at the temples in the form of wings, the width of the wings being greater with the Khalkha women and smaller with the Mingat women, with whom also the ornaments are more modest. Very peculiar is the hair-dress of the Bargas and Darigangas. The women of some national groups don't wear pins in the hair, but instead of them the "Khadlaga".
The Uzumchins and Darigangas are fond of coral ornaments, while the Khalkhas prefer gold ornarments, silver ornaments, and pearls.
Nor does the headdress lack multifariousness. Almost every nationality has a headdress of its own, differing in design, style, and colour from those of the other national groups, and also the ornaments are different, so that there are many kinds of Mongolian caps. In western Mongolia caps of the "Tortsog", "Yuden", and "Zharantai" kinds are widely used, which differ from the headdress of the Khalkhas and Buryats. The Mongols also wear different kinds of boots; the "Naamal Ultai Gutal" are boots with glued-on soles; furthermore we have the "Sholkhotoi Gutal" and the "Khanchin Gutal", the different national groups having different types of lootwear, too. Whereas the Torgut Mongols are wearing boots of the "Tookhuu Gutal" type, the boots of the Buryats are called "Ulsan Gutal". After the National Revolution national costumes changed substantially, they became simpler and more modest.
Studies of the history of dress and costume, their variations and kinds with the various national groups within the framework of one nation will contribute to better understanding the process of cultural evolution, in particular of folk art, and are a valuable aid to ethnographic researches. On the basis of the rich traditions of Mongolian costume the contemporary masters and folk artists are making use of the heritage that has come down to us from many centuries, and are creating new models of national costume.
In the field of investigation into the history of Mongolian costume the national artist of the M. p. R., state prize winner U. Yadamsuren has achieved extraordinary things. From childhood U. Yadamsuren has been interested in folk art and national costumes. Following his elder brother Tchoidashi, U. Yadamsuren, with artistic mastery, has made himself familiar with the skill of the folk artists, artisans, embroiderers, pasters, tailors and all those, whose hands have created those remarkable costumes, and has studied them most exactly. While travelling all over the country U. Yadamsuren has collected valuable material on the history of Mongolian dress and has made a great number of drawings, only part of which is included in this album. It is beyond doubt that this album will be of particular interest to ethnographers and people fond of national costumes, to theatrical men and artisans. The abundance and the high artistic level of execution of Mongolian costumes seems to urge their universal study.
Brief Explanations
  1. Khalkha man's summer costume
  2. Khalkha man's winter costume
  3. Khalkha man's summer cap of velvet
  4. Khalkha man's winter cap
  5. Khalkha man's beaver cap
  6. Khalkha man's winter cap
  7. Khalkha man's cap "Yuden"
  8. Khalkha man's cap "Tortsog"
  9. Khalkha winter cap "Makhus"
  10. Khalkha cap "Yuden"
  11. Khalkha winter cap of beaver fur
  12. Khalkha man's winter cap "Godon"
  13. Khalkha man's winter cap "Tug"
  14. Ear-caps
  15. Case for drinkillg-cup
  16. Tobacco-pouch
  17. Knife and steel (for striking fire)
  18. Tobacco-pipe case
  19. Tobacco-pouch
  20. Tobacco-pouch
  21. Cover sleeve
  22. Special dress of the Borts Mongols, the "Dsodok"
  23. Strap for tying up the bootleg
  24. Knee-caps
  25. Upper edge of a felt stocking
  26. Upper edge of a felt stocking
  27. Khalkha woman's winter costume
  28. Upper part of a Khalkha costume with pearl ornaments and beaver cap
  29. Khalkha woman's golden cap
  30. Woman's pearl pendant
  31. Woman's gold ornaments
  32. Woman's gold ornament "Khadlaga"
  33. Silver ornament "Khorol Böl"
  34. Ornament for the cap peak
  35. Khalkha woman's summer cap of velvet
  36. Khalkha woman's winter cap of beaver fur
  37. Khalkha woman's winter cap
  38. Khalkha woman's winter cap
  39. Khalkha girl's winter cap "Tortsog"
  40. Khalkha girl's winter cap "Tortsog"
  41. Khalkha woman's cap "Tortsog"
  42. Khalkha winter cap "Örlö Mus"
  43. Children's winter cap of the Khalkllas
  44. Horseman's cap for children
  45. Dörbet woman's summer costume
  46. Dörbet cap "Yuden"
  47. Dörbet cap "Yuden"
  48. Dörbet winter cap "Tunlai"
  49. Dörbet cap "Toirul"
  50. Dörbet woman's cap
  51. Buryat man's winter costume
  52. Buryat woman's summer costume
  53. Buryat man's winter cap
  54. Buryat woman's summer cap
  55. Buryat man's winter cap
  56. Kazakh man's costume
  57. Kazakh woman's costume
  58. Kazakh man's winter cap
  59. Kazakh woman's summer cap
  60. Sakhchin woman's winter costume
  61. Sakhchin woman's winter costume, side view
  62. Sakhchin girl's winter costume
  63. Sakhchin man's winter cap
  64. Winter cap "Zharantai"
  65. Barga woman's winter costume
  66. Barga woman's costume, side view
  67. Silver cap and bobby pins of the Bargut woman with coral ornaments
  68. Silver hand
  69. Silver girdle ornaments of the Barguts
  70. Summer cap of the Barguts
  71. Costume of the Bayits
  72. Costume of the Bayit woman
  73. Cap of the Bayits
  74. Cap of the Bayits, the "Zoo"
  75. Winter cap of the Bayits
  76. Uzumchin woman's costume with silver and coral ornaments
  77. Headdress of Uzumchin woman
  78. Uzumchin woman's silver ornaments
  79. Uzumchin woman's winter cap
  80. Uzumchin woman's winter cap
  81. Uzumchin man's winter cap "Boolt"
  82. Uzumchin man's cap
  83. Dariganga woman's summer costume
  84. Dariganga woman's braid with silver and coral ornaments
  85. Dariganga woman's silver cap with pearls and corals
  86. Dariganga woman's winter cap
  87. Uryankhaits man's winter costume
  88. Uryankhaits woman's winter costume
  89. Uryankhaits woman's ornaments
  90. Khoton woman's summer costume
  91. Female piece of jewelry, rear view
  92. Khoton winter cap, the "Khaiv"
  93. Mingat woman's winter costume
  94. Half coiffure and headdress of a Mingat woman
  95. Torgut man's summer costume
  96. Torgut cap "Tortsog"
  97. Darkhat man's winter costume
  98. Olet woman's costume
  99. "Lovous"
  100. ???





 Most Asian countries celebrate The New Year around the same time as the Chinese. Mongolians celebrate “Tsagaan Sar” which falls some years on the same dates as the Chinese New Year and some years based on the lunar cycles it will be days, weeks sometimes a month different. 

If you took Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and Easter as they are celebrated in America and roll them all together you would have a close approximation of Tsagaan Sar. The origins predate the Great Genghis Khan. The Mongols of olden times were in touch with nature to a great degree - their life and life styles were connected intimately with the earth and sky as well as the seasons. They called them Mother Earth and Father Sky. They judged the season by the colors of the earth and its growing things - by the sharpness of the winds, by the positions of the moon, stars as well as the sun. Taking positions of the stars for direction using the sun and the moon as nature’s clock and their monthly as well as yearly calendar.  The hours of day and the years were named after animals, days and months were named after colors. Noted in Marco Polo’s journal from the time of Kublai Khan were entries about the Mongol traditions and he noted that the last month of the old year was called the black month as it was the coldest, darkest and had the shortest days of any month of the year. Also that the next month was called white month as it was beginning of the end of winter and the beginning of the new year with spring soon to come.
            In olden times before Genghis Khan, the Mongols celebrated in the fall of the year at the end of summer the gracious bounty they had gathered and collected of the produce of their animals - various dairy products as well as dried and cured meats along with wild herbs, berries and other root crops. They would hold this harvest celebration before the onset of the long cold brutal winter ahead.
            In 1206 Genghis Khan was named Great Khan and Ikh Mongol (Great Mongol) the country of Mongolia was created. At that time he moved the harvest celebration which was celebrating the end of the summer beginning fall to the dates that it is celebrated now which is the beginning of spring (white month) to celebrate the new life such as fresh grass, flowers blooming, baby animals being born. This is also to celebrate the birth of a new nation and the inauguration of the Great Khan.
            From times of old the Mongols have held with the sayings of Mother Earth and Father Sky – as the Mother gives milk to her young the Mongols thank Mother Earth for her gifts of dairy products from the animals they keep – they give thanks by casting small amounts of milk to the four corners of the sky (compass directions).
            Mongols believe that the milk is pure as it is white and without blemish, they offer it as a blessing to God. When someone is going on a long journey or perhaps to be assigned to the army their Mother will usually cast the milk to the sky and pray for a safe trip, to keep them safe and bring them back home safely.  The same will hold for all special occasions like weddings or other special or serious times. The milk prayer will keep their way clean and safe.
            Tsagaan Sar brings together family and friends – the problems and tribulations between each other are put behind them and you start over fresh – you do not bring previous problems forward into the New Year.
            Tsagaan Sar evening the oldest person in the family will be honored by all of the extended family coming to their home to share food and play games such as Shagai. This is the celebration of the end of the old year – you always eat until you are full – this day you will not sleep over at someone else’s home because your own home is important on this day – you do not want to leave it empty, so you return to sleep.
            During Tsagaan Sar celebrations there are three things that you cannot do – first you cannot be angry – the second is to not be greedy and the third is not to be sad. You clear your mind and spirit of all negative things and open it up to pure clean positive thoughts.
            During these days you always help people and give with an open heart.
            Some people prepare for Tsagaan Sar months ahead – by cleaning everything possible – herders have new births around this time from their herds of animals which are considered a blessing. Everything must be clean even your language. Do not sew old clothes during this time, sew new clothes. If you owe money pay it back before Tsagaan Sar, do not owe anyone anything. All the remaining tasks that you have left, you need to finish, before Tsagaan Sar starts.

            People help each other with the chores – especially the older members of the community whose health is not up to the extra work and appreciate the help from the younger members. Also they share with the ones that don’t have as much or any at all – this brings good fortune to those that help and give – it’s not seen as charity and it’s not begrudged – it is in the culture.
            Food at Tsagaan Sar consist of brown and white foods – brown foods include meat, flour dumplings, ravioli and alcohol. White foods are dairy products, cookies and alcohol made from mare’s milk called airag.
            To honor the oldest person in the home large cookies called “ul boov” or “heviin boov” are cooked and stacked on a platter with each layer of cookies symbolizing ten years of life. This can be arranged in patterns of three to a layer or five to a layer depending on your choice. Odd numbers are considered good luck. The direct translation of the name of the cookies means “footprints” – it is blessed as it means you are connected to this world through your footsteps – always walking forward never backwards – good luck will always come to you.
            Tsagaan Sar evening is called “Bituun” - direct translation means the old year and old things are done, finished and closed never to come back.
            Bituun day families set up their tables, people come over to show their respect and to honor their elders.
            Bituun night meal is started by eating foods of the brown category. You eat brown foods first as the old year and all the bad things associated with it are gone. After brown food you consume white dairy food so you will be ready for the year, new day and new moment.
            After dinner older people will tell legends about the olden days and the younger people play games with shagai such as the camel and horse race. Shagai are made from sheep ankle bones. These have four sides – the concave side is called goat, the opposite side is called sheep, the flat side is called horse and the remaining side is called camel. People of all steppe cultures have played these games for millennia. They can also be cast as dice or flicked as marbles.
            The day after Bituun is called Tsagaan Sar or New Year’s day. People get up early as the sun is rising – all people put on new clothes – make new milk tea – the lady of the house takes milk tea outside and cast it to the four directions of the compass while praying for a good year.

            After this all the members of the family with exception of husband and wife greet each other beginning with the oldest. (husband and wife are considered one person so they don’t need to be greeted by each other) They are greeted by saying “Ta amar mend  baina uu?” which means “How are you doing?” The older person’s arms go on top and the youngest go on the bottom like you are going to carry them holding their elbows. The older of the two will be holding a “Hadag” which is a blue or white prayer cloth. This cloth can be different sizes. It is folded three times with the open side pointed away from the holder – this means you are welcome. The answer back to the first greeting is “Amar mendee” which means I am fine , I am good.
            After the greetings are finished guests and family will be seated at the table – guests will open their hoorog (snuff bottle) and will partially open the top and present it to their host and say “Ta saihan shinelj baina uu?” Which means “how is your new year going?” The host will say “Saihan saihan” which means “good, good.” After this the host sniffs at the lid and passes it back or if he wants to he can remove the top and take some of the snuff and snort it up their nose – it is up to each person on how they do this. The symbolism of the passing of the snuff bottle is new friendship and honoring friends and family.
            This day people of the same age greet each other with one arm on top and one arm on the bottom. Pregnant women do not greet each other like this during their pregnancy as they believe their unborn child’s sex could be switched.     
            This day the first food that is eaten is white food (dairy foods) this means good luck, blessed life and good things coming for you. This day do not talk about any negative things, always be positive do not get angry.
            Each person gives gifts on Tsagaan Sar – not expensive material gifts – but things that you have – cookies, dairy products or any natural products.
If people will truly follow and observe these customs, putting old problems behind them and looking forward to the future without negative thoughts or preconceived notions the world and their lives would be truly remarkable.

James and Uzmee Pigg