In the cities of the Middle Age, ceramics production, glass production, blacksmith’s works, tailoring and jeweller’s art were especially developing. Clay was used for the production not only of crockery but also of lamps. Glass was used for the production of various types of crockery and decoration of clothes. Blacksmith’s work was at the highest level. Iron was used for making various tools, excellent weapons, and, of course, all the men who had a horse were using the services of a blacksmith. Tailors were sewing handy and beautiful clothes decorated with the unique unrepeated ornament, and the timber-workers created real art masterpieces such as Torsyk hollowed out of wood. The lower part of the torsyk depicts the mausoleum of K.Yassaui.
Kazakhstan is the country with great cultural heritage.
Due to the will of the history, Kazakhs live at the junction of the eastern and western cultures, as the result of which some synthesis has formed, the base of which is the Turk roots but at the same time European impact (through Russia) can be felt.
Portable house (yurta), saddle and stirrups for a horse, art of riding battle, carpet patterns and ornaments of silver and gold decorations are the original inventions of nomad cultures.
Yurta is one of the most perfect types of portable houses. This is a convenient and practical house ideally fit for natural conditions and mode of life. It is one of the greatest inventions of Eurasian nomads.
It can be quickly set up and disassembled; it is easily transported on camels and horses; its felt cover does not let the rain soak through. Yurta consists of three basic elements: folding trellised foundation “kerege”, poles that support the dome “uyk” and the round top of the dome “shanyrak”.
Assemblage of yurta starts from the door “yesik”, which was facing the east direction in ancient times. People were saying: “Beauty and richness of yurta starts from the threshold”. The door pleases your sight with carved decorations.
The trellised sliding frame (kerege) is attached from both sides of the door, and after that by means of the accessory (bakan) the dome (shanyrak) of the yurta is raised. In its side holes poles (uyk) are inserted, the lower parts of them are tied up to kerege.
Since ancient times the methods and secrets of the yurta installation, which required special knowledge and skills, were inherited from one generation to another.
Along with the racing competitions during the inter-tribe meetings, there were competitions for the best yurta installation. Such competitions were held on Nauryz and during different feasts.
According to the functional features, horizontally Kazakh yurta is divided into seven parts: 1) honourable seat “tor” located in the part of the yurta opposite to the door, the most distant seat from the door; 2) host’s seat, it is a little closer to the entrance, on the left from the honourable seat; 3) kitchen part, closer to the door from the owners’ seats; 4) seat for the young members of a family, on the right from the honourable seat; 5) place for the storage of horse harness, closer to the entrance from the seat of the young members of a family, also in the right side of the yurta; 6) the entrance, the door, which is opposite to the honourable seat; 7) fireplace, in the centre of the yurta.
Tor is the seat for honourable guests, the sacral part of the yurta. Usually here “zhukayak”, “zhuk” are placed (bedding things on the decorative stand), rifles are hanging, as well as decorative lash, dombra and other sacral values.
Top of the yurta (shanyrak) is the family relic, happiness and peace symbol. That is why it is the central element of the State Emblem of Kazakhstan.
For Kazakhs shanyrak was the symbol of the generation continuation. According to the family traditions, a father was providing some of his fortune to his elder sons who had created their own shanyral, and the necessary attribute in all times was yurta. Heir of the father’s shanyrak is the youngest son (kenzhe). He also had the privileged position in the family. Main shanyrak of the family was succeeded to him, and he also had the sacred duty to take care of his parents when they world be old. Today this old tradition is still preserved in all Kazakh families.
A person who enters a house, even if he comes not as a guest but on business, must show respect to shanyrak - to kneel.The Sacral border of the house and the outer world is ak bosaga (holy threshold). The attitude of the hosts to you depends on the way you step over the threshold. If you step over with your right foot having a low bow, it means you have full respect. If you do the other way it means you have insulted honour and dignity of this house, of the host and of his whole generation. And in order this does not happen because of distraction or carelessness, people would intentionally make threshold high and the lintel low. When you step over threshold you must say greetings even if there is no one in the yurta: “May light shine on your house!” In the centre of the yurta, on the tripod there is the symbol of the family’s wealth (oshak), the fireplace (a word-for-word translation of “oshak” is “the head of the fire”). Only where the fire is kindled there is life, there is a family. Here people cook food; here people make sacrifices to the holy Fire, the host of the fireplace.
The most honourable place in the yurta was tor where a guest is invited to sit. In the past, the door of the yurta was always facing the east; that was why the sun was the first to enter the house and as the first guest it was on the tor of the yurta. To the left side from the guest there is the northern part of the yurta (soltustik) and to the right side there is the southern part (ontustik). So, sitting in the yurta, people did not need the compass. Kazakhs were always famous for their hospitality, which was one of the main precepts in their life. A person who enters the yurta was treated as an honourable guest and the hosts were inviting the guest to take the honourable seat. The guest can not leave without a treat, “auyz tiyu” (to try food), and this is the indicator of generosity and hospitality. In any time, irrespective of the fact if someone is eating at that moment or not, the hostesses would put food on the table (dastarkhan) and would ask the guest to try it. When going somewhere for a long trip, before starting the trip, everyone must try the food in the house. This tradition is also kept nowadays.
Traditionally the left part of the house was the women’s part. Closer to the door there was light, not bulky furniture – asadal kebezhe (cupboard and chest for keeping crockery and food). Also here were different felt and woven bags hanging on kerege: korzhyn (weathercock with two sections: for things and food), sandyk (for storing clothes and linen), ayak kap (for pots and pans), kese kap (for transportation of cups). Also on the left side of the house there was tosagash (bed), which has the unique shape with the raised lower and upper parts of the bed. Already in the ancient times it was noted that in this position a person gets relaxed better and has rest. This fact is proven by the modern medicine.
In the men’s part there were weapons, horse harness and various talismans closer to threshold. The right part of the yurta was considered sacred. There are things, which have the sacral meaning for Kazakhs. For example, a bride when coming for the first time into the father-in-law’s yurta must go to the right side. If a person died, his body was put in the right part of the yurta. In everyday life, especially during the holidays, men never went to the women’s part and vice versa.
Already in ancient times Turks were called the most skilled people in the felt preparation; Kazakhs used it for the outer and inner parts of the yurta, as well as for making carpets, clothes and footwear. Kazakhs live in the world of ornaments; they decorate their yurtas with carpets and multicoloured embroidery.
Household goods (harness, felt carpets-tekemets, things made of wood, bones and metal) are generously decorated. Hats, clothes, bags and horseclothes are covered with rich embroidery. Craftsmen used wood for making bowls and scoops for kumys (horse milk) and also were carving them wonderfully. Beds and chests were decorated with the horns of argali and ibex. Leather was used for making lashes, belts, harness and flasks (torsyk) for water and kumys. Kazakh craftsmen are also very skilled jewellers. Steppe zerger (jewellers) prefer working with noble white silver. You will probably like Kazakh ear-rings in the form of small bells, crescents, with many pendants, original bracelets-blezik and traditional sets of three rings connected to the bracelet with small thin chains.
National ornament is rich and unique: each pattern has its own story and the usual characters are flora and fauna. The most developed patterns are patterns in the form of a head, horns, hooves of animals, clutches and beaks of birds etc.
Each colour had its own symbol: blue colour meant the sky, white meant joy, happiness, yellow meant knowledge, wisdom; red symbolized the fire or the sun, green meant youth, spring and black meant earth.
For example, Kazakhs had the tradition, according to which a girl who married and who had moved to another aul had to send the present to the parents made with her own hands. And very often the girl was describing her life by means of the ornament. If in the ornamental carpet she depicted a symbolically slim person near a fat person, parents were weeping having received such a present: their daughter did not live in good conditions. And if a bird’s beak was depicted it meant that the girl lived as a free bird and the parents would gather all friends and relatives for a feast called toy.
All types of Kazakh ornament have the same characteristic features: balance between the platitude occupied by the patterns, symmetrical location along the vertical axes, contour of the picture, contrast scale of colours. Ornamental creativity is considered to be the national richness, chronicles of the life of Kazakhs. Artistic national traditions shown in clothes find their place in contemporary life.