The light goatskin raft of Salar Ethnic Group

The skin raft was called as “leather boat” in ancient times. It is the traditional water transportation tool of the Sala, Hui, Dongxiang, Bao’an, Tu and other nationalities, and is popular along the banks of the Huanghe River in Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxiang and other regions. Its making method is: to weave the round wood stick as a raft, and bind several or scores of leather bags under it. Place the leather bags down and the wood raft above them when using it. It can load not only people but also cargos. The carrying capacity of a small raft is about 2 to 3 tons, and that of a big raft is over 10 tons. Its dead weight is light and the waterline of it is low. It does not fear being stranded and striking reef, and can be flexibly and conveniently controlled. 

According to the difference of raw materials, the skin rafts can be divided into goatskin rafts and cowhide rafts. Most of the goatskin rafts are made of the skin of goats. The manufacturing method of leather bags is: after killing the goat, firstly cut down his head, then take out mutton, bone and internal organs from the neck entrance, then leave a piece of complete goatskin. Put it into water and soak it for several days, take it out and expose it to the sun for one day, scrape all the hair, and pour into appropriate quantities of salt, water and vegetable oil, and expose it to the sun again until the outer skin goes red brown. When assembling the raft, stuff it with air by blowing, and then bind up the mouth. The manufacturing method of the cowhide crafts is generally similar with that of goatskin rafts. 

The manufacturing method of skin raft is simple, and it is solid and durable, and also light. It can be shouldered, carried and moved by only one person, so it has always been favored by the people of all nationalities along the banks of the Huanghe River, and been as charming as ever. 

The Sala people in the region of Dahejia, Gansu province often take cowhide rafts when crossing the Huanghe River together. There are two kinds of cowhide rafts: big and small. The big cowhide rafts are bound with 6 or 8 cowhide bags in parallel shape, while the small rafts only have 4 cowhide bags, all connected in square shape, and sticks are bound up horizontally over them. The big rafts can load more than 20 people, and the small rafts can load 7 to 8 people. When crossing the river, the passengers sit on the middle part of the raft, 3 to 4 sailors respectively stand on the head and tail of the cowhide raft, pool efforts to wave the oars and strike water, shout out the work song in unison and rouse their own enthusiasm, let the cowhide raft go downstream and reach the opposite bank.