Tibet: A journey through time: Training center preserves Tibetan handicrafts
Let's continue with our special coverage on development in Tibet, a region blessed with not only beautiful landscapes, but also abundant traditional cultures. As its economy progresses at a fast pace, the region faces challenges in preserving its valuable traditions. Our Yang Jinghao has more.
Carving out a copper Buddha statue meticulously.
20-year-old Romand Gangtse from Nakchu Prefecture first picked up this centuries-old craft three years ago at this training school in Lhasa.
ROMAND GANGTSE TIBETAN RESIDENT "Few people are learning this technique today, and I am quite interested in it, that's why I come here. I hope the craft passed down from our ancestors doesn't disappear someday."
The school is named after the official organization that gathered the highest-level craftsmen in ancient Tibet – Shoel Duphel, or Xuduibai in Mandarin Chinese. It provides training on diversified traditional handicrafts, including Thangka painting, woodblock printing and Tibetan incense making, among others. Many of them have been placed on Tibet's intangible cultural heritage list.
SONG MING FOUNDER "We want to combine the academic teaching style of college with the apprenticeship of traditional workshops, to cultivate the trainees and turn them into skillful craftsmen or even artists. I think it's a feasible way to protect the ethnic cultures."
The students are mostly young herdsmen from impoverished families, or people with disabilities. Here they don't need to pay a penny. Instead, they can get reward after the works they are instructed to make hit the market.
Over the past years, hundreds of trainees have graduated and started their new career.
YANG JINGHAO LHASA, TIBET "For all cultural heritages, they face the same dilemma - how to maintain their vitality in modern times? So while trying to preserve the traditional craftsmanship, innovation, might be the fundamental way out."
And this is what the institution, also a social enterprise, is exploring.
For example, it's collaborating with some fashion designers from big-name brands to innovate traditional Tibetan costumes, in an attempt to make them more acceptable to global consumers.
SONG MING FOUNDER "I think no matter what kind of art form, it will lose its charm or vitality if it deviates from the demands of social development, the market and public aesthetics."
Like fellow trainees here, Gangtse has his own long-cherished dream.
ROMAND GANGTSE TIBETAN RESIDENT "I hope I can open my own studio in the future and teach the craft to more people."
Encouraged by its positive social influence and economic outlook, the institution is planning to expand.
Local authorities say this is a good attempt in protecting valuable Tibetan traditions, yet the undertaking still calls for efforts from more individuals and enterprises.