Pro­grams pro­tect Ti­bet’s in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By LIU XIANGRUI in Qamdo and HU YONGQI in Lhasa, Ti­bet

To safe­guard the more than 1,000 forms of in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture her­itage found in the Ti­bet au­tonomous re­gion, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties con­ducted a com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey to record many as­pects of the lo­cal cul­ture, some of which have al­most dis­ap­peared.

The re­gional govern­ment also im­ple­mented a range of mea­sures in­clud­ing in­creas­ing the sub­si­dies paid to in­her­i­tors — peo­ple who have the knowl­edge of the cul­ture and its cus­toms passed down to them — to en­cour­age a re­vival of in­dige­nous cul­ture among the younger gen­er­a­tion.

Last year, the cen­tral govern­ment added eight lo­cal art forms in Qamdo pre­fec­ture to a list of pro­grams to pro­tect in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture in east Ti­bet, in­clud­ing the Gor­dro dance and per­for­mances on a sixstringed lute-like in­stru­ment called a Dzongkha, and spe­cial­ized tech­niques such as those used in the ex­trac­tion of salt. The re­gional govern­ment listed a fur­ther 15.

In the past five years, the pre­fec­ture has spent 2.6 mil­lion yuan ($450,000) pro­mot­ing the lo­cal cul­tural her­itage, ac­cord­ing to the Qamdo Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Cul­ture.

On June 1, as a way of strength­en­ing the pro­tec­tion of in­dige­nous cul­tures, the re­gional govern­ment im­ple­mented a ver­sion of the Law on In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itages, which has been tai­lored to suit con­di­tions on the plateau.

The reg­u­la­tion stip­u­lates that gov­ern­ments at pre­fec­ture and county lev­els must cul­ti­vate young tal­ent and pro­vide ad­e­quate fi­nan­cial sup­port to pre­serve tra­di­tional art forms, es­pe­cially those listed as in­tan­gi­ble cul­tural her­itages.

Since 2006, more than 3,000 officials in the re­gion have been col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion about all the listed in­tan­gi­ble her­itages. To date, they have col­lected about 100,000 tran­scripts and made 2,000 record­ings of tra­di­tional mu­sic, dances and tech­niques, said Ren Shuqiong, deputy direc­tor of the De­part­ment of Cul­ture of Ti­bet.

In June, 123 peo­ple were ac­cred­ited as in­her­i­tors of in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture at the Nor­bu­l­ingka Palace in Lhasa. By the end of May, 120 mil­lion yuan had been spent on the pro­tec­tion of in­tan­gi­ble cul­ture, with the cen­tral govern­ment pro­vid­ing 90 mil­lion yuan of that amount, Ren said.

Cen­turies-old tra­di­tional eth­nic crafts are still thriv­ing in Qamdo’s Karma town in Ti­bet, thanks to the ef­forts of many se­nior crafts­men and aid from lo­cal govern­ment.

For hun­dreds of years, crafts­men mak­ing re­li­gious items like the Thangka, bronze Bud­dha stat­ues, prayer stone carv­ings, and cloth­ing ac­ces­sories have clus­tered in Karma town, where the his­tor­i­cally im­por­tant Karma Monastery is sit­u­ated.

Karma Monastery, which was the ear­li­est Bud­dhist monastery in eastern Ti­bet, has re­mained in­flu­en­tial since it was built al­most 850 years ago. Crafts­men from Nepal, In­dia, Lhasa and other parts of China were called in to work on the monastery.

Many crafts­men and their de­scen­dants set­tled down and grad­u­ally formed the unique crafts en­clave of Karma town, which is lo­cated 130 kilo­me­ters away from the county town of Qamdo. Among the town’s fewer than 1,200 adults, there are 140 silversmiths, 72 Thangka painters, 98 stone carvers and 18 car­pen­ters, who are scat­tered in nine vil­lages.

The craft prod­ucts made in Karma have been widely rec­og­nized through­out his­tory in all Ti­betan habi­tats. In 2002, Karma was named as a Town for Eth­nic and Folk Art by the govern­ment of the Ti­bet au­tonomous re­gion.

In re­cent years, the lo­cal govern­ment has taken a se­ries of mea­sures and worked with ex­pe­ri­enced crafts­men to pro­tect and pro­mote the folk arts in Karma.

For ex­am­ple, Py­ingt­suo Thon­drup, 51, who is rec­og­nized as a Karma Karchi-style Thangka art in­her­i­tor by the Ti­bet au­tonomous re­gion, has been in­vited to teach Thangka mak­ing in Qamdo’s oc­cu­pa­tional school since 2011. He has taught more than 200 stu­dents there. Some stu­dents who be­come re­ally in­ter­ested in Thangka can con­tinue to study with him at his work­shop.

Gesong Tser­ing, 28, is one of them. He has stud­ied with Py­ingt­suo since 2010.

“Once I stud­ied Thangka with him, I know it’s some­thing I’d love all my life,” said Gesong. “I wish I can also have my own work­shop and ap­pren­tices in the fu­ture.”

In the past three years, Py­ingt­suo has taken more than 20 ap­pren­tices like Gesong into his work­shop. Some of them are from neigh­bor­ing Qing­hai and Sichuan prov­inces.

It takes at least five years be­fore they are qual­i­fied to work on their own. “It all de­pends on their ap­ti­tude and how hard they learn,” ex­plained Py­ingt­suo.

To bet­ter pre­serve the craft, the Karma Karchi-style Thangka was listed as a na­tional cul­tural her­itage.

Mean­while, the lo­cal govern­ment has helped some tra­di­tional crafts ad­just to mar­ket de­mands and ab­sorb mod­ern tech­nolo­gies for higher pro­duc­tiv­ity.

For ex­am­ple, mod­ern quench­ing and cal­ci­na­tions meth­ods, as well as pol­ish­ing and weld­ing ma­chines, are in­tro­duced to the bronze statue forg­ing work­shops in Litu vil­lage.

Most of the vil­lage’s 16 house­holds are in the busi­ness of mak­ing bronze Bud­dha stat­ues or cloth­ing ac­ces­sories. The bronze-statue mak­ing in Karma has a long his­tory and is listed as an au­tonomous re­gion-level cul­tural her­itage.

The stat­ues are now sold not only within Qamdo, but also Nagqu pre­fec­ture in Ti­bet and neigh­bor­ing Qing­hai province.

Forg­ing Bud­dha stat­ues has been a fam­ily busi­ness of Thon­drup Norbu for many gen­er­a­tions. Thon­drup be­gan learn­ing the craft at 11 and now the 52-year-old has been rec­og­nized as an in­her­i­tor of the craft on the au­tonomous re­gion level.

“The new tech­nolo­gies have made our work eas­ier,” said Thon­drup. How­ever, he said that the ma­chines will never take place of all hu­man hand­work as it takes long prac­tice and deep un­der­stand­ing of the crafts­men to com­plete a large and del­i­cate statue.

Thon­drup and his three sons, all work­ing at their statue-forg­ing work­shop, bring in about 400,000 yuan a year.

Mean­while, the lo­cal govern­ment has or­ga­nized some co­op­er­a­tive work­shops to re­place sep­a­rate house­hold work­shops. The mea­sure has im­proved the ef­fi­ciency and in­creased the work­ers’ in­comes.

In re­cent years, the county has sought to bring ex­tra eco­nomic ben­e­fits to the lo­cals by in­te­grat­ing the tra­di­tional eth­nic crafts with tourism.

Ac­cord­ing to its plan, the folk-art work­shops and prod­ucts will be­come a core part of the area’s tourist attractions in the fu­ture, ac­cord­ing to Zhang Qing, chief of the cul­tural de­part­ment of Qamdo. Con­tact the writ­ers at li­ux­i­an­grui@chi­nadaily.com. cn and huy­ongqi@chi­nadaily. com.cn

LIU XIANGRUI / CHINA DAILY

Bronze statue work­shop in Litu vil­lage of Karma town in Qamdo pre­fec­ture, Ti­bet au­tonomous re­gion.

LIU XIANGRUI / CHINA DAILY

Karma Delek’s grand­daugh­ter Dets­ing Yo­dron, 18, has be­come a Thankga painter.

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