TIBETAN PAPER MAKING ENJOYS A REVIVAL
in the village’s papermaking workshop — two are Tsering Tobgyal’s sons and the rest are their staff and apprentices.
The production of Tibetan paper mainly uses one material — the root of a local poisonous plant known as rejak.
The plant is collected from the mountain and its roots smashed to remove the inner core.
After this, the root is peeled and boiled for three hours to remove the impurities, before being ground on flat rock for 30 minutes.
The pulp that results is churned in a big basin, passed through a filter and dried.
Tsering Tobgyal said in the past, the paper was used to
Kalzang Tenzin said he wanted to pass on the craft to his own sons, and he hopes to expand the workshop in future by enrolling more students.
Apart from tourism, orders also come in from some Tibetan monasteries, which have become the workshop’s main source of income.
Two years ago, Tibet’s Tashilhunpo Monastery signed a contract calling for 600 pages of blue-colored scripture paper per month, which is produced using different procedures and materials to ordinary Tibetan paper.
Kalzang Tenzin said the blue color is made using a mineral pigment, which comes from a kind of local plant mixed with sheep’s brain.
Xiao Yin, a Chinese poet, said he had visited the workshop in 2013.
“My friends told me it was the best Tibetan paper, and I was impressed by the producing procedures,” said the 47-year-old.
“It is different from other kinds of paper production in other parts of the country, putting the stress on the selection of raw materials and the skills used in production.”
Xiao said at first he had wanted to write his poems on the Tibetan paper, but an artist friend suggested to paint Chinese watercolors on it instead.
“It has stronger waterabsorbing abilities, and it is enriched with decorative effectiveness,” said Meng Fanhua, an artist known for painting wild yaks in Tibet. He has been using the paper to write calligraphy for many years.
Collecting the raw material for Tibetan paper is risky work, as the plants grow high up on mountains and cliffs.
To lessen their impact on the environment, Tsering Tobgyal’s family has been trying to cultivate the plant in a field for two years.
“Since ancient times, Tibetans have believed excessive collection of the plant would bring bad weather such as hailstones,” Tsering Tobgyal said.
“I am not sure if this project will be successful, I hope researchers and scientists will support us one day with a scientific way of cultivation.”
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Tsering Tobgyal and his two sons display a special Tibetan scripture paper, which was ordered by Tashilhunpo Monastery at their workshop in Nyemo county, Tibet autonomous region.