Keep­ing Ti­bet’s no­madic life­styles alive

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET - By PALDEN NYIMA in Amdo, Ti­bet palden_ny­ima@chi­

Un­like many nomads in the re­mote grass­lands of the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion who em­brace mod­ern tech­nol­ogy in their daily lives, Nyan­dan is a lover of an­tiques.

For more than a decade, the na­tive of Amdo county has col­lected a va­ri­ety of no­madic an­tiques in the north­ern Changth­ang grass­land, from sad­dles and har­nesses to jew­elry and Ti­betan car­pet, prod­ucts made of wo­ven yak hair and sil­ver knives.

“I feel like some­thing is amiss if I don’t take at least one look at my col­lec­tion each morn­ing,” he said.

Thanks to the re­gion’s rapid pace of so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment, as well as new ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, an in­creas­ing num­ber of tra­di­tional Ti­betan goods are be­ing re­placed.

These same pres­sures mean once wide­spread lo­cal cus­toms and oral tra­di­tions are also in de­cline.

In the 1990s, Nyan­dan was a Ti­betan an­tiques mer­chant, col­lect­ing prod­ucts from the grass­land to sell in Lhasa, the re­gion’s cap­i­tal.

But since the 2000s, he has stopped sell­ing the items he finds — opt­ing to col­lect and pre­serve them in­stead.

“As a na­tive no­mad, I have loved no­madic cul­ture since I was a young boy. I al­ways loved stones and old no­madic ob­jects,” the 46-year-old said.

In 2009, he was in­vited to work in Amdo county’s cul­ture bureau as tra­di­tional cul­ture preser­va­tion as­sis­tant, be­cause he could speak Man­darin and loved tra­di­tional no­madic cul­ture.

“I knew the im­por­tance of the cul­ture, so I could act as an in­ter­me­di­ary be­tween the nomads and the govern­ment,” he said.

“Our an­ces­tors cre­ated a mag­nif­i­cent cul­ture through their daily life and work, and many of these prod­ucts have be­come im­por­tant cul­tural prod­ucts to­day.”

As ev­ery­day ob­jects fall out of use, knowl­edge of the tech­niques used to pro­duce them also fades away, in­creas­ing their value and im­por­tance, said Nyan­dan.

His dream is to build an exhibition hall for Ti­betan no­madic folk cul­ture, so that he can put his col­lec­tion on dis­play.

“If pos­si­ble, I would have it in Lhasa as the city is an at­trac­tion for many dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple and the cen­ter of Ti­betan cul­ture,” he said.

The tra­di­tional no­madic way of life in Ti­bet has un­der­gone many changes in re­cent years.

Horses, once the main form of trans­porta­tion on the grass­land be­side yaks, have largely been re­placed by mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles and are mostly kept to­day only for the re­gion’s an­nual horse race fes­ti­vals.

Mean­while, the nomads’ diet, which was pre­vi­ously dom­i­nated by roasted bar­ley flour and meat, has been en­riched with all the dif­fer­ent kinds of veg­eta­bles avail­able at mar­ket.

“The fast pace of life nowa­days is an ob­sta­cle to the con­tin­u­a­tion and preser­va­tion of these an­cient no­madic cul­tural relics,” said Nyan­dan, adding that el­e­ments of folk cul­ture such as folk tales, sto­ries and rid­dles are dis­ap­pear­ing as well.

“As a no­madic man my­self, I con­sider it a great pity that our folk cul­ture is van­ish­ing,” he said.


Nyan­dan in­tro­duces his col­lec­tion in the hall of the cul­ture bureau of Amdo county.

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