Young en­thu­si­asts keep Ti­betan crafts alive

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE - By LIU XIANGRUI in Qu­malai, Qing­hai li­ux­i­an­grui@chi­nadaily.com.cn

For So­nang Tashi, it’s very ex­cit­ing to be able to pass on an old craft that he has learned since he was a lit­tle boy. And at the same time, he is help­ing young peo­ple find a liveli­hood.

So­nang Tashi, a 54-year-old res­i­dent of Qu­malai county in North­west China’s Qing­hai prov­ince, says his fam­ily has been de­voted to mak­ing tra­di­tional Ti­betan or­na­ments for gen­er­a­tions.

While the craft was only passed on strictly within the fam­ily, So­nang Tashi has adapted his idea with time, es­pe­cially when­many­old crafts are threat­ened by­mod­ern­tech­nol­ogy.

“In­stead of let­ting it dis­ap­pear, I amwill­ing to teach who­ever is will­ing to learn, and pro­mote the tra­di­tional craft as I can,” says So­nang Tashi.

So­nang Tashi is glad that his goal echoes with that of the local gov­ern­ment.

The county gov­ern­ment helped him turn his fam­ily work­shop into a firm called Qu­malai Ti­betan Craft Prod­ucts Com­pany in 2013.

The gov­ern­ment agreed to fund the com­pany’s hir­ing of 10 ex­pe­ri­enced crafts­men who spe­cial­ize in 16 kinds of work, from mak­ing tra­di­tional or­na­ments to cos­tumes. In re­turn, the com­pany pro­vides free train­ing to the local youth who are will­ing to learn the skills.

Ny­i­maTashi, Qu­malai’s county mayor, says the free train­ing pro­gram is part of the county’s ef­fort to al­le­vi­ate poverty.

“In­stead of sim­ply pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial sub­si­dies, we want to help them learn skills that can sus­tain them for a life­time,” saysNy­ima Tashi.

Since the pro­gram be­gan, more than 60 stu­dents have re­ceived train­ing here so far. Most are local peo­ple younger than 35and­frompoor fam­i­lies.

Mean­while, a big­ger gov­ern­ment-funded skills-train­ing cen­ter is be­ing con­structed in the county, which can take in more­trainees at the­same­time.

The gov­ern­ment plans to train about 400 crafts­men ev­ery year in the fu­ture. The ap­pren­tices can ex­pect to earn about 6,000 yuan ($900) per mon­thafter two years’ train­ing. The gov­ern­ment will help pro­mote their prod­ucts and pro­vide them as­sis­tance in find­ing jobs or open­ing new work­shops, the coun­ty­mayor says.

“I de­cided to study the craft be­cause I found the work very in­ter­est­ing after watch­ing other crafts­men,” says Tser­ing Tsong­poi, 17, who has fo­cused on learn­ing the dec­o­ra­tions on Ti­betan-style knives for more than one year at the work­shop.

As an ap­pren­tice, he can now earn more than 2,000 yuan per month. His par­ents, who run a small re­tail shop in the county town, are very sup­port­ive of his de­ci­sion be­cause the train­ing is free, he says.

“I hope I can open a work­shop like my teacher has after I fin­ish the train­ing,” says Tser­ing Tsong­poi.

“Very few peo­ple wanted to learn th­ese crafts ear­lier. But there are more young peo­ple will­ing to study them now, be­cause the gov­ern­ment is very sup­port­ive and there is a huge mar­ket po­ten­tial,” says Ghama Tanzin, a 51-year-old crafts­man who earns about 20,000 yuan per month teach­ing at the work­shop.

“It’s a good thing that they can both in­herit the tra­di­tional craft and make a good says Ghama Tanzin.

Ac­cord­ing to com­pany man­ager So­nang Tashi, thanks to the crafts­men and new tech­niques they have in­tro­duced, the qual­ity and va­ri­ety of his com­pany’s prod­ucts have im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly. With the pro­mo­tion of the local gov­ern­ment, the prod­ucts have found big­ger mar­kets, and are even sold in some far­away Ti­betan re­gions now.

“With­out gov­ern­ment sup­port, it’s hard for crafts­men like me to ex­pand the mar­ket alone,” So­nang Tashi says. liv­ing,”

PHOTOS BY WANG ZHUANGFEI / CHINA DAILY

Young Ti­betans make tra­di­tional crafts at Qu­malai Ti­betan Craft Prod­ucts Com­pany in Qing­hai prov­ince. The county gov­ern­ment of Qu­malai helps the work­shop to hire ex­pe­ri­enced crafts­men to pro­duce and pass on skills of mak­ing or­na­ments.

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