Young enthusiasts keep Tibetan crafts alive

By Liu Xiangrui ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-10-11 08:51:12

Young enthusiasts keep Tibetan crafts alive

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.[Photo by Wang Zhuangfei/ China Daily]

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 when many old crafts are threatened by modern technology.

"Instead of letting it disappear, I am willing 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.

Nyima Tashi, 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," says Nyima Tashi.

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

Meanwhile, a bigger government-funded skills-training center is being constructed in the county, which can take in more trainees at the same time.

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 month after two years' training. The government will help promote their products and provide them assistance in finding jobs or opening new workshops, the county mayor 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.

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