China has lost its traditional handmade art


Another day at the Kawajian carpet factory in Lhasa. Workers knot the wool into carpets and tap them with a small hammer as soon as a row of knots is ready. This is just one of the many operations.

Phubu Dondrup is a technician in the carpet factory. As a young boy he began to knot Tibetan carpets with his parents. Dondrup has dealt with the carpets of his homeland for 23 years. He says that wool quality plays a key role in making a high quality product:

"The main specialty of the Tibetan carpet is that we use wool from local mountain sheep for it. The wool here is better than wool from warmer regions. That is why we can deliver high quality."

The first-class raw wool is first hand-spun and dyed. It usually takes a whole month until the carpet is finished. Two craftsmen are working on a product. Because of the complicated work processes, there are fewer and fewer people who can make the traditional Tibetan carpet. Machines are mainly used in carpet production today. Nyima Tashi is the production manager in the craft business. He's been there for more than 20 years. A lot of work and little wages - Nyima Tashi has already thought of quitting, but then she got it right:

"There are too few artisans in Tibet who have mastered the traditional production methods. If I had turned my back on tradition, this traditional craftsmanship could not be passed on. It would be lost."

The Kawajian Carpet Factory was founded in 1986 by Kelsang Tashi. During its heyday, Kawajian had over 500 employees. The fine carpets were also exported to the USA and Japan. Today only 30 craftsmen are employed. According to factory director Dekyi Tsering, the production costs of the handmade carpets are very high, but they cannot be sold at high prices. That is why the incomes of the craftsmen always remain at a low level. Even so, Dekyi Tsering has not given up his business and has held back craftsmen who want to leave the factory:

"These are ancient products of our nationality. They should not and cannot be lost. That is the reason why I have dealt with them for over 20 years and do not want to give them up. This ancient art, which was handed down from our ancestors, must be maintained . "

People from other parts of the country also try to protect this valuable traditional craft. Wang Zeqiang from eastern Shandong Province, for example. He has quit his job at Qatar Airways and is committed to the marketing and distribution of Tibetan carpets:

"The ancient Tibetan culture is decaying. But it is so valuable and that is why its development must be encouraged. This is an urgent task. We should do everything we can to pass on the Tibetan culture."

Wu Zhi designs Tibetan carpets. She looks positively into the future:

"As the standard of living rises, so does the aesthetic awareness of the people. Many people are now placing greater emphasis on pure, hand-made products. Under these circumstances, the Tibetan carpet is also running counter to revival."

Translated byZhang Chen

Spoken byHu Hao