Thursday, December 25, 2008

travel to Tibet: Tibetan Handicrafts

The traditional handcrafts representative of the Tibetan culture are favorite souvenirs for visitors. Many of them involve complicate craftworks and producing process, reflecting the intelligence of Tibetan people. The patterns and colors of Tibetan handicrafts are very different from those in central China, due to their respective living condition and cultural background.

Tourists can find these handcrafts in a lot of place. The Bakhor Street in Lhasa is the most famous small commodity center. And many handcrafts from Shigatse is most well-known, which is also an excellent place to both see and purchase these intriguing handcrafts.

Tibetan knives

Tibetan Knives are traditional and well-known handicrafts with a peculiar style. A Tibet knife, to a certain degree is a symbol of Tibet and would make a wonderful keepsake of your trip.

They are indispensable in a Tibetan's life. Tibetans use them as the tools to defend, to slaughter livestock and to eat meat. Tibetans have a sense of security with knives because Tibetan look might and valiant with knives.

Tibetan knife is of great importance not only for its practical use in daily life but also for its artistic value. There are two categories: one for man and another for woman. Men’s knives tend to be more curly and sharper while women’s are delicate. The most well-known Tibetan knives are Lhatse knife and XieTongMen knife in Shigates Region, whose delicate decorations are unique from those in other regions. Shigates knives are usually made of fine steel, with other materials like bronze, silver, iron, sharkskin, ox horn, agate and wood for decoration. Moreover, some of them are studded with gems. Thus, they are more expensive than the normal knives.

Tips: You cannot bring Tibetan knives with you when you take a plane. But you may post them by post office.

Tibetan Carpets / Rug

In Tibetan house, you can find some attractive Tibetan cushions, making the house more glorious. In general, there are some beautiful embroiders on the cushions, such as swimming dragons, running deer, flying phoenixes, flying butterflies, mountains and waters. Besides those mentioned above, the embroiders of some cushions may also include historic stories, tales, etc. The cushion is made from pure sheep wool. The pigment is a local product which can make cushions colorful. They are hand-knitted. The patterns of Tibetan cushions are special and various. Cushions from Shigatse are the most well known for their design and color.

Apart from Tibetan cushion, there are Tibetan carpets, which include backing carpets, saddle carpets, sleeping carpets and normal carpets. All of them are produced with similar procedures. The size varies, from less than one square meter or more than ten square meters. Tibetan carpets have a long history and have been famous all over the world.

Tibetan cushion/carpets are the combination of practicality and charm.


About Tibetan sculpture, there is one more special kind handicraft-masks, which is called Ba in Tibetan and mainly used in the various folk performances. Generally speaking, they are divided into “a dance to worship deity mask”, “hanging mask” and “Tibetan opera mask”. The first kind masks are mainly used in some important festivals, including the masks of ghosts, Gods, immortals and animal totems while the second ones are usually related to people daily life.

According to the historic record, the history of masks may date back to A.D. 779 when Tibet was under the rule of a great king, Songtsen Gampo. At that time, people wore various masks in the important festivals and pretended to be lions, tigers, oxes and leopards to dance. Tibetan masks usually have a inclination of expression and symbolization which is extensive and exaggerated. The styles of Tibetan masks are diverse from region to region. The masks in the mid-Tibet are serious while those in the east of Tibet are monstrous.

Thangka( A scroll painting in Tibet)

Thangka is a type of scroll painting done on damask or cloth and it is also an excellent representation of Tibetan art. Featuring Buddhists, folktales and fables, Thangka is full of religious symbolism. Thangka are typically used as decorations, however they are collector's items as well. The species of thangka are various. Its size may be over ten square meters or only smaller than one square meter. In general, its size is between one and two square meters. Thangka has various categories. It may be divided into three categories: embroidery, painting and printing.

Silver ornaments

Tibetan bracelets, rings, earrings and necklaces are very exquisite, usually made fromTibetan silver and bronze, with sanskrits carved on the surfaces, having a sense of mystique. Tibetans wear crescent-shaped silver ornaments, which symbolize purity studded with agate gems symbolizing health and good luck. Red or blue Tibetan ornaments imply that the owner has a strong will to survive in the nature. It needs to be pointed out that there is a grain on the back side of genuine Tibetan ornaments. Also, the grain is not carved or printed, but is melted on it with brass wires through them.

In the past, the ornaments were made from alloy, containing 30% of Tibetan silver. But nowadays, Tibetan silver found in the market is mainly alloy. Some people refer to the archaized alloy as Tai Silver (a special name for 925 pure silver).

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