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A family of four generations devoted to Tibetan paper making

Publish Time: 2018-08-07 Author: From: China Tibet Online

On a road that runs through Nyemo County, drive more than 10 minutes forward to the west and you will reach Shora Village in Tarrong Township, surrounded by greenery and a bubbling stream. A lush field of plant to the side is particularly dazzling, and it is here that an elderly man is working meticulously in the field with an iron pickaxe.

Nyemo County is located about 150 kilometers away from Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet and is famous for Tibetan paper making.

68-year-old Tsering Dorje is an inheritor of Shora Tibetan paper, a national-level intangible cultural heritage.

"I remember that this way of papermaking has been passed down for three generations at least, and now I pass it along to my sons, who are the fourth generation," Tsering Dorje said, who has been making Tibetan paper for more than 50 years.

Tibetan paper, which is more than 1,300 years old, is said to have originated from papermaking technology brought to Tibet by Princess Wencheng when she came to Tibet. Because the raw material is made of a kind of poisonous local plant, it is not susceptible to insects and does not rot easily.

Making Tibetan paper cannot be mechanized on a large scale, so each piece of paper is handmade.

The fundamental element that determines the quality of the paper is the root of the plant, but the plant is very irritating to human eyes and skin.

Those who come into contact with it for a long period of time will have an allergic reaction of pimples on their face and have symptoms of skin molting.

Although protective measures have been taken during the production process, there are still risks.

In order to save the tradition of making Tibetan paper, Tsering Dorje has been persistent.

In the past, the plant used in Tibetan paper grew wild on mountains, but now, Tsering Dorje is trying to plant it artificially. He believes that the future of Tibetan paper lies in these fields.

"This tradition has been passed down by our ancestors; come home and do it, too!" Tsering Dorje encouraged his two sons to return home in order to inherit the papermaking skills.

At first, his sons spent their time absentmindedly in the workshop.

Seeing his sons' behaviors, Tsering Dorje took out the national-level intangible cultural heritage inheritor certificate and put it before them: "Is this just for our family? No, it's something the country needs us to do."

Holding the heavy certificate, the brothers realized their mistakes and began to follow their father seriously, learning the skills anew.

With help from the local government, Tsering Dorje's papermaking workshop moved from Shora Village to the industrial park in the county town.

The newly-built paper mill can produce more than 4,800 sheets of paper per year. The cost of one piece of paper is 70 yuan (10.2 US dollars), and apart from production costs, they earn a yearly income of less than 100,000 yuan (14,624.2 US dollars).

Even so, Tsering Dorje is eager to visit a number of schools, teaching children the techniques of Tibetan papermaking, and he has also started his own intangible cultural heritage base and Tibetan paper sales sites.

Today, the father and sons are the only inheritors of Shora Tibetan papermaking, and Tsering Dorje regards the Tibetan paper handicraft as his family's heirloom. His only conviction is making Tibetan paper better and passing it down.

"Tibetan paper has been left to us by our ancestors. It is both a craft and a culture. We must not only maintain it, but also pass it down," he said.

Editor: Tommy Tan.

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