Rich tapestry of tenacity

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Publish Time: 2019-08-22 Author: Da Qiong/Palden Nyima From: China Daily

Indian Kumar Saroj (left) trains locals in rug-making at Wei Yaping's and Tsetan Sharpa's company in Lhasa. [Photo by Da Qiong/China Daily]

The story of Wei Yaping and her husband, Tsetan Sharpa, who run a thriving Tibetan-rug business, is also about overcoming cultural differences and succeeding, Daqiong and Palden Nyima report in Lhasa.

It was butter tea-not her fluent Tibetan or clothing-that changed Wei Yaping's life. Her parents are ethnic Han and come from Jiangsu province. They came to work in the Tibet autonomous region in the early 1960s. Wei was born there.

Wei's husband, Tsetan Sharpa, was originally from Yaleb township in the region's Nyalam county. He was raised and educated in Nepal, and was in the wool-rug business when they met.

Tibetan people are fond of drinking butter tea, a mix of leaves produced around the country and the yak butter produced on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

While Wei was working for a hotel in Tibet's Zhangmu land port on the border with Nepal, her future husband, Tsetan, visited often for a taste.

"The butter tea she offered was delicious. It was hard to believe she was Han. To me, she seemed like a Tibetan because of her personality and her way of speaking," Tsetan says.

[Photo by Da Qiong/China Daily]

It wasn't love at first sip, however. Wei had her doubts.

"When we met, I felt he was a man who would be hard to get along with. But as time went by, he was cheerful and kind to me," she says.

The tea led to love-and eventually marriage. And then more tea. And rugs.

Wei and Tsetan were married in the early 2000s and lived in Nepal for a time. There, they continued the rug-making business.

Facing an economic depression in Nepal early on, however, they started thinking about returning to China, where businesses were thriving thanks to the country's reform and opening-up.

At first, Tsetan didn't think the move was a good idea. Nepal was his second home. But an economic conference in Jiangsu's capital, Nanjing, in 2004 changed his mind. And that led them to Lhasa.

With little business experience in China, and with a limited staff, the couple encountered many difficulties.

In Nepal, Tsetan handled most of the business duties, but in Lhasa, Wei took on a much greater role.

"He had difficulty communicating in Mandarin," she says, adding that he had few friends and was always thinking about returning to Nepal.

Tsetan speaks Tibetan, Nepali and English fluently, but he didn't know Mandarin. So, Wei handled most of the paperwork and coordinated business.

"I felt a little embarrassed at first," Tsetan says. "In Nepal, it's not right for a man to stay at home with a woman doing all the work."

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