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What to buy in Tibet
Written on 23rd March 2017

Tibet is a wonderland not only full of natural beauties and cultures, but also a shopping paradise for visitors.  The famous local specialty including Thangka, Tibetan jewelry, Tibetan carpet, Tibetan knife, Tibetan mask, Tibetan medicine…… Here TravelChinaTibet.com will guide you in details of these famous local products.

 

Tibetan Knife

The Tibetan knife is essential for all Tibetan people, usually used for self-defense, hunting and food division.

The Tibetan knife is essential for all Tibetan people, usually used for self-defense, hunting and food division. Besides, the Tibetan knife is used for decoration. Men’s Tibetan knives are rugged and sharp, while women’s Tibetan knives are more delicate. The most famous Tibetan knives are lha-rtse Knife and Xietongmen Knife in Shigatse region, as well as Dragon Design Knife in Nyingchi region. Their exquisite silver ornamental sheaths are the key feature; their meticulous carving skills are hardly imitated by others; they are generally made of cupronickel and silver in ordinary decoration or decorated by various gemstones. The latter decorated ones are slightly more expensive.

The Tibetan knife has very strong practicability and very high artistic appreciation value. Nowadays, the Tibetan knife has become a very popular tourism commodity and presenting gift. The Tibetan knife’s knife-blade is elaborately forged with good steel by manual. The knife edge sharpened is sharp and the knife face shines brightly.

In specification and dimension, the Tibetan knives are divided into the long knife, dagger and pen knife. The long knife is over one meter at most; the dagger is about 40cm and the pen knife is only more than a dozen of centimeters long. In shape, there are very distinctive local features, such as pasturing area type, Kangba type, Tsang type. The Tibetan knife can also be used in many ways, such as the special knife for cutting down trees in forests, and the butchering knife used by butchers.

The Tibetan knife is usually made of ox horn, ox bone or wood. The upscale hilt is twined by silver wire and copper wire. The sheath is more exquisite, including simple wooden or leather sheath, ordinary brass or cupronickel sheath, and even silver or golden sheath, on which refined fowls, beasts, flowers, grass and other patterns are designed; sometimes, the sheath is inlaid with gemstones and color stones, resplendent and grand.

The Tibetan knife produced in lha-rtse has a long history, striking appearance and moderate quenching, with a sharp knife edge as well as an exquisite and expensive sheath. Furthermore, decorated with designs of dragon, phoenix, tiger, lion, beautiful flowers etc., the Tibetan knife is exceptional pleasing to the eye and makes you fondle admiringly.


Tibetan Knife

Tibetan Knife




Tibetan Carpet

For its exquisite workmanship and elegant beauty, Tibetan carpet is called the world’s three major carpets together with Persian carpet and the Oriental art carpet.

After 2,000 years of practice and development, the traditional production process of Tibetan carpet has formed a “knotting with a rod method” based weaving feature, which runs through the production process such as combing, spinning, dying, winding, hand-weaving, straight snipping, washing production etc. The Tibetan carpet, in bright harmonious colors, feels soft, fine and smooth, which has good color and fur fastness in washing and durable service. Furthermore, with decorative patterns full of national colors, the Tibetan carpet has very high appreciation value. For its exquisite workmanship and elegant beauty, Tibetan carpet is called the world’s three major carpets together with Persian carpet and the Oriental art carpet. Gyangz carpet is the most famous among Tibetan carpets. Moreover, carpets produced in Lhasa, Kunga, Nagarze, Nang County, Chaya County etc. have received good reputation from users.

According to different sizes, a carpet covers an area of more than 18 square feet and a cushion covers less than 18 square feet. Cushions are major Tibetan carpet products now, well-received among Tibetan people. Cushions are essential to a family, decorative and practical. As the demand volume increases, Tibetan carpet’s scale of production has been expanded. At present, there are carpet plants in Lhasa, Gyantse, Qamdo, Shigatse, Tsetang, Nagchu; even many counties and communes have set up carpet plants or processing groups. As the product volume increases and the process level is improved, a number of new designed colors and varieties have been created. There are traditional patterns like two dragons playing with a pearl, landscape ancient paintings, dragon and clouds, dragon and phoenix, flowers and phoenix etc., as well as landscape decorative designs woven in the form of traditional Chinese paintings, such as Mount Qomolangma, the Great Wall, Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, the Potala Palace, Gyangtse, anti-British Castle, new look of prairie.

Since carpets are best sellers at home and abroad as always, and Tibet Autonomous Region has natural advantages for developing carpet production, the Tibetan carpet has broad and promising prospects. The most distinctive Tibetan carpet is handmade carpet woven by ordinary people, which has delicate process and unique styles.


Tibetan Carpet

Tibetan carpet



Cordyceps Sinensis

Cordyceps sinensis, ginseng and cornu cervi pantotrichum are called “Three major supplements of traditional Chinese medicine”. Cordyceps sinensis is a very precious traditional Chinese medicine herb, mainly distributed in Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai, Gansu, Sinkiang etc. The best efficacy one is distributed in Nagchu region of Tibet Autonomous Region, where has high altitude and cold climate suitable for its growth. It is very peculiar, for it is the form of winter worm and summer grass. It is very miraculous, growing from a worm and a fungus. The winter worm has 3-5 centimeters long, more than 20 segments and 8 pairs of pleopods, belonging to hepialidae of lepidoptera. The summer grass is in the shape of a ball stick, 4-11 centimeters long and dark brown outside. Once you snap it off, you will find a white core inside. It is a fungus that parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body. The fungus germinates in the living larva, kills and mummifies it, and then the stalk-like fruiting body emerges from the corpse in summer valued as a herbal remedy.

Cordyceps sinensis has very obvious efficacy of tonifying kidney, anti-impotence and nourishing vitality. In recent years, the price of cordyceps sinensis is pushed very high, up to tens of thousands of Yuan per jin (=1/2 kilogram). It is harvested and collected in May and June every year. In northern Tibet Autonomous Region and Qamdo, at the end of spring and the beginning of summer, almost all people regardless of age and sex will dig up cordyceps sinensis. Horse and guide hiring are very expensive at this time, so you had better not hire a guide then.

On the street of Lhasa, there are many ethnic minority people dressed plainly, who will peddle some so-called cordyceps sinensis to you, deliberately mystifying. The cordyceps sinensis they offer is seemingly very large, the same as or even better than that of medical companies in size, shape and color. It has palpus, segment and white core inside but a reasonable price. Don’t be tricked! It is actually a fake version made of flour. It can be made into a dough drop soup. If you need cordyceps sinensis, you had better buy it in medical companies or from business men recommended by the local people.


Cordyceps Sinensis

Cordyceps Sinensis

 



Thangka

Thangka, in Tibetan language, means Tibetan scroll painting. According to records, in the 7th and 8th centuries, there was Thangka painting in Tibet Autonomous Region, originated from the Indian custom of hanging pictures, giving directions and preach one by one in storytelling. While looking from its current form, Thangka seems to be more influenced by art of painting in the territory of Han Dynasty.

For monks and nuns of Tibetan Buddhism, Thangka is an essential tool for practicing Buddhism. They can get merits and virtues through praying Thangka and associate connotations of Buddha statue through watching Thangka. Similarly, believers at home consecrate Thangka painted by a painter or dedicate Thangka painted by themselves to temples for hall decoration. The grandest ceremony is Sun Buddha at festivals and dharma assemblies. The monks solemnly show Thangka enshrined in temples to the public and Buddhist pilgrims, manifesting the truth of Pure Land and the mightiness of the Buddha Patriarch. At the grand ceremony, they speak, sing and dance joyously. The indoor Thangka enshrined at ordinary times is generally no longer than one meter, while the unfolded giant Thangka at the Sun Buddha ceremony can even bespread a hill.

With all-inclusive subject matters and contents, and characterized by religious, artistic, knowledgeable and interesting, Thangka is called “The Encyclopedia of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau”. Buddhism-based, Thangka also covers themes about history, folk custom, astronomy, calendar calculation, traditional Tibetan medicine, human anatomy map etc.

Thangka is made of wide materials, such as paper, cotton cloth, silk and satin. Sometimes, Thangka is painted on the leather. Leather Thangka comes up later and serves as the treasure of herdsmen devoutly believing in Tibetan Buddhism on Mongolia grassland. On the grassland of desert, animal skins are much easily available than paper, so herdsmen paint Thangka on sheepskin, deerskin and cowhide etc., especially on sheepskin. State Thangka is to express various images vividly and skillfully with brocading and embroidering process. Brocading is to directly weave rich images and patterns by jacquard weaving. Chinese silk tapestry is high-grade brocade woven by the craft of hiding warp silk and exposing weft silk in the finished product, which can present the character image in a more dignified and vivid way. Chinese silk tapestry appeared in the Song Dynasty and was more resplendent in the Yuan Dynasty for increasingly use of golden thread. Thangka also has genres of painting; Thangka takes on rich and colorful appearance under the interaction among genres of painting, religious denomination and geographical distribution. From Thangka’s underpainting, there is golden Thangka, vermeil Thangka and black Thangka, etc. Golden Thangka is brightly dazzling, full of religious sense.

Thangka is very demanding and complicated in the production process. Prior to painting, you should divine from Living Buddha, select a Lucky Day, take a bath, incense and pray, chant sutras while prepare materials. Then from canvas preparing, positioning, drafting, underpainting, coloring, outline drawing, silver and gold tracing, consecration to Buddhist power enchantment, painting of a simple Thangka costs more than ten days even scores of days. It takes several months even several years to paint a complicated Thangka. Additionally, pigment for Thangka painting traditionally uses precious minerals and gemstones like gold, silver, pearl, agate, coral, turquoise, malachite, cinnabar, as well as plants like saffron crocus, rheum officinale, natural indigo, etc. Thangka painted with these pigments can go through hundreds of years even thousands of years but still splendid and bright as a new one.


Thangka

Thangka



Tibetan Ornaments, Tibetan Jewelry

Tibetan ornaments seem naturally imbued with a mystical flavor. The main materials may include turquoise, yak bones, red and yellow corals, Tibetan silver and other natural elements. Features come together in a simple, unconstrained motif and the brilliant colors and bold, wild designs instill high fashion.

There are a variety of Tibetan ornaments, such as rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings and the crafting techniques include enchasing, inlaying and wire drawing. In a broader sense, Tibetan ornaments also include living and religious articles such as snuff bottles, whose hollowed-out designs demonstrate the craftsmen’s skills; prayer wheels, which can be found throughout Tibet and also in parts of Kathmandu such as Swoyambhunath and Boudhanath. These ornaments, previously of a fashion only seen adorning Tibetan women is now also popular amongst a bigger and more upper class clientele. The ornaments have gained particular favor among students and working women seeking to express their individuality in a unique way.


Tibetan Ornements & Jewelry

                                                                                        Tibetan Ornements & Jewelry



Tibetan Mask

The art of Tibetan masks forms an essential element of traditional Tibetan culture. The masks are famous for their unique style, diversity of shapes and characteristically simple, unsophisticated and primeval beauty. There are 3 types of Tibetan mask - religious mask, Tibetan opera mask, and folk dance mask, which are great research value. 


Tibetan Mask

Tibetan Mask