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The 8 Most Popular Handicrafts in Tibet

Time: 02-08-2019 This Article is Composed by BudgetTibetTour

Tibetan handicrafts have been an indispensable part of Tibetan people’s lives since ancient times. Handicrafts such as those worn on body, head and around waist, labor tools, furnishings and decorations at home are all closely related to crafting. The love for beauty is in the instinct of Tibetan people. In their eyes, beauty is not only the spiritual pursuit but also a physical symbol. It is not difficult to find an exquisite item anywhere in Tibet but it is probably harder to find an item without decorations.

Souvenirs in Tibet
Souvenirs in Tibet

With the increasing number of tourists in Tibet, these handicrafts with ethnic characteristics become more and more popular. Do you want to know more about Tibetan arts and handicrafts? Today, I am going to introduce Tibetan handicrafts such as accessories, ornaments, Tibetan knife, Thangka, Tibetan carpet and mask in this article.

Must-Buy Tibetan Handicrafts

Tibetan handicrafts are mainly categorized into ornaments and other handicrafts of daily use. Ornaments are primarily made of gems, organic materials or natural materials; while other handicrafts of daily use are fairly optional with rich themes.

Accessory

1. Jewelry

Tibetan accessory arts have a long history with rich themes, unique modelling and distinct ethnic and geographical and cultural characteristics. Tibetan accessory renders magnificence as beauty, pays great attention to stateliness and solidity, and stresses the exquisite carving. The materials for the ornaments are mainly natural gems, animal skeletons, Tibetan silver and copper. They almost reserve the natural and unaffected beauty which represents the aesthetic taste of Tibetan people and carries rich Tibetan Buddhism characteristics.

Tibetan Handicrafts - Jewelry
Tibetan Handicrafts - Jewelry

Tibetan people like decorating themselves from head to foot. They have hair clasps, hair pins, Guhuan, Yupan on their heads, all kinds of protective ornaments such as necklace, Tuojia (ancient metallic organism) in front of the chests, patterned belts, metal belts, Huolian, pockets, Naigou, Tibetan knife and little rings around the waists, various kinds of rings and bracelets on the hands, Five-colour Pulu belts and other gold, silver and jewelry on the back. These ornaments are rich in materials and exquisite in crafting. Most of them are made of gems, organic materials and natural materials.

2. Belt

Belt is an extraordinary art in Tibetan ornaments with diverse patterns, uniqueness and novelty. Tibetan people endow the belts with various meanings when designing and crafting their patterns. For example, the pattern of lotus symbolizes unaffected and noble-minded men having attained enlightenment, the patterns of Loong and Phoenix, peony, and twisted branches symbolize auspiciousness and wealth, the patterns of rhombus and triangle symbolize freedom, the pattern of fish scale symbolizes a string of ancient copper coins; those triangle and broken line patterns symbolize the sacred and mighty mountain in Tibetan people’s heart, the cross pattern and Swastika pattern symbolize the radiance of the sun, and the five-colour stripe symbolizes the rainbow-like bright mood. All patterns constitute the most meaningful ornaments on Tibetan women’s belts.

Tibetan Handicrafts - Belt
Tibetan Handicrafts - Belt

Handicrafts

Tibetan handicrafts, diverse in kinds, unique in style, demonstrate local ethnic characteristics and ethnic culture. They are also important choices for tourists in Tibet as presents taking back home. Several most popular handicrafts in Tibet will be introduced here.

1. Thangka

Thangka is the Tibetan scroll painting, depicting various themes with a focus on the figure of Buddha. It also contains biography painting, historical painting, genre paintings reflecting life and customs and scientific paintings reflecting traditional Chinese mathematics and astronomy, Tibetan medical care and medicine, and anatomy. Thangka is bright in colour, exquisite in crafting, integrated in composition and delicate in depicting of human figures.

The selecting of materials and crafting of Thangka is quite exquisite and complicated. The materials used in crafting are usually natural mineralized plants, grinded pure gold, silver and precious jewelry. Before crafting, the craftsman would select a fortunate hour and a lucky day, have a bath, burn incense, chant sutras while preparing the materials. The time spent on crafting Thangka varies from a dozen of days to several years according to the content of painting.

Tibetan Handicrafts – Thangka
Tibetan Handicrafts – Thangka

Thangka is normally quite rare and precious, not only due to the exquisite craftsmanship and precious materials, but also because it is the treasure of Tibetan Buddhism. The spirits of the founders of all schools of Buddhism are placed in the Thangka. At this point, Thangka is not an item any more, but a kind of spirit or a life.

2. Tibetan Knife

Tibetan knife is not only an indispensable tool in Tibetan people’s work and life, but enjoys a high reputation domestically and internationally because of its shape, craftsmanship with unique ethnic characteristics. People and the knife are even put together in the depiction of Tibetan ethnic characteristics. Tibetan knife is mainly made of silver, cooper, iron, ox horn, agate and hard timber. It is usually used in production, daily life, for self-protection and as an ornament. It is often a present for relatives and friends due to its exquisite crafting, delicate carving, bright color and Tibetan scripts on it.

Tibetan Handicrafts – Tibetan Knife
Tibetan Handicrafts – Tibetan Knife

Reminder: knives could not be taken on board aircraft or train. If you have bought a Tibetan knife, it should be posted or consigned.

3. Ox horn Comb

Ox horn comb literarily is the comb made of ox horn. It is a common art craft in Tibet. Apart from that, ox horn comb is also the crystallization of Tibetan wisdom. The dry air in Tibet makes hair to produce static electricity very easily, and using the ox horn comb could prevent the static electricity. In addition, in traditional Chinese medicine, ox horn is a medical material. The frequent use of it could cool the blood, relieve internal heat or fever, and dredge the main and collateral channels.  

Tibetan Handicrafts - Ox horn Comb
Tibetan Handicrafts - Ox horn Comb

Reminder: ox horn comb is fragile and should be protected from being dropped or pressed. After using the ox horn comb on wet hair, you should put it in a dry and airy place.

4. Mask

Mask is called “Ba” in Tibetan language. It is mainly used in all kinds of folk performing activities. It is directly related to people’s daily life, work and entertainment all over Tibet. Especially in Tibetan festivals such as Tibetan New Year, Sho Dun Festival and Ongkor Festival, tourists could see the masks. Tibetan mask, an art craft derived from religious arts, is categorized into religious mask, Tibetan drama mask and folk singing and dancing mask. The functions of the mask differ from place to place. It takes on a feature of diversity, strong contrast and different forms.


Tibetan Handicrafts - Mask
Tibetan Handicrafts - Mask

5. Tibetan Carpet

Tibetan carpet is a kind of hand-woven carpet exclusively in Tibet. Due to its unique weaving craft and patterns with rich ethnic characteristics, it is credited as the world top three carpets together with Persian carpet and oriental carpet. The most famous carpet in Tibet is made in Gyantse. Carpets made in Gyantse are mainly small ones which are the cushions used on our chairs and are named “Kadian”. They are not only famous all over the country, but also exported to India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Tibetan Handicrafts – Tibetan Carpet
Tibetan Handicrafts – Tibetan Carpet

The wool from Tibetan plateau, hard with long fiber, strong elasticity and good luster, is the superior material for making carpet. Tibetan carpet falls into three categories due to different materials: the one made of yak hair and wool is light and soft in texture, bright and complex in pattern; the one made of sheep wool is simple and quiet in style (there are also carpets made of colourful threads which are thin in texture but with diverse patterns); the Kadian made by canvas or cattle leather filled with river deer fur, highland barley rods or hay is hard in texture. Its eco-friendly advantage, bright colour and sound insulation effect makes it popular among tourists.

6. Wooden Bowl

Tibetan people have special feelings for wooden bowl. Tibetan ethnic group is nomadic people and they do not settle down permanently, therefore, it is not suitable for them to use the fragile porcelain bowl and the precious metal bowl. However, wooden bowl is light, solid and durable. When filled with food, it would not change the flavor of the food; when filled with water, it would not crack; when falling on the ground, it would not be broken. It is neither too hot nor too cold for the hands. Therefore, it is popular among nomads. With the social and economic development in Tibet, wooden bowl gradually becomes an ornament. Ancient officials often carried the wooden bowl with them around the waist as both an ornament and a representation of their status and official rank.

Tibetan Handicrafts - Wooden Bowl
Tibetan Handicrafts - Wooden Bowl

The raw material for making the wooden bowl is usually walnut tree with fine and solid texture and beautiful patterns. Some of the bowls are made of trunks and branch knots of Tung tree, mulberry and birch. The crafting of wooden bowl is complicated and exquisite, including five steps: selecting materials, air drying, making adobe, grinding and colouring. Some would also carve and paint patterns on it.

More Shopping in Tibet
Top 10 Tibet Souvenirs to Buy

Top 10 Tibet Souvenirs to Buy

Tibet not only presents tourists gorgeous landscape, but also provides tourists with very special local products. Read our article to know the top 10 Tibet souvenirs to buy and some shopping tips in Tibet.
Travelers' Questions Might Help

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user portrait Mr. Mo*** from: Travelers' Questions Might Help

I'm interested in the 14 day trip from Lhasa to Nepal trip. In in January or February would be great. how much would that be? is there space?

best regards Mo***

Answered by Nancy

Dear Mo***,

Greetings from Nancy at Budget Tibet Tour, thanks for visiting our website and sending your inquiry. Sorry we do not have any group tour in Jan or Feb to Kailash as there will be heavy snow and the road will be blocked, and also the area would be closed, and no one do the business there, no hotel, no restaurants there. So from Nov to March we would not send any groups there.
If you would like to do this tour, you must plan it from April to Oct. and at present we have the group tour in next 6th May and 29th May, and we will have more available date in future. if you are interested in joining in this, please kindly let me know. Best regards.

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