Dawa Drolma (Bay Path University), " The Renaissance of Traditional Dzongsar Craft-making in the Meshö Valley: An Insider’s Perspective on New Economic Processes and Identity Transformations in Sino-Tibetan Borderlands "
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As a member of a deeply-rooted traditional craft-making family in the Meshö (Sman Shod) Valley of Kham region, I will present the results of my ongoing fieldwork and academic study on the renaissance of Buddhist craft-making that is beginning to flourish in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands. Meshö is a remote valley in Dergé County (Kandze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), Sichuan Province, where the majority of its 5,343 residents are agro-pastoralists. The area is famous for the monastery of Dzongsar, one of the largest monastic universities in Kham during the first half of the twentieth century. In the 1980s, when the renovation of the monastery was permitted, the lack of specialists in traditional handicrafts pushed the monastic authorities to establish workshops headed by the few remaining elderly craftsmen who retained traditional craft-making knowledge and skills. In the early twenty-first century, these workshops have become real schools of traditional crafts through local and foreign funding, and are now managed by a local NGO: Yuthok Yondengonpo Medical Association (YYMA). There are now more than 27 workshops, in which 13 different traditional crafts (lost-wax-casting, pottery, thangka painting, wood carving, etc.) are taught to around 450 apprentices. My paper will focus upon how new trade opportunities are transforming economic, familial, and community networks that surround these craft workshops. I will particularly deal with the demographic profile of teachers and apprentices, the challenges faced by local crafts workshops regarding modernization, and the raise of art and crafts entrepreneurs in Kham. I will also consider the reaction of local authorities to the rapid growth of the crafts industry.
International conference “Territories, Communities, and Exchanges in the Sino-Tibetan Kham Borderlands,” Februray 18-20, 2016. This conference is an outcome of a collaborative ERC-funded research project (Starting grant no. 283870).
For more information, please visit the project's Website: http://kham.cnrs.fr
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