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Inheritance of Zhanang Pulu: weaving a beautiful new life

By: Zhi Xinghua, China Tibet News
Updated: January 07, 2020

Shannan is the cradle of Tibetan ethnic group and the birthplace of Tibetan culture. Shannan's intangible cultural heritage resources are very rich. According to statistics, Shannan has 3 intangible cultural heritages at the national level, 4 at the autonomous region level, and 5 at the city and county level. Having a history of more than 1,000 years, these traditional techniques have been passed on from generation to generation, and are still an important means of livelihood and employment for the local people.

 

Inheriting ethnic culture

 

Located in the middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River, Zhanang County of Shannan City, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, is praised as "the hometown of Pulu". Pulu is Tibetan wool fabrics and Pulu weaving technology has a long history. Good hand-made Pulu has bright colors and rich patterns, and its shape, body, face, and edge are quite exquisite. Local people have a special liking to Pulu products.

 

"Zhanang" means "inside the factory" in Tibetan, that is, inside the weaving factory and manufacturing plant. Legend has it that in the history of Zhanang County, due to the large number of people, less land, and lack of resources, local people have been engaged in sideline businesses such as manual manufacturing, looking for a new way to survive. The traditional ethnic handicraft history has also sprouted along the Yarlung Zangbo River.

 

Having a long history and excellent quality, Zhanang Pulu was awarded "national geographical indication protection product" in May 2013. Nowadays, with the vigorous development of rural tourism, Pulu is necessary in Tibetan people's daily life. Its unique manual texture and ethnic customs make it become a fashion element in handbags and clothing.

 

Jiangguo Village is famous as the "Pulu village". "Every family in the village has Pulu machine. I grow up watching the elderly weaving at home, and I can weave good Pulu when I am less than 20 years old," says Rinchen, a villager of Jiangguo Village.

 

"Zhanang Pulu, after one thousand years of heritage, has become a unique ethnic culture and characteristic industry," says Lei Feng, party secretary of Zhanang County. In recent years, Zhanang County has established a relatively perfect system of Pulu production, and the Zhanang Pulu cultural industry has been well inherited and developed.

 

Developing Pulu cooperative

 

Zhanang County is a large county of Tibetan ethnic handicraft industry. Pulu, Tibetan incense, ceramics, copper and iron processing, and other handicrafts have become one of the county's characteristic industries and an important pillar of local economic development and mass prosperity.

 

In Shigong Village, the Pulu specialized cooperative is built relying on new technology. Gusang Norbu, head of the cooperative, says, “the cooperative has provided a way for more than 30 villagers to increase their income during their leisure time, adding thousands of yuan RMB per person per year. The cooperative also buys wool from the village in a targeted way so that people can increase their income and become rich without leaving their homes."

 

"The cooperative can produce nearly 20 varieties of Pulu. Now there are a lot of wholesalers coming here," says Gusang Norbu. Zhanang Pulu is not only sold well in Tibet, but also sold to Beijing, Shanghai, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan and other places. At the same time, it is exported to Japan, Vietnam, Nepal and other countries and regions.

 

Pulu weaving is the main occupation and source of income of local farmers and herdsmen in Zhanang County. Pulu is mainly used for making Tibetan clothing, boots, Tibetan door curtains, bags and all kinds of Tibetan adornments.

 

Using innovation technology

 

In recent years, taking advantage of modern technology, Zhanang County has improved the process of making hand-made Pulu, enhanced the quality and sales, and created new technology in the traditional craft left by ancestors.

 

"The style of the bag is both ethnic and fashionable. I will take one home with me." At the commodity fair of Zhanang PuluCulture Festival this year, bags with Pulu pattern are very popular.

 

This kind of bag is made by an ethnic characteristic product development company in Zhanang County. The main material of the bag is leather and its facade is decorated with Pulu pattern. Tsering Chodrak, general manager of the company, says that the leather comes from regions outside Tibet and the Pulu pattern is produced in Tibet by using innovation technology.

 

In the past, the making craft of Pulu is relatively backward. Some Pulu processing enterprises can only make hand-made pulu bags, and the output is not high and quality is not good. "In order to solve the problem of easy pilling of hand-made Pulu, we have designed the Pulu cutting machine." Tsering Chodrak says, "after more than three months of experiment, the traditional Pulu making technology is finally improved.”

 

After the improvement of Pulu making technology, according to market demand, local Pulu enterprises have made more than ten kinds of products such as handbags and shoulder bags by combining leather production. Tsering Chodrak says, "improved technology and innovation have led to a significant increase in sales. After improvement, the annual sales of Pululeather bags have been increased from 50,000 yuan RMB to 800,000 yuan RMB, absorbing more than 50 local people."

 

Liu Fang, director of Bureau of Commerce of Zhanang County, says, "the county is building the Pulu industry park, which cannot only preserve the traditional craft, but also provide a broader platform for Pulu technology innovation and make Zhanang County's Pulu industry get on the fast track.”