Tibetan township makes big business out of traditional rugs

By Yuan Quan, People’s Daily
Niandui township in Gyantse, a county in China’s Tibet Autonomous Region with over 900 years’ history of rug manufacturing, is now making a big business out of this traditional craft and bringing wealth to local people.
“Tibetan rugs produced in Gyantse were tributes to Chinese emperors in Qing Dynasty (1644-1911),” said Tenzin Trinley, founder of a Tibetan rug cooperative in Niandui.
A piece of rug of around one square meter usually takes 10 days to produce, and could sell about 3,000 yuan ($423), Tenzin Trinley noted, adding that the carpets are manufactured in a make-to-order mode and are in high demand on the market.
Although the COVID-19 disease placed impacts on shipments, production and logistics are basically recovered at present, the man introduced.
Tenzin Trinley’s grandfather Nima Tindoi was a well-known craftsman in local community for making Tibetan rugs. “In the old days, it was impossible for serfs in Tibet to use the carpets they made. What’s worse, the daily necessities of their family always cannot be guaranteed despite their hard work,” Tenzin Trinley said.
Many people in Gyantse county are capable of rug weaving, and this traditional skill can make them get rid of poverty as Tenzin Trinley has always believed. As a man growing up in such an environment, he deeply understands the rich culture and broad commercial prospects that lie behind the local specialty.
The young man joined civil service after graduating from Tibet University in 2014, and later quit the job and founded the cooperative with his partners, investing 430,000 yuan.
Like many other entrepreneurs, Tenzin Trinley and his partners also encountered difficulties when their business just started, such as the shortage of capital, professionals and market channels. After half a year of learning, Tenzin Trinley and the cooperative’s technicians acquired the dying technique to color the rugs with natural plant and mineral dyestuff. Besides, they also mastered a unique skill to customize carpets based on the photos provided by the customers.
“Traditional Tibetan carpets boast complex techniques, but their monotonous design barely meets the aesthetic standards and demands of modern people,” Tenzin Trinley told People’s Daily. That’s why the cooperative tried to combine traditional and modern techniques and developed 3D-effect products that integrate the elements of ancient architectures, traditional paintings and calligraphy, as well as ethnic ornamentations. Besides, the cooperative’s customized carpets also found a large market.
The man said he’s lucky as an entrepreneur, because he has chosen the right industry and enjoyed preferential policies of the government, such as those offered for college graduates who start business in Tibet.
In 2015, local government granted a poverty-alleviation subsidy of 900,000 yuan to the cooperative and helped it receive a loan from the bank by offering guarantee, which tackled the cooperative’s financial problem.
Hiring local impoverished people, the cooperative enabled local villagers to work close to their hometown. It is trying to build itself into a production base and is working for cultural restructuring and upgrading.
Tenzin Trinley told People’s Daily that to lead the villagers to wealth is his aspiration, and 65 employees now have stable source of income under the assistance of the cooperative, including 26 from registered impoverished households and one with physical disabilities.
By cooperating with third-party companies, the cooperative is now selling its new products, such as Lhamo mask rugs and Thangka rugs to Europe and America, and its newly developed carpets and tapestries catered for Japanese market are also embracing huge popularity.
Tenzin Trinley said he hopes to show the fine traditional craft to the whole world.

The photo shows a piece of Tibetan rug with a picture of Potala Palace on it. Photo from the official website of the Nima Tibetan Cushion Processing Farmers’ Profession Cooperative (xzzangtan.cn)

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