Li Xiaodong visited a sutra printing house in Sichuan Province, southwest China, and came away with an unexpected and special memento.
Li spent just two yuan on five sets of sutra books at the printing house in Dege County, said to be the largest of its kind in areas inhabited by Tibetans in China.
"I never expected to buy such special souvenirs at this mysterious sutra printing house," said the excited visitor from the southern coastal province of Guangdong.
Dege has been confirmed by Chinese experts as the birth place of Gesser, a legendary hero of the Tibetan ethnic group, and is one of the three major Tibetan cultural centers in regions inhabited by Tibetans.
With many relics relating to Gesser, whose story has been passed down orally by ballad singers for a thousand years, and culture and customs with typical Tibetan flavor, Dege has attracted both domestic and overseas visitors.
The exquisite frescos, sculptures, Tibet-style buildings and the layers of woodcut printing plates at the Dege sutra printing house are particularly attractive.
Last year alone, the 270-year-old sutra printing house received more than 10,000 domestic and overseas visitors.
Visitors to the printing houses can feast their eyes on a great number of ancient books and other relics.
With a floor space of nearly 10,000 square meters, the sutra printing house stores more than 830 volumes of classical books andover 290,000 woodcut printing plates containing 500 million words.
A local tourism official said that these printing plates and classical works were of high academic value in the study of Tibetan history, politics, economy, religion, medicine, literatureand art. Many of the books are the only existing copies.
Visitors also have the opportunity to see how the lamas make paper and print sutra books, which is usually done by traditional ways.
A lama said that they used a slightly toxic Tibetan potion as the raw material for making the paper used for printing sutra books. This paper can deter worms and mice, and souvenirs made from such paper can stand wear and tear for more than 100 years.