Inheritor of Lnaze knife craftsmanship

09:38, April 02, 2011      

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Pudawa files the knife edge in the workshop at home, in Lnaze County of Xigaze Prefecture, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region, March 31, 2011. (Xinhua/Tao Xiyi)

For 54-year-old craftsman Pudawa, inheritor of the Lnaze knife craftsmanship, nothing is happier than seeing his son Doje Zhamdu making better knife than his own.

"That means the craftsmanship of my family would pass onto the next generation. I am quite released," said the old Tibetan man.

The Lnaze County, located at a remote region of Xigaze on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, is known for rich folk arts, such as the Tibetan tap dance and hand-made Tibetan knife.

In 2008, the craftsmanship of Tibetan knife making in Lnaze County has been listed into China's National Intangible Cultural Heritages.

Pudawa, being the sixth generation of a blacksmith family, is the most famous knife maker in the town. His knives always fail to meet growing demand as many Tibetans and tourists flock to his door asking for knives.

Ten years ago, his son Doje Zhamdu began to learn the family skills. From the age of 18, he sat side by side with Pudawa, copying every step his father did, remembering all procedures in mind.

Today he has become a knife maker as excellent as his father. However, he was quite reluctant to be a blacksmith at first. Like many young men in the town, he yearned for going outside as a migrant worker.

"In the old concept of Tibetans, blacksmith is a low-class career and not respected. People call us 'black bones'," said the son.

But at last, the young man submitted to his father's wish to inherit the skills.

Nowadays, with an annual family income of 26,000 yuan, much higher than the average, Doje felt happy about his choice.

"I am the eldest child in my family. I have to shoulder the responsibility to pass on the skills. Moreover, working at home with my father is convenient for taking care of the whole family."

Besides father and son, women also shoulder important responsibility in this family. Yexe Zhoima, the second daughter of Pudawa, weaves pulu, a traditional Tibetan-featured haircloth, at home, while Cering Quzhen, the elder daughter with blindness, studies at a government-funded special school in Lhasa.

According to the Tibetan tradition, the family's craftsmanship can only pass on to male kin. Yixi Zhuoma likes watching her father and brother forging knives, but the only job she can do is cleaning the finished ones.

"I am proud of them." She said with a smile while weaving pulu, which also brings a monthly income of 1,500 to the family.

Though having a comfortable life and famous among people, Pudawa still has worries. The repute of Lnaze knife is now under great impact of massive machine-made knives sold on the market.

As it takes a craftsman two to three days to forge a small-sized knife, even direct orders cannot be satisfied. In contrast, machine-made knives can be produced faster.

"I hope more people know about Lnaze knife and more young men learn the skills. Then people will not confuse real handmade knives with the fake ones," said Pudawa, "then I can truly retire from work and enjoy the rest of my life."

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