What to buy in Tibet
Usually, shopping is a very exciting part of a tour, to say nothing of Tibet. After the gorgeous sight seeing, it’s really nice for you strolling around stores in Tibet, maybe, all of a sudden, some ideal delicate items will catch your eyes and you could not help thinking: I definitely should buy certain Tibetan specialty for my relatives or friends. However, facing an overwhelming variety, you might be totally confused about what to buy in Tibet. Based on this, here, we collect quite overall information about Tibetan souvenirs as below and hope it will be useful for you shopping in Tibet.
1. Tibetan jewelry:
Tibetan jewelry made of bones and turquoises a Tibetan girl wearing Tibetan jewelry Dzi beads
Jewelry, like necklaces, rings, earrings, brooches and bracelets, is always a good gift for female, no matter how old she is. She may be not so fond of the common ones, but apparently distinctive jewelry, like Tibetan jewelry. As we all know, Tibetan artists who have great originality in design always surprise us for presenting exquisite ornaments. Besides the exotic design, the materials for Tibetan jewelry are very natural, such as:
Tibetan silver ----not pure sliver, 30% silver plus 70% brass, but now it is replaced by alloy of white brass and tin; So Tibetans are not intentionally lying when they are selling you "silver" things.
Yak bones----yak has been esteemed for hundreds of years as a holy animal in Tibetans hearts. Therefore, Tibetan people use the bones to make unique adornments, which they believe will bring wild charm for the lucky wearer.
Dzi beads (heaven's bead or heaven's pearl) ---- Dzi means brightness, clearness, shine and splendor in Tibet language. Dzi bead is made of an agate of Himalayas. On the one hand, it represents happiness and wealth; on the other hand, it is considered to be a protective amulet which can provide positive spiritual benefit to the wearer. According to the number of “eyes” on the bead, it can be divided into several ranks but obey one certain rule: a bead with more eyes is much more precious. Furthermore, eyes also have meanings: one eye stands for wisdom; two eyes will protect marriage safe; three eyes will bring treasure.
Turquoises----Turquoise is a representative of love, success and fortune.
Tibetan jewelry made of bones and turquoises
a Tibetan girl wearing Tibetan jewelry
2. Religious souvenirs:
making a Thangka Tibetan mask a Lama wearing khada prayer weel (Mani Wheel)
Maybe, you are not familiar with mysterious Tibetan Buddhism but must know about numerous religious souvenirs like Thangka, musk which are hanging in the temples.
Thangka is a Tibetan painting with scrolls, mainly taking Buddha as the figure as well as some flowers and birds, mountains and rivers, even medicine and astronomy are included. The common ones are painted by Tibetan artists, which you could easily buy on the streets. But some rare ones weaving in silk or with embroideries are cultural relics more than goods, which are not easy to find.
Tibetan mask is an art work derived from religion. Usually, when significant religious festival comes, Lamaist devil dance ceremony will be held, in which you will see people wearing masks in figure of ghosts or animal totems. Some hanging masks figure in dharma protector and laksmi while masks of Tibetan opera are endowed the personalized feature such as kings, princesses and monsters according to the plot.
Khada(Hadda)and Dhama wheels are also very popular among the tourist.
making a Thangka
a Lama wearing khada
prayer weel (Mani Wheel)
3. Tibetan traditional handicrafts
gorgeous Tibetab rug
Tibetan rug has a big fame across the whole world due to the unique weaving method, bright color and auspicious pattern. Tibetan people use them for flooring, wall hanging and sitting. Highland sheep’s wool, which has long solid fiber, good elasticity and luster, is the first –class material for making high quality rugs. Jiangzi (Gyangzê) is the hometown of Tibetan rug. Most color in Jiangzi carpet is abstracted from local tree leaves, grass roots and minerals except red and black. Therefore, with these natural dyes, you can maintain it for a long time.
The Pulu, translated into mandarin, is called Tibetan wool fabric or woolen. It is said that Pulu making has a long history of almost 2000 years already. Tibetans use them ranging from making blankets, hats, shoes to clothes. In ancient time, the Pulu is a very important tribute and the famous one is made in Zalang, Nagarzê, Gyangzê, Markam and other places.
Ox horn combs
4. Tibetan knife
Tibetan knife is used for cutting meat and body protecting, and also is kind of adornment. Men’s knife is sharp and rugged while women’s is fine. The scabbard ranges from wood, copper, iron to copper and is often carved with Tibetan language as well as delicate designs such as dragons, phoenixes, tigers, lions and flowers. Some designs are adorned with gems and agates, making the scabbard even more beautiful. In Tibet, if a friend gets married or a baby is born, sending a Tibetan knife to the host or hostess is very significant and will make them very happy.
5. Sheepskin painting
Sheepskin painting uses natural dyes to describe Tibetan life and reflect Tibetan culture, consisting of an entire sheep’s hide and other handmade wooden parts. From the paintings, you could see the snow-capped mountains and marshlands in fine and smooth drawing skills. Different from the general paintings, it gives you a strong 3-dimensional sense.
6. Tibetan medicine
Tibetan medicine has a history of more than 2000 years. It has formed a unique medicine system after absorbing and merging theories of Chinese indigenous medicine, Indian medicine and Persia medicine as well as accumulating experience of curing disease. Now, it is very influential both at home and abroad. Many Tibetan herbs have a good curative effect on angiocardiopathy and tumour. And some herbs are extremely popular among the tourists, such as saussurea, saffron, musk, cordyceps sinensis and rhodiola.
7. Tibetan incense
Tibetan incense is an important representation of the Tibetan culture, used for making a pilgrimage to Buddha and driving evil spirits out. With the mild and peculiar scent, it has a good function on accelerating the metabolism, improving immunity system and cleaning air. Moreover, some Tibetan incense that contains special herb ingredients can even prevent infectious and epidemic diseases. It’s also a good idea of putting it in your closet or lighting at home for driving insects. The one which invented by the creator of Tibetan character is 1300 years old and is respected as the senior in the Tibetan incense.
8. Ox horn combs
It is recorded in Compendium of Materia Medica that ox horn is a precious traditional Chinese herbal medicine which has a good curative effect on clearing heat and toxic material away and bringing high blood pressure down. So, Tibetan people used natural ox horn as a material to make combs. It is said that the ox horn comb can prevent hair loss and headache and ease mental pressure after long-term use. Because these combs are all hand-polished, each of them will be different and with flaws.
Where to buy these souvenirs in Tibet:
Barkhor Street has a big fame of shopping in Lhasa, where you could easily to find popular things as I mentioned. But you need carefully to examine them for quality.
Small shops on the street behind Jokhang Temple are other options.
Other useful Tips about shopping:
1. We seriously suggest you that please do not buy any adornments made of wild animals, especially furs, skulls, horns of tigers, leopards, Tibetan antelopes and wild yaks. No deals no killings. And we do believe you share the same viewpoint with us.
2. Tibetan knife is not allowed on a plane or as consigned goods, but it can be sent to your destination via the post office. The general post office in Lhasa stands at Beijing Middle Road. Some small post offices are also ok, but not as efficient as the former.
3. If you want to buy Tibetan medicines, please go to regular hospitals like Tibetan traditional hospital (just opposite to Jokhang Temple Square) or the medicine company (on the west outskirts of Lhasa).And no bargains are allowed there.
4. Be sure to bargain.
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