Khampa Nomad Arts Cooperative


artisans WORKSHOP
October 12 - 30, 2009Nomad winter hut

Study traditional Tibetan artisan skills including spinning, weaving, felting, and leatherworking, while staying with herders in the high grasslands.   

Participants will spend two weeks living in a Tibetan nomad area, at the winter pastures, where they will stay in simple stone houses.   They will live, eat, study, and play with nomad families.  There will be daily lessons in artesian skills, and time and materials with which to practice, as well as opportunities to get to know the families, to take walks and horseback rides to temples and other locations chosen by the nomads, and to generally enjoy the time in this stunning place.

We choose winter for these workshops because winter is the time when nomads are free from many of their yak-centered responsibilities.   There is little or no milking, minimal herding, and no shearing, castration, etc etc…  There is also, of course, little plant collection at this time of year.   As with most agricultural people, winter is the time they are free for artisan tasks, as well as simply for fun.

Mira Droma with yak clothWe will pick participants up at the airport in Chengdu, Sichuan, and travel with them by car and horse to the nomad areas.   Nomad teachers – usually women -- will be accompanied by Western and Tibetan translatorsLodging and food will be provided by the nomad families.

Group size will be limited to five. 

Pricing includes all in-China food, lodging, and transportation costs after arrival in Chengdu, as well as lessons and materials.   Price-per-person ranges from $1600 to $1800 for the 16-day experience.

Optional add-ons: (at additional cost)
  • 6-day Mountain Trek: horseback trek to hotsprings at the base of sacred Mt. Zhakra & to Turquoise Lake (see below)
  • 14-day Sichuan Walking Trek: Stay in homes in the remote Chinese countryside and hike up sacred Mt. Emei (see Sichuan Walking Trek page)

Please contact us by email with any questions, or to register:


Artisans Workshop Schedule: 

Days 1-3:  Arrive in Chengdu, travel over the course of two days to Lhagang (Tagong town) and then horseback into the herder village.  On the way to the highlands, see castle-like Danba houses and embroidery as you slowly acclimate.  Finally, settle into workshop housing, get to know hosts, and acclimate as you rest up from your journey. 

Days 4-14: These 11 days, you will live in nomad winter housing, stone huts.  You will stay in groups of 2-3, in your own hut with a wood and dung burning stove.  Meals will be served in the main house, a Nomad loom with yak hair weavingfew steps away.

For the first two days, you will see demonstrations of a variety of crafts – yak and wool carding, spinning, and weaving; yak leather-working, and wool felting.  The demonstrators are local craftspeople, herders who practice these arts for personal use and for local sale.  These demonstrations, and all of the workshops, are all taught in the local nomad dialect of Tibetan, and translated into English. 

After the first two days, participants will set their own study schedule for the following 9 days.  A participant may be interested in pursuing just one art for the remaining 9 days, or may want to learn a range of arts.  The instructors will be free every morning and some afternoons; the schedules will be worked out according to the needs of the student group. 

Other activities will also be offered, usually in the afternoon, but sometimes taking all day.   These include:  half-day walking outings to Balong and Nyelum Temples; one full day ride into the high summer pastures to visit a large mani stone outcropping, see the land, and picnic; and one full-day ride to visit the Tashi Nunnery, where one can commission mani stones and buy antique jewelry, in addition to seeing the nunnery and possibly coinciding with a sky burial nearby – which sometimes we can see close-up and sometimes not, depending on the wishes of the family of the deceased – but anytime there is a sky burial, we can certainly see the majestic griffons flying in from the high cliff-lined valleys near the sacred mountain.

Those who opt out of these outings are welcome to stay on at camp, practicing their art with help, Gunlo carving mani stoneor simply enjoying nomad life.  The women in the camp tend to be marvelous companions, and particularly enjoy teaching bits of their language, especially in the form of religious chanting songs.  They also will involve interested visitors in any activity that is taking place – clothes or hair washing, cooking, herding yaks, or milking. 

Finally, we will have a special event on one day, in which a mani stone carver will come and teach us about stone carving.     

Day 15: Return on horseback to Lhagang town, and then by car travel down to Kangding town. 

Day 16: Spend the day in Kangding; hike in surrounding mountains and end the day with a hot-spring soak and a nice dinner. 

Day 17: Return to Chengdu.  Fly out this evening or tomorrow morning. 


Optional: Artisan Workshop Mountain Add-On 

Starting Day 15 of Artisan Workshop –-

Day 15:  Split from the main group this morning.  While they ride to Lhagang, and then on to Kangding City, ride across the grasslands to the Gyergo Nunnery, where you will spend the afternoon touring the temple area – the large prayer wheels, the many mani stones, the active stone carving areas, and getting to know nuns in the area.  Here is a chance to custom order a mani stone carved with prayers to your liking after choosing your own stone.  It is also your chance to hear nun’s chanting, and to experience Tibetan temple life. Stay the night with a local temple family. 
Djarga Mira on horse trek

Day 16:   Ride one long day across higher and higher grasslands, and finally over a high mountain pass.  On foot, drop down into the back valley just at the foot of Mt. Zhakra, the area’s most sacred peak.  Upon arrival in camp, jump into the hotsprings.

Day 17:  Leave the hotspring at midday, and ride four hours to the sacred Turquoise Lake below Mt. Zhakra’s white glaciers.  Circle the lake at sunset, according to custom.

Day 18:   Ride a long day back to the Gyergo Nunnery, where we will spend the night. 

Day 19: Return to Tagong, and then on by car to Kangding. 

Day 20: Spend the day in Kangding; hike in surrounding mountains and end the day with a hot thorough bath and a goodbye dinner.

Day 21:  Return to Chengdu, and fly out this evening or the following day.