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Making on the Tibetan Plateau

Making is integral to the Tibetan story. From gilded thangkas to yak-hair shawls, the Tibetan Plateau is home to rich and diverse artisan traditions, including work by weavers, bronze artists, silversmiths, and black potters.

However, making extends beyond traditional craftsmanship. Many farmers and herders, by virtue of their livelihoods, are also makers. These individuals often possess heritage knowledge and skills, such as making tents, string, or butter. Tibetan crafts also play important roles in city life. As urbanization transforms rural life, crafts are increasingly attractive sources of employment for young Tibetan city-dwellers. 

Lag Zo: Making on the Tibetan Plateau is a trilingual online exhibition—in English, Chinese, and Tibetan—produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The exhibition draws in part from the vast archive of digital materials acquired by the Center through the community-driven research of the Nomad Material Culture Documentation Project and the Artisan Documentation Project. These materials document contemporary Tibetan life during what is widely recognized as the largest rural-to-urban migration in human history. The collection captures traditional livelihoods, as well as the various ways individuals and communities are adapting to rapid transformation.

The exhibition employs a place-based approach by grounding the traditions of making in five key cultural and geographic contexts: In the Tent, On the Mountain, In the Shrine, In the City, and On the Move. Follow the links below to explore the articles, photographs, and videos that tell the story of Making on the Tibetan Plateau.

Lag Zo: Making on the Tibetan Plateau is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

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