Craft: The craft of making wooden bowls like dhapa and dza, called Shazo, is booming today in Trashiyangtse unlike other traditional crafts.

Tashiyangtse is traditionally known for its dhapas. Shazops are skilled at making wooden bowls, cups and containers from wood. Shazo is one of the 13 traditional crafts (Zorig) of the country.

The Shazops say that they are selling more dhapas today and have increased production as a result. This is to meet both local and international demand.

The market for dhapas has also gone beyond the country’s borders. Growing health consciousness among some has also lead to a preference for wooden utensils over imported ones.

Jangchula, 59, from Yangtse town, has been practicing Shazo for more than 25 years. He said Shazo production has increased over the years and more Shazops are also emerging every year.

Jangchula said the establishment of more religious institutions over the years has also created a larger local market as monks are required to use dhapas.  Civil servants above grade eight are also required to have a dza bowl each. Hotels are also buying dhapas and dzas to serve meals in.

However, it is the export market that has had the most significant impact. Dhapas and other products are exported to Nepal and some places in India.

As a result, Shazo is today a full-time profession for some. Jangchula said he used to devote only two months to Shazo in the past, usually after the paddy transplantation season. “I would personally go to the forest to collect burl and even lacquer them,” he said. But today with business booming, the stages of Shazo are divided among teams. There are groups who collect burls from the forest, and provide them to the Shazops, after which another group lacquers.

Jangchula said use of imported Japanese lacquer has helped in speeding up the process.

“The burls might not be available in a few years from now but Shazops can still find business as they can also produce using other parts of the trees.”

Yeshi Dorji, 44, a Shazop in Bailing said the number practising Shazo have increased. However, selling Shazo products is not a problem.

Quality determines the price range said Yeshi Dorji, who has been practicing the craft since a young age.

To promote the craft and the business, a cooperative called Chorten Cora Shazo Nyamlay Tshogpa was formed in 2014. There are 18 members, comprised of Shazops, burl collectors and lacquerers.

A member of the cooperative, Norbu Gyeltshen, said the Agency for Promotion of Indigenous Crafts built the house where the cooperative is based. Members bring their products to the cooperative.

Norbu Gyeltshen began collecting burls nine years ago. “It was imperishable and we never had to worry about when it did not sell,” he said.

Kunzang, 32, from Khabeir is a part-time lacquerer. He has been lacquering for almost four years. He said it is a good source of income.

Nima Wangdi | T/Yangtse