Boot Making

Rebgong, Qinghai
Producer: Dawa Drolma
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
[Catalog No. CFV11254; © 2017 Smithsonian Institution]

Traditional Tibetan boots—typically warm, colorful, and knee-high—are no longer the daily footwear for ordinary Tibetan nomads or farmers due to the prevalence of sneakers and other mass-produced shoes. However, Tibetan boots—made of cowhide, pigskin, corduroy, and pulu, a traditional woolen fabricare still commonly worn during celebratory occasions like New Year’s, weddings, and housewarming parties. Much like Tibetan robes, Tibetan boots are worn more as cultural representations than as practical common clothes. As a result, there is still a need for small businesses that specialize in making traditional Tibetan boots. One of these is in Gyang Kya village in Rebgong County, Qinghai Province. In this video, Shawu Nashen from Gyang Kya discusses the importance of maintaining the traditions of boot making on the Tibetan Plateau. He and his father have been training younger people to ensure that the traditions are not lost in the future.

Questions for Discussion

  • What do you notice about the studio where the boots are made? What tools and materials are the artisans using?
  • Why do you think preserving art and craft traditions is important to ethnic Tibetans living in China? Why do you think young people are not learning this tradition?
  • Imagine you could try on a pair of the handmade boots shown in the video. What would it feel like to wear them? What is special about wearing something handmade?