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Deqin Culture

Deqin is a Tibetan community in northwestern Yunnan known for its Tibetan language education. In 2005, PCD began supporting the Kawagebo Cultural Society in organising a Tibetan literacy class for villagers in Hongpo and Jiangpo villages. In addition to Tibetan literacy, Tibetan traditional folktales, songs and classic scripts are also taught. Many feel inspired and enlightened now that they are able to master their own language.

“I come every day. I know how to write my own name in Tibetan now. And I understand the world more when I read Tibetan,” said Ersong Quzhu. Her fellow villager Zaxi echoed, “Our tradition is getting weaker and weaker. Before we only watched the television. Now we study our tradition. We talk and everyone in the family is very happy.” Many said that they were awakened when they studied the teachings of Buddhism written in Tibetan. Participants appreciated the Tibetan class because it enabled them to document words of the Xianzi, the traditional chants and lyrics of folksongs for future generations.

Wisdom from the Xianzi

The Kawagebo Cultural Society has been very active in promoting traditional Xianzi chants. Through the Xianzi, people connect to Tibetan history, culture and ethics, and particularly the value of respecting nature. For fear that this traditional genre will disappear, some young members of the Kawagebo Cultural Society organised Xianzi training workshops and competitions among villages in Deqin County. The activities were very well received by Tibetan communities in all the villages. It is now one of the best and the most popular activities in Deqin. In 2007, the first Xianzi festival was held in Hongpo Village. People came in their beautiful new costumes from different villages to dance and chant Xianzi.

Aside from the Tibetan language and Xianzi, Tibetan architecture is another treasure of traditional Tibetan culture. Each Tibetan house is a small world that co-exists in harmony with the snow-capped holy Kawagebo Mountain. But in the wake of economic development, many houses in Deqin have departed from the traditional design and principles that are in harmony with nature. In 2006, PCD supported the training of construction carpenters from Mingyong and Jiabi villages in modern as well as traditional architecture. We also supported their initiatives to put ideas into action, to enhance appreciation of Tibetan architectural traditions and community culture. Results have been mixed as issues of investment, techniques and economic impacts were considered. The plan for the next endeavour is to concentrate efforts on nurturing the capacity of local architects in traditional and ecologically friendly construction.

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