The Tibetan word for Northern Nomads

For thousand of years,

the remote plateau of Tibet has been the home of the Northern nomads.

Yak and sheep accompany them here in the high altitudes,

offering not only companionship, but providing the materials needed for survival in every aspect of life.

They weave their own tents from yak wool.

Felt blankets and rain jackets come from sheep wool.

Across the green horizon in summer,

or the white horizon in winter,

you can see the black specks of the yaks and the nomad’s tents dotting the landscape.

Some may describe these Northern nomads as stubborn and thoughtless,

but once you know them,

you’ll discover a different view.

They believe there’s a universal law,

that everything runs accordingly.

Do the things that should be done,

and do them in the right way.

They are used to long and hard labor under difficult conditions,

yet they survive and prosper on almost uninhabitable land.

However, even on this remote high-altitude plateau,

life today becomes increasingly complicated.

The green fields of the nomads are gradually disintegrating,

and the nomadic lifestyle is fading.

SHANGDROK wishes to work with these nomads,

To regain their traditions to work with the materials

that they’ve known and worked with for centuries,

the traditions that allowed them to thrive in this cold, harsh world,

And to produce beautiful and worm products that can amaze the world,

and make them proud of themselves again.

May the ancient and unyielding spirit of the Northern Nomads,

can lead them stand confidently in this new world.

My name is April Tang from Taiwan. I am the co-founder of SHANGDROK, a workshop I founded with my Tibetan partner in a Tibetan village in 2015, hiring half a dozen local women producing hand-spun yarns and handmade felts.

In my early years of travelling to the Tibetan plateau, I was taken to visit my Tibetan friend’s home on the highland, and was given a piece of fabric that they use for their tent home as a gift.

I was so moved by this plain, coarse yet vibrant handwoven fabric. The fibers came from yaks that they herd, along with their milk, meat, skin and even dung, providing a nomad family everything they need to survive on the plateau. Yak is the centerpiece in any Tibetan’s life.

Every Tibetan women spun, wove and felt not that long ago. However, due to the influence of the modern lifestyle and market, not many people still do so nowadays. The traditional skills are gradually dying.

This is why we started SHANGDROK. We hope to keep these traditions alive while providing job opportunities in ways and materials that they are most familiar with to the local yak-less nomad women, who can stay close to their family in their own village. Meanwhile we wish to connect them to the outside world, knowing what they created is highly valued so that they can be proud of themselves and their cultural heritage.