An enchanting sound which has echoed through the Tibetan villages for more than 700 years, and a form of scroll painting which has survived the multiple dynasties of five centuries, now face a modern danger: extinction.
Poryang is a traditional way of singing in Tibet. Ten years ago, it was listed as one of Bomi county's intangible cultural heritages. In ancient times, farmers would often exhale these resounding vocals during the course of their daily routines, such as herding.
But today, Poryang artist Yangzom says the region's youth just aren't seeing the appeal. She says that the biggest problem they are facing now is that many young people are seemingly not interested in Poryang. To them, pop music seems to be more attractive.
Karmadeleg tells the story of Karmakarchi Thangka to CGTN. [Photo/CGTN]
Karmakrchi Thangka, a traditional Tibetan painting
Karmadeleg started learning the Karmakarchi Thangka when he was five years old. After a lifetime of dedication, the 85-year-old says what really defines the art against other forms is its cultural richness and complexity.
He told us the measurements in Karmakarchi Thangka are an ancient Indian style, the choosing of colors follows the inland China style, and the landscape painting is Tibetan.
The "measurements" are the most important elements in the religious paintings. For each Buddha that's depicted, its size and body proportions must follow strict guidelines that have been handed down through the generations.
But Karmadeleg says he's afraid young people practicing the art today, although devout Buddhists, either don't understand these rules or are flippant in their application.
However, it's a problem which has been recognized and is trying to be addressed. Just like other places in the world, Tibetans are also being influenced by new trends, fresh ideas, and modern technology. However, they are trying to find new ways in this testing environment, to re-energize their ancient and unique culture.
The story of Poryang, a traditional Tibetan way of singing
Singer Yangzom said – with a touch of Tibetan humor – that while once only the grazing sheep and yak could enjoy the spirited Poryang melodies, because of the swell in tourism in Tibet, it's now getting a greater airing. And this has helped her gain performance opportunities outside the region.
While Yangzom has worked hard to perfect her unique talent, she has also identified her next challenge, and is willing and ready to take it on.
Struggling to protect ancient cultural heritages
For Yangzom, she said she didn't get a chance to attend school at a young age. She has now become the Poryang successor. She said she will try her best to protect this art, and pass it on to the next generation. Her wish is that children can inherit this art-form and continue to protect it.
The local cultural bureau is also behind her all the way. They have helped Yangzom arrange Poryang classes at local primary and junior middle schools, and have also financed her first recording CD which is going to be released this year.
As for Karmadeleg, he's a very experienced educator at this stage. More than 400 students have received his expert guidance since 1980. And it seems to be paying dividends. His apprentice Tenzinphuntsok told us, that it's very difficult to learn how to paint Thangka, for it usually takes 7-8 years to master the skills and knowledge. He said he hopes they can pass on the cultural heritage to the next generation.
Eight years ago, local authorities invested about half a million yuan in publishing a picture album of Karmakarchi Thangka, while the art form is often on exhibition, both inside and outside Tibet.
As Tibetans begin to realize the importance of preserving these ancient treasures, more new artistic talent is on the way to make them great again.