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Shazo industry booms in Trashiyangtse

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

Trashiyangtse is traditionally known for its dhapas. The people who make dhapas (wooden bowls), cups and containers from wood are called Shazops. Shazo is one of the 13 traditional crafts (Zorig) of the country.

The Shazops say that they are selling more dhapas today than ever before and to meet both local and international demand in the market they have increased production.

Ugyen Wangchuck, 22, has been practicing Shazo for more than a year. He said that he studied till the 10th standard and moved toward learning Shazo as he was interested in the craft.

“Making of dhapas can earn a good amount of money and it is the main source of income for most of the Yangtsipas,” he said adding that for now he can make seven to eight pairs of dhapas in a day and selling Shazo products is not a problem.

One of the oldest Shazops in Yangtse, 62-year old Ap Jangchup has been one for almost 30 years now. He said Shazo production has increased over the years and more Shazops are emerging every year. “My father was also a Shazop so I learnt the skills of Shazo from him and for now I teach my skills to those who are interested in acquiring the skills.”

Ap Jangchup said the establishment of more religious institutions over the years has also created a larger local market as monks are required to use dhapas and hotels are increasingly buying dhapas and dzas to serve meals in.

However, it is the export market that has had 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 most of the Shazops. In the past, most Shazops devoted only two months to Shazo, usually after the paddy transplantation season.

“The burls might not be available in a few more years from now. With the emerging Shazops over the years it is difficult to find burls but Shazops can still produce using other parts of the trees,” says Ap Jangchup.

Meanwhile, he said that in a day some Shazops can produce 10 to 15 pairs of dhapas while some produce around 5 to 10 pairs depending on the size of the dhapas and the time they consume.

However, he said that the use of imported Japanese lacquer has helped speed up the process of dhapa production. The profit the Shazops earn depends on the quality of dhapas they produce. “If we get good quality burls, we can earn a good amount,” said Ap Jangchup.

Another Shazop, Tenzin Namgay 26, agreed that number of practicing Shazops has increased over the years. “Today there are more numbers of Shazops compared to the past but still selling of Shazo products is not a problem.”

Quality determines the price, said Tenzin Namgay.

Twenty-eight year old Karma Drugyal who has been practicing shazo for more than three years earns a profit of approximately Nu 200,000 a year.

In order to promote the Shazo craft and business, a cooperative called Chorten Kora Shazo Nyamlay Tshogpa was formed in 2014.

Jigme Wangchen from T/yangtse