Tibetan Knife - An Ethnic Handicraft of Tibet
Tibetan knife is essential and indispensable in Tibetan people's daily life. Most Tibetans, male or female, carry knives. Usually, Tibetans wear a waist knife that is used to cut meat, and can double as protection while also serving as an accessory. It also has high value as an ethnic handicraft with a longstanding good reputation at home and abroad.
There are three sorts of knives: long, short, and small. The longest ones are usually more than a meter, short ones are about 40 centimeters, and the small ones are just over 10 centimeters in length. In terms of shapes, there are pastoral styles, kamba styles, and the Shigatse area style. Knives are widely used for chopping down trees, for butchering animals, or even for the celestial burial in Tibet. Indeed, knives have become a kind of decoration loved by boys and girls. Tibetan knives designed for men are usually rugged, while those designed for women are typically elegant.
Made from delicately processed steel, Tibetan knives are typically quite bright and sharp. Handles are normally made of ox horns, ox bones or wood. Some top quality ones are entwined with silver or copper string. Sheathes, wrapped in copper or silver, tend to be more exquisite. Outside of the simple wooden or leather sheath covers, copper or sometimes silver or even gold in nice designs of birds, animals, or grass and flowers can be seen. Some are even inlaid with precious or colored stones, or even jewels. Just how expensive is up to the holder.
Actually, Tibetan knives have become artistic or craft items. Lhasa, Damxung, Lhatse, Yi'ong and Qamdo are well known for the production of the Tibetan knives, and are favored not only by local people, but also by domestic and foreign tourists.
Typical Tibetan knives of the Shigatse area are produced in Lhatse. The Latse knife, with its beautiful appearance, sharp blade, and delicate and expensive scabbards, have long been recognized as an outstanding product and are a very fashionable souvenir or gift for tourists. Bright and sparkling, such knives are handmade of high quality steel.
Roles of Tibetan knife
Tools for daily life
Given natural conditions unique to Tibet, Tibetans eat meat, butter and zanba (roasted highland barley). To eat meat, they need knives. In some places, knives serve as plows and the locals still rely on the slash-and-burn method.
In 1904, when the British invaded Tibet, Tibetan soldiers fought with primitive rifles and long-handle waist knives.
Tibetan knives are adorned with handles made of bull horns, antelope horns, wood or metal. Knife sheaths are made of animal hides, bull horns, metal or wood and are adorned with the "eight auspicious patterns" in gold, silver, copper and iron wire, swastikas, the auspicious pattern of dragon and phoenix, or are inlaid with corals, agates, peals peals and jade.