Don’t be fooled by imitation souvenirs. The Yunnan Mountain Handicraft Centre (YMHC) works hard to provide tourists with locally made products that embrace the Tibetan Heritage.
What to experience?
The Yunnan Mountain Handicraft Centre was founded in 2006 to promote local cultural heritage, handicrafts and responsible tourism in Diqing Prefecture, Yunnan. The Centre is based in the Old Town of Shangri La and has ongoing projects in handicraft development, preservation of cultural heritage, poverty alleviation and sustainable, ecologically balanced tourism development.
A walk through the Shangri La ancient city gives glimpses of countless souvenir shops, selling similar products that are of substandard quality and are likely factory-produced. To counter this, a group of locals formed the YMHC to utilise local talents who make authentic Tibetan, Naxi and Yi crafts and promote the true essence of the local culture with products such as pottery, silver jewellery, tapestries, and clothes. Their traditional wooden bowls are from a village famous among Tibetans for beautiful painted grain bowls and silver lined wood teacups. All of the silver jewellery is made locally, and the clothing and tapestries are handmade as well.
They have established a small group of women knitters who produce scarves and snoods, and they have a beautiful collection of Yak Cashmere shawls from a small social enterprise of Tibetan artisans.
In addition to selling local crafts, the YMHC provides a number of resources for travellers to personally contribute to the economic and cultural development of the local people.
How does it help?
Working with local women’s groups, the YMHC provides opportunities for them to receive training in producing handicrafts, pottery, jewellery and clothing, with the sales’ proceeds helping to improve education and training programmes in the region.
The Shangrila Handicraft Centre is dedicated to creating opportunities for local artisans, and income through handicraft production. In this way they support the entrepreneurial efforts of ethnic artisan partners and contribute to keep alive their traditional crafts against the invasion on the market of industrially produced crafts. They sponsor free language classes for local artisans and students from elementary through high school. With improved language skills they can better access the tourism market. The centre also allows many local artisans and workshops to experiment with new takes on traditional designs, expanding on the history of their culture and reaching new audiences in the process.
YMHC also has a rural beekeeping project which brings additional income to one of the poorer regions of Yunnan’s mountain areas. More than 100 families are currently learning modern beekeeping skills, which will help increase the honey and bee product output. With Shangrila Farms, a fair trade company in China who guarantees the purchase of their honey at fair trade prices for any quantity the farmers would like to sell. “‘Shangrila Farms‘ strictly operates on a no pesticides, chemicals with products sourced from an eco nature reserve free of pollution.”