Tibetan Travel Gear: The Reconstruction of Historic Goods

Before roads, cars and trucks, and in spite of its remoteness, Tibet was very much a land of travel. Travel was for trade and discovery, and a lot of time was spent on horseback, whether to get from one point to the next, or as part of moving one’s herd along with the seasons. Travel involved travel gear, and Norlha has striven to recreate some of the chosen elements, as illustrated in these photos. The cup holder is the most interesting. Due to its proximity to China, Tibetans valued precious porcelain cups as well as their traditional wooden bowls. Wooden bowls could be tucked in the folds of a chuba, but porcelain cups needed more protection, so that someone at some point came up with the concept of the cup holder, handmade from wool and yak hair. The Norlha cup holder was modeled on an older version belonging to a nomad. There was also the saddlebag, which came in several sizes, one to throw over a horse, with a pocket on each side, and a smaller one to be flung over the shoulder. Inside, the traveler would stuff his cup holder, tsampa bag, dried meat bag and butter bag or box so snacks could be readily available along the way, whether on foot or horseback.

Making a cup holder (here the cover) at Norlha, made from white sheep wool and dark yak wool. Antique cup holder from Amdo. The wool is braided, then sewn together.