Tibetan seamstress draws inspiration from her multi-ethnic family

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Besides the Tibetan costumes, Urgyen Drolma, a 76-year-old Tibetan woman from southwest China, has become familiar with making other ethnic clothes after new members from other ethnic groups came to her family.

The Tibetan woman is from Qibie Village in Tacheng Township of the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province. In 1968, she married He Mingzhi, a member of the Naxi ethnic group, and they now have four sons and a daughter.

Urgyen Drolma's family has 25 members with various ethnic backgrounds, including her Han daughter-in-law, Lisu granddaughter-in-law, and Bai grandson-in-law.

"Ethnic unity is a tradition here, and there are many families with members from several ethnic groups like our family," she said.

Urgyen Drolma has been making traditional costumes since 1966. Over the decades, she has formed her own unique style, and her costumes are well-known in nearby communities.

The clothes she is best at making are traditional Tibetan Reba Dance costumes, as the dance is inherited in Tacheng Township.

She established a cooperative to develop the ethnic costume industry in 2016, registering her own brand and inviting several villagers to join.

Her processing workshop is a large room in her home, and Urgyen Drolma can be found there for hours every day.

"At many processing workshops, machines are used to make clothes, but I handcraft clothes so that our own characteristics can be developed," she said.

The Tibetan woman is confident in her craftsmanship. The cooperative now makes more than 100 sets of distinctive ethnic costumes a year, which are well received by customers, and her three daughters-in-law are also helping the cooperative make costumes of other ethnic groups.

Habits differ in the family according to ethnic group, but everyone lives in harmony. Urgyen Drolma's eldest daughter He Jinmei attributed this harmony to China's national ethnic unity policy and her mother's words and deeds.

"She told us to unite, not quarrel, respect the old, and care for the young — these words have taken root in everyone's hearts," she said.

Urgyen Drolma said that in the old days, before the founding of the People's Republic of China, she wore straw sandals and did not have enough food.

"At that time, many people could not go to school, but now, no matter which ethnic groups you are from, you can receive modern education," said the daughter.

"Education helps broaden people's horizons and make them better understand the life and culture of other ethnic groups, and this explains why the life of our family or other families in Tacheng is so harmonious despite ethnic differences," she said.

Now, Urgyen Drolma is keen to share her life in the village on Douyin, a short video sharing platform. Next, she plans to open a small exhibition hall in her home, where clothes of different ethnic groups are showcased so that tourists can learn about local culture and tradition.

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