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  • Writer's pictureClaudio Fibonacci

Reviving Tradition: The Modern Twist on Centuries-Old Tibetan Braiding

How This Tibetan Community Is Modernizing a Centuries-Old Braiding Tradition

How This Tibetan Community Is Modernizing a Centuries-Old Braiding Tradition

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The Traditional 108 Braids

Located in northwestern Tibet, the nomadic herding tribes have long been known for their unique traditional style of 108 Braids. The number 108 is significant, representing the 108 holy volumes of Tibetan Buddhism. Originally used as a form of communication to convey relationship status or religious affiliation, the 108 Braids have evolved into a tribute to the region’s rich heritage.

Modernization of the Braiding Tradition

Yangram, a talented braider who started braiding her sisters’ hair at the age of 12, has become a sought-after figure in the Nagchu region. Women from all over come to her for her skillful braiding, which she describes as “thinner than a chopstick.” To make the tradition more accessible in today’s fast-paced world, Yangram has introduced the use of wigs and black yak-felt threads, allowing women to carry on the tradition with ease.

Adorning Hair with Ornaments

Throughout life’s milestones such as birth, adulthood, marriage, and death, braiding and hair jewelry play a significant role in the Tibetan community. Earthy ornaments like pine cones, coral, and turquoise are woven into the braids to symbolize these important occasions, reflecting the beauty of nature.

Preserving Tradition in a Changing World

As times change, so too must traditions. Seventeen-year-old Jibasuo, who has maintained her long hair since the age of 10, emphasizes the importance of adapting to modern life while holding onto traditional customs. Despite the evolving landscape, the essence of the braiding tradition remains strong in the hearts of the Tibetan people.

Embracing Change While Honoring Heritage

From young children like four-year-old Yixi Kangzhu, who adores the turquoise beads in her hair, to adults like Mji preparing for marriage, the significance of braiding transcends generations. As Tibetans navigate the complexities of modernity, the beauty and symbolism of braiding continue to serve as a link to their cultural roots.

Photography & video by Kin Chan Coedel. Additional Reporting by Fei Fan. Hair by Yangram. Special Thanks to Mr. Numu and Ms. Yi Xi Bazhu for their contributions to preserving Tibetan heritage.


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