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Tibetan Blacksmith Finds Success
Standing among a pile of golden Tibetan-styled copper barrels, Cering, a 43-year-old Tibetan blacksmith, hawked with a loud voice at a fair.

Born into a poor family in the Gonggar County of the Tibet Autonomous Region in southwest China, Cering found his life changed at this annual trade fair in 1999 in Shannan Prefecture.

Learning blacksmith skills from his father was the only career option open to him when he was a child, but the old Tibetan code stipulated clearly that blacksmiths, together with butchers and women, were a lower class of society.

"At that time, no one wanted to drink water from the same cup as me, much less look upon me as a friend," Cering said. "People need a blacksmith when their shovel is broken or they want a new sword, but they still look down on us. I've never understood this."

At the beginning of his apprenticeship, Cering just helped repair shovels or silver rings on wooden bowls for his neighbors. Step by step, he began to make Tibetan-style barrels, silver bowls, copper ashtrays, small incense-burners and some artworks.

At the Shannan fair, Cering was astonished by the profit a poor blacksmith could make and realized he no longer needed to live under the old attitudes.

"To my surprise, during the first day of the trade fair, all my barrels sold out and I made a profit of 1,000 yuan (about US$120)," Cering said. "From then on, I have insisted so long as I work hard to become rich, people's traditional attitude toward blacksmiths can and must be changed. After all, the strict hierarchical system of old Tibet has no place now."

Cering said that over the last year, the cash income of his family was more than 7,000 yuan (about US$843). In addition, his wife, who is a farmer, also made a good harvest that year.

In 2000, Cering's family moved out of their old adobe house into a new Tibetan-style multiple-story home, complete with a TV set, VCR, washing machine and other household appliances.

Seeing the changes in Cering's life, villagers of Gonggar County have gradually given up their former attitudes, instead regarding "blacksmith" as a synonym of "richness" and some of them have even asked Cering to take their children as his apprentices.

"Now, people's lives are much better than before and their minds are more open, and that is why they are ready to be my apprentices," Cering said.

Today, being the richest person at the village, Cering is planning to extend his family workshop into a factory and take on more apprentices.

(Xinhua News Agency December 24, 2002)

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