Tibetan Knife Making: Tse Ring Dolga

Tse Ring Dolga is one of the best known knife makers in Pelyül County in the Kandzé Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture within Sichuan Province. Living in Gato Monastery Village, near Kathok Monastery, he traces his family’s history of knife making to the time of King Gesar. Tse Ring Dolga’s workshop, like most of the artisan workshops in the region, is located on the second floor of his home in close proximity to his family’s scripture hall.

Tse Ring Dolga describes his short and small knives as “all purpose.” These are the types of knives routinely worn by Khampas for everyday use. Men’s knives are straight and women’s knives are curved. According to Tse Ring Dolga, women’s knives, because of their curvature, are more difficult to make. In keeping with local custom, the sheaths of Tse Ring Dolga’s knives are highly decorative. His dragon and phoenix designs are from molds made by his father. Tse Ring Dolga’s materials include white copper and silver. The knives themselves are steel. The handles of the knives are made of wood purchased by the artist from other craftspeople.

Traditionally, knives are made by men, with the knowledge and skills of knife making passed from father to son. Tse Ring Dolga learned knife making from his father, who learned it from his father, who learned it from his father. Tse Ring Dolga’s two sons learned from him. One of his sons continues the family tradition. Tse Ring Dolga talks about the changing times, and if he had not had sons, would have taught his daughter. According to the artist, women who now wish to learn knife making are taught.