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Phase II: Regional expansion

Ladakh

Search for plants used for paper making, Ladakh

Project overview and objectives
The project in Ladakh will establish a training programme within the precincts of Hemis and Matho monasteries. The Hemis Monastery has hundreds of wood blocks within the Gonpa which until a few decades ago were used for the printing of manuscripts but are no longer in use. In Matho very few wood blocks remain. The participation of monks from Matho in the training programme will facilitate the production of a new resource of wood blocks for printing religious texts at this monastery. Project activities are aimed at reviving the traditional woodblock printing of sacred manuscripts and its component crafts of wood block carving, traditional paper and ink.

In order to achieve the project objectives, the project team plans to undertake the following activities:

  • Documentation of wood blocks and manuscripts in the monasteries
  • Research into traditional systems of paper and ink production and identification of sources for raw materials
  • A series of awareness-raising workshops on the need to revive traditional skills and revitalize traditional knowledge
  • Development of training manuals and curricula
  • Training workshops on wood block printing
  • Training workshops on preventive conservation
  • Training workshops on wood block carving
  • Film and photography which will be used to document project activities and to  produce information materials such as leaflets, brochures, publications and documentaries for awareness raising purposes (among a wider monastic community as well as among lay communities on the programme’s objectives)

Project output to date
The local project team has already completed two project implementation cycles. Cycle 1 from April to October 2005 was followed by Cycle 2 from December 2005 to June 2006. During the first project implementation cycle, the local project team was able to achieve the following objectives:

  • Documentation of wood blocks. A total of 1528 wood blocks from both Matho and Hemis Monasteries were sorted and documented by the monks from four monasteries during this period.
  • Identification of trainers and trainees of the pilot training program on reviving traditional woodblock printing
  • Identification of raw materials used in wood block carving, paper making and ink making
  • Research on the old techniques of paper making, wood block carving and ink making to enable development of training curriculum during the next project cycle
  • Different grass species were collected by the monks from various locations to determine the correct material for reviving the production of traditional paper.

The local project team was able to accomplish the following activities during the second project implementation cycle:

  • Pilot training programme (45 days) on wood block carving, traditional paper and ink preparation. The training workshop was participated by 10 monks and conducted at the Matho Monastery was supervised by identified expert craftsmen.
  • Production and painting of wooden cabinet to house the archive of woodblocks at Hemis Monastery, using traditional production techniques and design, as well as indigenous paint pigments.
  • Training on preventive conservation. A month-long training programme on the preventive conservation and cleaning of wood blocks using traditional techniques and cleaning materials was implemented in May 2006 for monk trainees from four monasteries. More than 300 woodblocks were cleaned and properly stored during the training programme.
  • Awareness campaigns among members of the Buddhist communities in Ladakh through which project activities at Hemis and Matho Monasteries are discussed and awareness on the need to revive traditional Buddhist arts and cultures was continuously raised. Doordharshan Delhi telecast a 15 minutes programme on the project in January 2006 and several other programmes were shown through Doordharshan Leh. During last two months the local project coordinator met with monks from several monasteries in Ladakh to discuss the monks’ project. 
  • Printing of important sacred texts using cleaned/restored old wood blocks.

An important output of the second project implementation cycle was the preparation of a training manual in video format based on footages taken during the pilot training programme on wood block printing. Copies of the video training manual in local language will be distributed to all monasteries in Ladakh. The training manual in video format includes the following topics:

  • Importance of manuscripts in Buddhism
  • Making of tools
  • Wood block carving
  • Preparation of traditional ink
  • Preparation of traditional paper
  • Preventive conservation and cleaning of wood blocks