China's first yak museum

CNC
Added On May 18, 2017

Yaks are synonymous with the snowy peaks and high plains of the Tibet Autonomous Region, in southwest China.

Now a one-of-its-kind museum is drawing in visitors, dedicated to the animal and its close links with people.

The motto on the museum's wall interprets the significance of the animals to people.
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE): WU YUCHU, Curator of Yak Museum
"The first part of the motto can be translated as "the yaks are the existential foundation of the Tibetan people". And the latter is an old saying in the north part of Tibet, which is usually translated into "where there are Tibetan people there are yaks."
 
Having been domesticated for thousands of years on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, yaks are the most important animals to Tibetan families.

This one animal provides a sources of meat, milk, fibre and fuel for fires. They are easily kept as pack animals.

The museum focuses on the origin and domestication of yaks, and yak-themed artworks.

SOUNDBITE(CHINESE): WU YUCHU, Curator of Yak Museum
"In this museum we tend to express the modern through the Tibetan traditions. There are the wild yaks, and these are the heads of the yaks, which were raised in farms. The Tibetan people have domesticated the yaks, and the yaks have also become essential to the livelihood of the locals."

Now 63, Wu worked 16 years in his youth on the Tibetan pastures.

In 2011, with only three years left to retire, he decided to make full return to Tibet, and to build a Yak museum dedicated to the Tibetan people and its culture.

SOUNDBITE(CHINESE): WU YUCHU, Curator of Yak Museum
"41 years ago, I came to Tibet for the first time and lived in a pasturing area for a while. The relationships between the herdsmen and the yaks touched me so much that it has lingered for years. A yak even saved my life once for bringing the food at a crucial moment after a heavy snow. Therefore, I always remember the special period of my life in Tibet after I came back to Beijing."
 
Across the museum, there are more than 2,600 items on display in four different showrooms.

Together they show the basic needs of the locals' daily lives and Yak related articrafts and artworks. 

Half the collection came from voluntary donations from people including herdsmen, monks, scholars, collectors.

SOUNDBITE(CHINESE): WU YUCHU, Curator of Yak Museum
"During our study here, we came across some pilgrims. They had been travelled to Lhasa with the most devoted way of worshipping, which is praying all along and grovelling onto the ground when every step was made. I ask them if it is okay for them to give me their aprons, which are made of the yak hide as I explained my intentions of the collections. They gave it to me right away. The collections in the museum aren't actually worth that much, but the symbolic meaning showing the bonding between the Tibetan people and the yaks is beyond the price."

Yaks, are often called as the "boat of the plateau" by the locals. At these high altitudes, they are often the most effective ways to carry equipment needed to take on Mount Qomolangma.
 
 SOUNDBITE(CHINESE): WU YUCHU, Curator of Yak Museum
"Many mountaineers have said, that yaks are the main way of large transportation to the advanced base camp, which lies at an elevation of about 6500 meters. The human race could have not successfully reached the summit if there were no yaks to help with the supplies."

Tents, which are made out of the yak hair, faeces, which are orderly stacked, bowls, boxes, and different tools, and they all exist thanks to the yaks.
 
SOUNDBITE(CHINESE): WU YUCHU, Curator of Yak Museum
"For the past few years, I have devoted myself to promoting the Tibetan traditions and culture to the public. I hope more and more people would be interested in yaks."
 
Since its opening in May 2014, the museum has received more than 80,000 visitors from home and abroad.