june 2009

Zachika means the source of the River Za.  The River Za becomes the Yangtze.  Another name for Zachika is Shershul, or Shiqu in Chinese.

A high grassland area, Zachika has nothing but herders, who keep yak, sheep, and a few high-altitude goats.  Zachika town, in the valley, is at 4200 meters (13,780 feet)!  The drive to Zachika is over eight hours from Ganzi Town, the next sizeable place.  From Chengdu, Zachika is a two day trip.  Along the way from Ganzi, one passes the village of Manigango and its lake, and everyone stops for lunch at a nice hot spring on the side of the road, and perhaps has a foot soak.  The buses on their way down from Zachika are full of people wearing fox and lamb hide hats.  It is cold in Zachika.

The only warmth you can luxuriate in, in Zachika, is that of the sun, which is strong, and people build their houses so that big windows catch the sun, as much as possible, all year round.  This is what it is like living at 4200 meters.  The air doesn’t seem to hold the warmth.  The people of Zachika call themselves the Sun Tribe.

In some ways because of the cold, and largely because of the isolation, the traditional arts of Zachika are strong.  They specialize in hats (two kinds), ornate handmade belts, and all kinds of fur-lined clothing.  They also make leather barley bags and panniers.  The people in Zachika are stylish, with the most striking traditional Tibetan clothing in Kham – the items are well-cut, carefully sewn, and made of high-quality cloth, as well as lambskin.  The belts and leather bags, too, are carefully and ornately sewn.  Even the houses in Zachika are well-looked after, and carefully decorated.  (This is also because of the altitude – the animals do not need to wander so far from home in summertime, and most family members stay in the houses year-round, so it is more worthwhile to decorate them.)  Zachika is also a good place to find traditional items still in use — flint and fungus fire starters, goat hide bellows, kid goat hide root collecting bags, and stone tsampa grinders.

Click here to view Zachika products photos and places & people photos.