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Roof Repair Training Program Completed
by Wu Bangfu, April 29, 2006
Background: traditional Tibetan buildings usually have flat roofs made of compacted clay layered on gravel and branches. While this kind of roof is economical to build and avoids use of expensive non-native materials, it often leaks and requires a lot of maintenance. Some areas of Tibet have more advanced and effective techniques for roof-building than others. In the Tagong area, most inhabitants have been until quite recently nomadic herdsmen, and their house-building skills are relatively undeveloped. Because better house building skills are useful for safety, a better living standard, and jobs, Kham Aid has been offering a series of vocational training programs. Last fall we offered courses in stonemasonry, stone cutting, and carpentry. To complete the set of courses, we offered a course in roof-making in April, the best season for making roofs.
Instructor Losang Dendrup (left) shows Khenpo Yonden, leader of Seng-ge Monastery, how to choose the best clay for roof-making.
Near the end of the program I went to meet Losang Dendrup, the instructor, and we traveled to Seng-ge Monastery altogether. He told me the roof repair was almost finished. A couple days before, there was heavy rain, but the roof was strong enough to prevent the water from penetrating. Success!
The progress was not very easy, because many trainees had gone to pick caterpillar fungus [the yearís biggest income-earning opportunity in Kham]. Nevertheless, we found some villagers from Pasang. Because it was difficult to find participants, we had to pay 25 yuan for each person each day. Some monks also participated in the activities and learned the skill, but we didnít pay them.
Led by their instructor, the trainees completed three layers of clay on Seng-ge Monastery's main temple roof. The procedure is as follows:
First of all, they use some local good clay to shape the roof so it was sloped toward the drainage. While this might seem like an obvious first step, often in Tibetan temples the roof does not drain well, water pools at the center and then percolates downward. Careful adjustment of the slope fixes this problem.
Next, a clay called erba was applied in three layers. Erba is a Chinese terms used by goldminers who often encounter it in their search for gold. Erba was not found near the monastery; it was down-valley some distance away and had to be brought up by hired tractors.
After the first layer was applied, it was moistened and pounded hard with wooden tamping tools, then allowed to dry in the sun. By the time it was thoroughly dry, many wide cracks had developed. That was when they started the second erba clay layer. The second layer goes on the first, filling the cracks, then the workers tamped the clay until it was very compressed. Then they allowed it to dry again. After it get was dried, there are still some cracks but they were much smaller than the cracks in the first layer. They put the third layer of clay on the surface, filling the cracks, this time without much compression. Then they scattered some salt on the roof. That is the entire procedure.
[Note: later, as hairline cracks develop in the clay, salt will be carried by rainwater into them. The salt expands as it dries, plugging any leaks that might form].
At that point our instructor and trainees were finished, but there was more work for the monastery to do. Losang Dendrup instructed them to watch the roof during the next several days while the sun beat down on the clay, and add more erba if it is needed. The monastery promised they would organize the monks to do this work. We give totally 1800 yuan for the clay and transportation of Erba to the monastery and there was a little left over for them to use to get more Erba if needed.
Besides the monks, the trainees were
Women: Zaxi Wengmo, Chimee Wengmo, Amo, Zhuoma, Zerong, Sonam Chincuo, Maizi, Banmo, Wengmo, Caiba, Chimee Wengmo, and Chimee Banmo.
Men: Yonden Gongbo, Yongden, Rego, Reweng, and Gyaltso.
This program was basically a pilot - a test of our instructor and the program concept. We would like to repeat and expand the program in the future to offer more advanced training to those who already completed the course, and to make the training available to herdsmen who have much poorer job opportunities than the farmers who participated this time. For more information on how to support this worthy endeavor, contact pam (at) khamaid.org.