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article imageWorld's first Yak museum opened in Lhasa, Tibet

By Karen Graham     Nov 25, 2014 in Travel
On a high plateau in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas, in China, you will find the homeland of the Tibetan people. The Tibetan plateau is also home to a bovine-like animal called the Yak. The Yak has always played an important role in Tibetan culture.
In December, 2012, it was announced to the world that a museum dedicated to the Yak was being built, with aid from Beijing, in Lhasa, Tibet. After almost a year-and-a-half of construction, the museum opened to the public on May 18, 2014, on World Exhibition Day.
The Yak Museum of Tibet covers over 8,000 square kilometers with the primary mission of celebrating the "spirit of Yaks." There are three exhibition halls, each hall focusing on a particular theme. The first hall features Yaks in science and nature. Succeeding halls focus on Humanity and History, and Art and Spirit.
Yage Bo has worked in Nagqu in northern Tibet for over 20 years. He says the public has donated over 300 different items for the museum exhibit. They include real objects, specimens, documents, audio and video materials on nature and history, as well as artworks featuring yaks. Yage says the museum will help tourists to better understand Tibetan culture and the importance of the Yak to people living on the top of the world.
Domesticated Yaks have been essential to survival in Tibet
While the ancestry of most domestic animals is fairly well known, it is not so with the Yak. Domesticated Yaks are thought to have derived from cattle, many millions of years ago. They are a heavy animal, reaching around five feet tall at the shoulder. They have an extremely dense long shaggy coat that hangs down below the belly, and a thick woolly undercoat that protects them from the extreme cold. They are friendly creatures and easily trained.
Yaks are well adapted to high elevations and a cold climate. In fact, they have larger lungs and a heart than cattle, and a greater capacity for transporting oxygen. Because Yaks have almost no sweat glands and a thick layer of subcutaneous fat, they will not thrive at lower elevations or when the temperatures get too high.
When Yaks were domesticated thousands of years ago, they became an essential part of the lives and culture of the Tibetan people. Every part of the Yak is used in some way or another. From the rich milk, to meat, hides, hair and even dung, all parts are used. And of course, they are used as beasts of burden.
Dry Yak droppings are used as a fuel for fires, and is doubly important when there is no other fuel to use. The milk is made into a cheese called chhurpi and butter. The butter is used in the "butter tea" that is consumed in vast quantities by Tibetans. The butter doubles as an oil for lamps and is used to make sculptures for religious festivals.
For recreation, and as part of many Tibetan festivals, Yak racing has always been a grand spectator sport. Yaks can run fairly fast for short distances, and many Yak-riders look forward to this part of the ever-popular Tibetan Horse Festival held every year. From recreation, to works of art, from tents made of yak hair and blankets made of wool, The Yak is embodied in the life, heritage and culture of Tibet.
A photo album celebrating the Yaks of Tibet
Yak racing is a popular sport in Tibet.
Yak racing is a popular sport in Tibet.
(cc) Wikipedia
The Yak is not only a beast of burden, but like the horse, is easily tamed and a great ride for local riders.
A domestic Yak.
A domestic Yak.
Dennis Jarvis
Due to limited arable land, the primary occupation of the Tibetan Plateau is raising livestock, such as sheep, cattle, goats, camels, yaks, dzo, and horses. The Tibetan yak is an integral part of Tibetan life. Yaks will not eat grain, so while traveling, areas with grass must be found or the Yak will starve.
A performance of the Yak Dance at the Glencairn Museum in Sept. 2014.
A performance of the Yak Dance at the Glencairn Museum in Sept. 2014.
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The traditional Tibetan Yak dance is a playful dance that celebrates an animal that performs a multitude of functions in Tibetan life. The dance depicts the "reconciliation' of animal and man, a musical battle for dominance that ends with the yak and man coming to terms.
A wall painting showing yaks being herded by Tibetan family members.
A wall painting showing yaks being herded by Tibetan family members.
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Woman collecting Yak  dung into piles for later use as fuel for the fire.
Woman collecting Yak dung into piles for later use as fuel for the fire.
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More about lhasa, Yak museum, Cultural heritage, Tibetan culture, Beijing
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