Lhasa, Tibet
June, 2010

Tibetans Breaking Stone into Gravel on the Rooftop

As we walked through Lhasa, the administrative capital of Tibet, we often saw a group of people, mostly teenagers or young adults, carrying sticks, and lined up in a straight row as they walked up and down the rooftop of some buildings. They’d sing a Tibetan song together, presumably a folk song, and hit their sticks on the ground as they paced up and down.

I later learned from a local that these young Tibetans were in fact holding sticks that have a flat stone attached to the bottom. And this flat stone was used to knock smaller stone pieces into gravel, to be used for future construction. The workers would walk in a straight row and sing songs together to motivate each other, create some momentum, and also so that the stones that they smashed would be broken evenly across the rooftop.

A particular significance of this tradition is that the Tibetans wish to prove that they need not rely on machinery to get work done. Tibetans also continue to keep to this tradition in hope of maintaining some semblance of Tibetan culture in a Chinese world.

I tried to research more about this, but I could not find any information about this tradition and how long it has stemmed back from. If you do know more about this, please do enlighten me.

Special thanks to Lek who helped to clarify some of these facts


Every photograph we take contains a story, but we often do not spend enough time sharing that story with others. Hence, Foto Friday was born to give some recognition to these forgotten photographs and the memories they hold. Taken over many trips (2004-present) using my crappy cameras and whatever minimal photography skills I have, these photographs serve to give you a little insight into my travels. And if you haven’t realised by now, they’ll be out on Fridays.

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