"I can write beautifully thanks to those years of hard work," he said.
Dawa Tsering only finished primary school, but can write fluently in many different styles. "When written in artistic styles, some Tibetan words resemble shapes of different animals. But today, few people can write that way."
When every inch of the board was covered with writing, he would wash it and dry it in the sun before he continued writing. The birch board, known as "jangshing" in Tibetan, was an essential stationery item for Dawa Tsering and his peers when they first learned to write.
His tough and tedious job -- carrying endless packs of goods for sale at the store -- never eroded his love of writing. "Look at these signboards," he said. "The writings are all in the basic form. They should have invited more creative calligraphers."
Dawa Tsering is particularly proud of his son Dondrup, who studies at Lhasa No. 1 Primary School and has learned three styles of Tibetan calligraphy.
"It's a pleasure to watch him practise and sometimes we write together," he said.
Tibetan calligraphy is believed to have been created in the seventh century, during Songtsan Gambo's reign as king of the Tubo Kingdom. Tibetan writing is universal, though its dialect varies in different communities in southwest China's Tibet autonomous region and the Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
Writing practice is an essential part of most Tibetan children's early education.
"It's an important way to carry forward traditional Tibetan culture," said Rigzin Dargye, 25.
The past two decades of modernization, however, have led to the traditional writing boards being replaced by well-printed exercise books and computers. Few children still use the jangshing even in the remote herding areas.
But for elder Tibetans, jangshing and traditional Tibetan calligraphy are an important part of their collective memory.
In 2008, Tibetan artist Kalnor started to travel across Tibet searching for jangshings and expanding his private collection of the traditional writing pad that may soon fade from public memory.
"It would be a pity if we lose this part of Tibetan culture," said Kalnor at his gallery on Barkor, a famous commercial street in the heart of Lhasa.
Previously, two Tibetan writing styles, one unique to Dege county in Sichuan Province and the other prevalent in Golog Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Qinghai Province, were inscribed on the list.
Kalnor, 32, has proudly put his favorite jangshing collections on display at the gallery, including one inherited from his father. The jangshings are displayed alongside his modern Tibetan paintings on handmade papers and works of butterfly and Tara -- a female Buddha in Tibetan Buddhism.
This year, Tibet has applied to include four Tibetan writing styles on the national list of intangible heritage for conservation.
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