China / Society

Protecting the Tibetan art of creating thangka

By Ren Qi ( Updated: 2015-04-19 18:08
Protecting the Tibetan art of creating thangka

Thangka are paintings on cotton or silk appliqué. Photo by Ren Qi /

A Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene or mandala is known as a thangka which serve as important teaching aids depicting the life of the Buddha, influential lamas and other deities and bodhisattvas.

Luhuo, a town in the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Garze in Sichuan province, is famous for its thangka making history, according to Yongzhongluowu, director of the Association of Thangka Painting Artists.

There used to be fewer than 10 artists there in the 1980s and many people worried that the art of making thangka would be lost. The local government established the association in 2007, teaching young Tibetans to make the art works free of charge.

There are now more than 20 students learning the skills with an average age of 18, said Yongzhongluowu.

Zejilamu is a 17-year-old girl and has been studying the ancient art for more than two years. She said: "The learning process is usually as long as six years, and boring, so I considered it a process of willpower. I don't think it difficult to learn thangka. I like painting".

Yongzhongluowu wishes to have a museum to display thangka masterpieces. "In my dream museum there should be more than five hundred thangka, so that more youngsters can enjoy and understand it," he said.

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