November 09, 2008

History of Buddhism

The founder of Buddhism in this world is Buddha Shakyamuni. He was born as a royal prince in 624 BC in a place called Lumbini, which was originally in northern India but is now part of Nepal. ‘Shakya’ is the name of the royal family into which he was born, and ‘Muni’ means ‘Able One’. His parents gave him the name Siddhartha and there were many wonderful predictions about his future. In his early years he lived as a prince in his royal palace but when he was 29 years old he retired to the forest where he followed a spiritual life of meditation. After six years he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree in Bodh Gaya, India.
He was subsequently requested to teach and as Venerable Geshe Kelsang says in Introduction to Buddhism:
‘As a result of this request, Buddha rose from meditation and taught the first Wheel of Dharma. These teachings which include the Sutra of the Four Noble Truths and other discourses, are the principal source of the Hinayana, or Lesser Vehicle, of Buddhism. Later, Buddha taught the second and third Wheels of Dharma, which include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the Sutra Discriminating the Intention respectively. These teachings are the source of the Mahayana, or Great Vehicle, of Buddhism. In the Hinayana teachings Buddha explains how to attain liberation from suffering for oneself alone, and in the Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others. Both traditions flourished in Asia, at first in India and then gradually in other surrounding countries, including Tibet. Now they are also beginning to flourish in the West.’
In all Buddha Shakyamuni gave eighty-four thousand teachings. His intention in founding Buddhism was to lead living beings to permanent liberation from suffering. He realized temporary liberation from suffering and difficulties is not enough. Motivated by love and compassion his aim was to help living beings find lasting peace or nirvana.

If you want to learn more information about buddhist history you can visit web or

What is Buddhism

The founder of Buddhism was Buddha Shakyamuni who lived and taught in India some two and a half thousand years ago. Since then millions of people around the world have followed the pure spiritual path he revealed. The Buddhist way of life of peace, loving kindness and wisdom is just as relevant today as it was in ancient India. Buddha explained that all our problems and suffering arise from confused and negative states of mind, and that all our happiness and good fortune arise from peaceful and positive states of mind. He taught methods for gradually overcoming our negative minds such as anger, jealousy and ignorance, and developing our positive minds such as love, compassion and wisdom. Through this we will come to experience lasting peace and happiness. These methods work for anyone, in any country, in any age. Once we have gained experience of them for ourselves we can pass them on to others so they too can enjoy the same benefits.
Meditation is at the heart of the Buddhist way of life. It is basically a method for understanding and working on our own mind. We first learn to identify our different negative mental states known as ‘delusions’, and learn how to develop peaceful and positive mental states or ‘virtuous minds’.
Then in meditation we overcome our delusions by becoming familiar with virtuous minds. Out of meditation we try to maintain the virtuous minds we have developed and use our wisdom to solve the problems of daily life. As our mind becomes more positive our actions become more constructive, and our experience of life becomes more satisfying and beneficial to others.
Anyone can learn basic meditation techniques and experience great benefits, but to progress beyond basic meditation requires faith in the Three Jewels – Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. Usually people find this develops naturally as they experience the benefits of their meditation practice.
The spiritual path
The teachings of Buddha reveal a step by step path to lasting happiness. By following this path anyone can gradually transform his or her mind from its present confused and self-centered state into the blissful mind of a Buddha.
As Geshe Kelsang says in his popular book Eight Steps to Happiness:
Every living being has the potential to become a Buddha, someone who has completely purified his or her mind of all faults and limitations and has brought all good qualities to perfection. Our mind is like a cloudy sky, in essence clear and pure but overcast by the clouds of delusions.
Just as the thickest clouds eventually disperse, so too even the heaviest delusions can be removed from our mind. Delusions such as hatred, greed, and ignorance are not an intrinsic part of the mind. If we apply the appropriate methods they can be completely eliminated, and we shall experience the supreme happiness of full enlightenment.
Having attained enlightenment we shall have all the necessary qualities – universal love and compassion, omniscient wisdom and boundless spiritual power – to lead all living beings to the same exalted state. This is the ultimate aim of Mahayana Buddhism.
To find out more about basic Buddhism, read Introduction to Buddhism by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

November 04, 2008

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Thangka tradition in Wutun Village

Thangka are visual expressions of the philosophy and psychology of Buddhism, painted on cotton or linen canvases that may be rolled up when not on display. They often depict of scriptures and scenes from the lives of saints and great masters. Predominantly Buddhist residents of Tongren County -- Regong in Tibetan -- in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, have been creating the so-called Regong art forms of thangka, butter sculptures, murals and barbola since the 15th century. Wutun Villages in Tongren County is regarded as home of the thangka. It is, to all intents and purposes, an art institute for local residents wishing to study and perfect this iconic art form; 90 percent of male Wutun residents are Regong artists. Such is Wutun's thangka fame that the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple and Tar'er Lamasery all order their thangka from Wutun.
In addition to the artistic and spiritual fulfillment that painting thangka brings, it is also an excellent alternative source of income for Wutun residents. Just one can fetch as much as RMB 10,000 (US$1,233), which compares very favorably indeed to earnings from 3.5 mu [0.57 acres] of farmland. The late national craftworks art master Shawo Tsering (1922-2004), who accompanied his master Zhang Daqian to Dunhuang's Mogao Grottoes to study their Buddhist frescoes, was a Wutun native. He is regarded as China's foremost thangka artist.
Thangka Techniques
A thangka can take anything from a few months to several years to finish. Creating, for example, numerous minute images of bodhisattva on a one-square meter thangka canvas requires perfect understanding of iconometric principles, not to mention painstaking brushwork. It is a discipline that takes at least a decade to master. Thangka painting is executed in four main stages. The canvas surface is first coated on both sides with a thin layer of plaster of Paris. This ensures smooth application of colors and inhibits peeling. The subject matter is then sketched on the canvas in charcoal. The third step is application of color from pigments of turquoise or carol according to the color gradations. Finally, the main features of the thangka, such as images of Buddha and bodhisattva, demarcated subdivisions of a certain form, or swirling masses of flames, are outlined in gold foil for greater effect.
Lama Artists
Wutun Village holds a sacrificial ceremony during the 6th lunar month every year in which all Thangkas dedicated to Gods are by the artists in the village.
Many Wutun boys aged seven or eight go to a monastery for at least one year and sometimes eleven, to study and receive training in Regong art. The temple, with its stupas, murals and atmosphere of worship is perfect for cultivation of thangka creating skills and talent.
Pad Wangchen, now 30, learned thangka art from his grandfather as a child, and went on to be apprenticed to Wutun's most famous son, Shawo Tsering. It was from illustrious master that Padma that learned pigments used to mix colors must be ground for a whole day in order to be smooth enough to apply in three layers and ensure a flawless finish. Upon completion of the sculpture of the fat laughing Buddha in the main hall of Wutun's Upper Temple in 2001, 30 lama artists were commissioned to create the wealth of thangka and sculptures that now grace the temple. Padma Wangchen was one.
Gendun Khedrup also began studying thankga art as a child. At the age of 19 he began receiving commissions to paint thangkas for prominent temples in Tibet, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan. In common with other thangka artists, he keeps his best works. As far as he is concerned, there is still much to learn about his chosen art.

Four-armed Avalokitesvara by Padma Wangchen.
Padma Wangchen working on Guardian God.

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Shining Regung Art

Regung art is a particular wonder of Tibetan Buddhism art, blending blends religious and folk art in a way that is treasured by Tibetan Buddhists as well as becoming well known in the world.
Art Flower in Golden Valley
Regung is the Tibetan name of areas in Tongren County and Zeku County in Qinghai Province with the meaning of "golden valley".
The Regung area as the birthplace of "Regung art" has an abundance of tangka, duishiu, sculptures and religious architectural structures. Several villages, such as Wutun, Nyianduhu, Guomari, and Gasairi in Tongren County lying in the valley on the middle reaches of the Rongwu River provide the bulk of the artworks. All the adult men there can make Buddhist images. These handicraftsmen's tangka, mural paintings, duishiu portraits of Buddha and Buddha statues sell well among all monasteries and common people in the Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai, Tibet, Gansu and Sichuan, and are also sold to far-off foreign countries. They are almost all done to order and demand exceeds supply.
Regung artists are concentrated mostly in Wutun, where sub-villages on each side of the east- west highway, and they mainly depend on selling tangka Buddha portraits and Buddha statues. A common tangka is priced at 3,000 Yuan, and a larger one is 10,000 Yuan; sometimes, they can cost tens of thousands of Yuan. Each household has an income of 40,000-50,000 Yuan per year from selling portraits alone. Entering the village, you will see few idlers and every household closes the door to bend their head to the making of portraits.
Each village has a monastery and both receive State protection as cultural relics. Most of the monks in monasteries are also painters and engravers.
This writer paid visits to three painters in succession in Wutun Upper Monastery. A young painter named Dorje Renqin was painting a delicate White Tara; a 33-year-old monk painter named Lhotsang Huadain had five tangka mounted in a small showroom. Each one was exquisite and refined. One particular colorful one, Time Wheel Buddha's Warrior Attendants, involved the use of much gold leaf and had taken four months to complete. It is valued as 10,000 Yuan. He once spent 11 months on painting a large tangka with his two disciples. It is valued as 200,000 Yuan and was offered to the monastery where it has become a treasure.
Another famous painter in Wutun Upper Monastery is Gendun Dagyi, who came from a tangka painting family. When I met him, he was guiding some students to paint sketches of a tangka. His works sell both at home and abroad. The larger ones were priced at some 10,000 Yuan, the smaller cost several thousand and the most exquisite ones with more gold are priced as high as 30,000 Yuan. He once did some gold work for the 9th Panchen Erdeni. His father Shawo Cerang was a famous painter of Regung art as well as national class artist who once followed Zhang Daqian to Dunhuang to copy many of the mural paintings.
There are many treasured tangka and painters in Wutun Lower Monastery. I met a young painter named Guanqoi Nyima. He was painting a very exquisite Portrait of Master Zongkapa and had been working on it for three months. In Wutun Lower Village, I visited a famous painter named Chincug. He was leading his disciples to paint the Four Devil Kings, ordered by Tar Monastery at the price of 20,000 Yuan. Some youths were coloring under the guidance of Chincug, a secularized monk of the Wutun Lower Monastery. From the age of 17, he has followed Qumeiqoizong, the painter of the 9th Panchen Erdeni, to study for nine years. He has painted all together more than a thousand tangka. He has been to Wutai Mountain, the Tar Monastery in Qinghai, and to various parts of Tibet many times to paint portraits. Many of his works have been sold to foreign countries and he is now leading more than 30 disciples.
Regung's duishiu portraits of Buddha pasted with colorful brocade pieces with a light relief effect come mostly from Nyidohu Village. At the home of the famous painter Zhaxi, I found him leading a group of women disciples to make duishiu portraits of Buddha. It was Zhaxi who made the huge duishiu portraits of Sakyamuni measuring 130X80 square meters that is laid out on a mountain slope during an unfolding ritual of Labrang Monastery during the first Tibetan lunar month each year. It is valued at 250,000 Yuan. Zhaxi's tangka is exquisite and elegant with a unique style. This writer also had the good fortune to meet Qoimei Nyima, 74, who is still in good health. He is Zhaxi¡¯s father. Another famous duishiu painter, Manba in Nyidohu Village, led more than 100 local artists two years ago to make a huge duishiu portrait of Buddha measuring 380X470 square meters for Yunnan, which is valued at 1.7 million Yuan. In 1999, this village made a greater embroidery painting more than 500 meters long that was bought by a private museum. It is reported that these two portraits of Buddha are the greatest duishiu works in the world.
The emergence and development of Regung art are directly related to the fortunes of Tibetan Buddhism. The emergence and development of Regung art are directly related to the fortunes of Tibetan Buddhism. The emergence and development of Regung art are directly related to the fortunes of Tibetan Buddhism.
In middle of the seventh century, Buddhism was introduced to Tibet and co-existed with the Bon religion. In 838, the Tibetan King Landama succeeded the title and began to forbid Buddhism on large scale, leading to its decline. At that time, three eminent Buddhist monks fled to Ngari, Xinjiang and Qinghai respectively, and taught sutras and instructed disciples in the areas of Xunhua, Hualong and Jiazha in Huangnan Prefecture of today, so that Tibetan Buddhism survived.
In the latter part of the 10th century, Tibetan Buddhism gradually began to prosper again. A yogi named Lhagyi Zhinawa of the Pagba Sect and some painters came to Regung to spread Buddhist teachings and, in the process, encourage the development of Buddhist art. The painting works brought by these painters became the first model for Regung painting and sculptural art.
At the end of the 14th century, Zongkapa established the Gelug Sect and brought about a faster development of monastery construction and a sudden upsurge in religious art. Regung Buddha portrait art absorbed some characteristics of religious art in the Han areas, Indian Buddhist art and local folk art to form a unique style.
Regung Tibetan art involves including colorful sculpture, construction decoration, wood carving and engraving, duishiu portraits of Buddha and various forms of integrated painting. The principal forms of Tibetan paintings are tangka and mural paintings, and the themes include Sakyamuni (life story of Buddha), Buddha's biography, Buddhist history, customs and practices, and construction decoration.
Tangka is the favorite form among Tibetan common people. The shape, color, outline and use of gold are all very exquisite. It is divided into three kinds including paintings, duishiu portraits of Buddha and embroidery according to different materials and crafts. But tangka usually refers to painting. Regung tangka includes colorful, black and golden tangka. The composition is crowded with less open space; the view is panoramic; colorful and bright, with great use of contrastive color; and the great user of gold is a particular characteristic.
Mural paintings are large-scale Tibetan paintings on the wall of the halls in monasteries. Some are painted directly onto the wall and some are painted on canvas before being inlaid in the wall. Most of them are pasted with gold leaf, have splendid tones of green and gold and strong decorative style. The existing mural paintings in Duhu Monastery and Wutun Lower Monastery are the most representative treasures of the genre.
The sculptures are mostly of clay, but also include woodcarving, stone engraving and brick carving. Clay sculpture is called colorful sculpture; Buddha and Bodhisattva are painted with gold and Buddha's warrior attendants are painted with various colors. Woodcarving often uses red birch and pear wood that are then painted in gold or other colors. Stone engravings of Buddha appear on flagstones and Mani mounds. Brick carving is fired after the clay is molded into a base and is used to decorate roofs and walls of a building. Regung sculpting attaches importance to decoration and a brilliant and elegant demeanor.
For duishiu portraits of Buddha, the smaller ones are used to decorate sutra halls and the composition of paintings mainly consists of a master Buddha and two small Buddha's below. The huge ones give prominence to a master Buddha with more Buddha's, Bodhisattva and Buddhist Guardians all around, as well as various designs. The size can be as large as hundreds of meters and they are only shown during certain monastic rituals. According to textual research, duishiu portraits of Buddha were changed from the art in Regung that was introduced from the Han areas some 250 years ago.
For Regung construction decoration colorful paintings, the color is bright and strong. Much gold is used. They have high aesthetic value and decorative character.
In the initial development period of Regung art it was greatly affected by the religious art of the Central Plains. The designs were simple and plain and did not need the addition of any gold; during the prosperous time of the Qing Dynasty, the style changed and sought for religious orthodoxy in standards of exquisiteness, magnificence, awfulness and solemnity. The color was bright and strong with prominence given to decorative effect. There were an unprecedented number of famous painters and the influence spread throughout Gansu, Tibet, Sichuan, Xinjiang and Mongolia. Even in the royal family in Beijing, in the Yonghegong Lamasery and Chengde Summer Resort in Hebei Province, there were Regung art treasures stored. Until the later period of the Qing Dynasty and the period of the Republic of China, Regung art tended towards commercialization. The works were more exquisite and magnificent and gave more prominence to decorative character with the use of far more gold. Regung artists went along to Qinghai, to the Mongolian and Tibetan areas, to India and Nepal and other Buddhist countries to investigate and paint. Many good works have been stored up in some great monasteries and museums in foreign countries.
Talents Cultivated in Great Number
Generations of Regung artists have been largely enlightened by monk painters in the monasteries since early time. Among all such in the Regung area, there are religious artists in all generations who can paint and engrave and have produced excellent works.
When Regung artists start to make Buddha portraits or statues, they will first hold a grand religious ceremony, and the same thing occurs at the conclusion of the work. For large-scale works, some grander blessing ceremony will be held. The artists view the painting of Buddha portraits and the sculpting of Buddha statues as an offering to Buddha and they seek for mental happiness and spiritual comfort. Hence, Regung art has survived for a long time.
Boys in the Regung area will be sent to monasteries at an early age to become monks. They study sutras and art, and work starting from processing the canvas, making the paint, mixing the clay in order to become assistants of the masters and start to paint. They have to study for at least 10 years before launching their own business. A custom has developed that monks and common people study art and "everyone paints and every household is engaged in art". This situation cannot be found in other Tibetan-inhabited areas or in the hinterland.
Because of the swift social changes, only several historical Regung art works exist today: the Lungwu Monastery's Painting Scroll of Sakyamuni and Other Buddha's, the Wutun Upper Monastery's Portrait of the Six-Armed Dark Heaven Dharma Guardians and 1,000 Green Taras, the Wutun Lower Monastery's mural paintings Scenes of the Pastoral Areas and the Duhu Monastery's Story of 16 Arhats.In middle of the seventh century, Buddhism was introduced to Tibet and co-existed with the Bon religion. In 838, the Tibetan King Landama succeeded the title and began to forbid Buddhism on large scale, leading to its decline. At that time, three eminent Buddhist monks fled to Ngari, Xinjiang and Qinghai respectively, and taught sutras and instructed disciples in the areas of Xunhua, Hualong and Jiazha in Huangnan Prefecture of today, so that Tibetan Buddhism survived.

In Regung art, famous artists emerge in great numbers in each generation. In the early Yuan and Ming dynasties, the style of the famous painters was simple and natural, but few works survive. In the Qing Dynasty prominence was given to decorative effect and artists became good at painting figures. In the early and middle parts of the 19th century, famous painters such as the Wutun Lower Monastery's Gartsang, Shiawo, Kasigyia etc. produced representative works including Four Devil Kings in the front hallway of the monastery¡¯s small sutra halls. Its decorative character is very evident and surpassed the earlier generation¡¯s innovative works.
The famous latter-day painters also included Nyianduhu's Yuandain, Qudain; the representative works are Mandala in the Tar Monastery in Qinghai and Story of Buddha, a large mural painting, and Portraits of the 1st-9th Panchen and Gasairi's Sanggyita, who is viewed as the reincarnation of Xiangquresairi, a famous painter in the Qing Dynasty. He had deformity in the legs and could only paint in a prostrate position, but this did not have any effect on the paintings.
The most famous modern painters include Shawo Cerang, Gentsang, and Chincug etc., who all became famous in the 1950s. Shawo Cerang, born in Wutun Village, once followed Zhang Daqian in 1941 to Dunhuang to copy mural paintings for a long time. He has made so many excellent works and once obtained the title of "National Industrial Art Master". Gentsang is good at decorative designs. Chincug is a famous artist in Wutun Lower Village who can both paint and sculpt. Famous artists of Regung duishiu portraits of Buddha concentrate in Nyidohu Village including Chinjor, Yanpei, Zuba and Gartsang.
In modern times, a new generation of Regung artist has grown up and tries to launch new themes and adopt new crafts to create works. For example, some large mural paintings reflecting legends and historical stories; the tangka King Gesar and Princess Wencheng in Xihai on the Way to Tibet are representatives of new Regung art works. There has even appeared a large mural painting that is made of colorful pearls by a young painter Chihua in the Lungwu Monastery...
At present in the Regung area, the young and middle-aged famous painters include Zonggyi Lhazhe, Dagyi (son of Shawo Cerang), Chincug, Lhotsang Huadain, Zhaxi, Zhihua, etc. They are inheritors of a long tradition as well as explorers of the future shape of Regung art.

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Tshatsha: An Exotic Flower of Tibetan Buddhist Art

Tshatsha, a literal translation from a Sanskrit word which means "copy" in English, stands for small clay sculptures cut from a mold, including mini-statues of Buddha, stupas or Buddhist scriptures. Usually, they are put inside large stupas or special shrines (tsha-kang). They can also be found on top of Mani stones flanked by prayer flags along tracks, on the revered snow-peaks or in sacred caves. The Tibetans carry them in small amulet boxes to guard against evil. Tshatshas are believed to have come from India together with Buddhism. Although most tshatshas are made of clay, there are also wooden or stone ones. The former are used to fill the stupas, with some are placed on top of the Mani stones or in special shrines, while most of the latter are placed in Buddhist shrines or altars. Tshatshas, whether ancient or modern, generally fall into two categories in terms of their forms: relief sculptures, including high and low reliefs, made with a one-sided mold; and round sculptures that are made with a double- sided mold.
To make a tshatsha, first a mold, an indispensable item known as tsha-shi-gong in Tibetan, has to be made. Most molds are made of bronze or brass, and those made of porcelain, paper, or wood are rare and hence especially precious. Once the mold is made, one can begin to make a clay tshatsha, a process that has been compared to working with the popular children's toy of plasticene (named after the famous trademark). First step, a lump of clay is stuffed into the mold after being rolled into a clay pie. Then, a pit is made within which several grains of the highland barley (grown in Tibet and Qinghai in West China) are placed. The process, known as filling the scripture (Zhuangzang in Chinese), is believed to be able to give superhuman strength to the clay sculptures. Next, the clay is pressed so that its surface will be smooth and the design pattern clear. A pedestal is modeled by hand in the third step. When all the above is done, the moist clay tshatsha is taken out from the mold and placed in sunshine to dry off, completing the process. This is called the lost wax method, which was considered the most advanced technique more than a millennium ago. It is still in use today to make delicate modern sculptures and replicas of antiques. Since all the tshatshas are molded, they are not too large in size, hence their name "little statues of Buddha". By far, the largest one of those excavated measures no more than an inch in both width and height and the smallest one is no larger than a thumbnail. In most cases, they are about 9 centimeters in width and 7 in height. Though small, tshatsha serves the same purposes as other Buddhist forms, such as the mural painting and thangka. Buddhists recognize them as symbols of Buddhist merits, and use them to express their adoration and reverence for the Buddha, and their explanation of and devotion to the Buddhist doctrines, as well as their aspiration for riches and honor. The tshatshas are colored with traditional Tibetan pigment, which is in fact a kind of mineral paint traditionally made by mixing different amounts of minerals so that they still retain their bright original colors after hundreds of years. Though made with the same techniques, tshatshas vary greatly from place to place. Tshatshas found in the stupas in Jiama County, dating back to over 600 years ago in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD), feature three-dimensional patterns in high relief; details like figures and background decorations are also emphasized. The most distinctive aspect of these tshatshas is their large size, as most of them are 10 cm high and 8 cm wide, with the largest reaching as much as 26 cm in height and 20 cm in width. These tshatshas are believed to be of great value for the research on the Tibetan Buddhist art in the Yuan Dynasty. Compared with tshatshas found in other places, those found in Xialu Temple are said to be unique and worthy of collection, as they have the largest variety in terms of the ages, the patterns and the styles as well as the colors. Tshatshas also abound in Sajia Temple, and are famed for their delicacy and exquisiteness. Most of them are burned into colors such as red, gray or black. There are also tshatshas with two colors, an uncommon feature. In the Northern Sajia Temple, tshatshas with typical Indian or Nepalese artistic features can be found, which were put in the stupas when the temple was built nearly a thousand years ago. Therefore, they are referred to as having matchless artistic and historical value. Due to its long history and unique artistic charm as well as the mysterious cultural implications, tshatsha has grown into a special category, arousing the interests of numerous experts, artists and collectors. Over the years, tshatshas, with its rich implications, various design patterns, long history and different artistic styles have become a treasured collectible item.

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How to Take Care of your Thangka

For those of you who own a thangka, a few suggestions may help you in preserving it. You can care for your thangka as a museum cares for its thangkas.Resist the temptation to clean your thangka. The traditional offerings of butter lamps and incense smoke form an insoluble mixture that deeply penetrates and darkens the painting. Since this is not just on the surface, attempts at cleaning will cause thangka paintings to have a stripped look. Too often these days, the fine, elegant details on faces, brocades, and landscapes too often get stripped away permanently by cleaning.
*Over-cleaned PaintingFrom a scientific, museum standards point of view, frequent rolling and unrolling of your thangka is the singularly most harmful thing you can do. Although thangkas traditionally are rolled and unrolled, these actions compress the delicate paint layers and the layer of chalk/hide glue they rest on. The paint layers can crack and flake off. The textile mountings that the painted cloth is sewn onto and the cover of the thangka rub up against and abrade the paint layers during rolling and while rolled up. Rolling also creases the cotton or silk cloth onto which the thangka was originally painted, and the cloth itself can crease and split, causing further paint loss. Rolling and unrolling causes the traditional textile mountings to tear as well. Older mountings are often made of a blue silk with characteristically weak warp threads.
*Painting Damaged from Rolling and Unrolling.You can transport your thangka as a museum does. Thangkas can be transported and stored lying flat on an archival-quality supporting board, available at most art supply stores. It is best to hang your thangka up and then not move or handle it after that. Do not pull on your thangka to try to adjust its shape. Some dimensional changes are expected. Cotton and silk swell and contract with changes in temperature and relative humidity. The cloth it is painted on and the textile mounting will expand and contract at different rates, causing some unevenness in the fit. This will happen, but if you pull on it to flatten it, you can tear the thangka and cause paint loss.Hang the thangka out of direct sunlight, and not over a heating or air conditioning element. Even a bright spotlight on it can direct heat towards it in a harmful way. In addition to the heat of many light sources, both the intensity of the light and the ultraviolet content of the light cause irreparable damage to thangkas. This is true whether your thangka has its traditional silk mounting, or is framed in a Western-style frame behind glass.If you have questions or concerns about caring for your thangka, we will be glad to help you!

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Tibetan music

Tibet has long history and long-standing cultures. The special geographic environment and ethnic tradition result in a special music style. In the past, Tibetan music was rarely impacted by the outside world and it was little known by the outside world.
The charm of Tibetan songs originates from its special way of producing sound in the throat, by which the singing echoes in valleys and reaches people in the distance. Singing, loud and sonorous, has romantic color, expressing the Tibetans religious belief and their enjoying happy lives and peaceful minds.
The integration with the nature and many other new music styles characterizes Tibetan music, which may be perfectly connected to pop music. In addition, it can also combine religious music and palace music with pure western music.
In 1950’s, a Tibetan song Liberated Serfs sing for freedom sung by Tibetan singer Tshe Brtan Sgrol Ma moved millions of people and soon became popular throughout China.
In recent years, Tibetan songs are popular throughout China because of their unique charm, for instance, the song Qinghai-Tibet Pleteau conqueres millions of listeners.
With her two albums, AjieGu and YangJingMA, which were released and sold in over 60 countries, Zhu Zheqing introduced Tibetan music to the world. In AjieGu and YangJingMA Tibetan songs sing the unique Tibetan religious stories, historic persons and Buddhism classics. Western people were deeply impressed by Zhu’s voice and call it the “sound of nature”.
Han Hong, another Tibetan singer, has become one of the most famous singers in China. She adds many Tibetan music elements in her singing, such as Rap and Soul to her songs. Other singers and bands from Tibet, includingYaDong, RongZhongErJia, QiongXue ZhuoMa, TianChu, are exploring the more fashionable and mordern Tibetan music.

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Tibetan Painting
Painting is another main artistic form in Tibet and it is in a preferential position in Tibetan Buddhism. Like in Christianity or any other religions, Tibetan painting is one of the forms which help Tibetan people strengthen their belief in Buddhism and their emotion of life. Tibetan painting mainly includes cliff painting, frescoes, Thangka and wood prints.
Cliff painting is an art style for the period from pre-historic time to TuBo Regime. It is one of the oldest arts in Tibet. The cliff paintings existing today are mainly on cliffs and large rocks. In terms of skills, themes and styles, Tibetan cliff painting has a close relationship with North China cliff painting and Mid-Asia cliff painting, found in Xinjiang, Ganshu, Qinghai and Inner Mongolia.
Fresco in AliTuoLin Monstery
Frescoes, painted on the walls of the monsteries and palaces in Tibet, are also a main style of Tibetan painting art. The frescoes of Tibetan Buddhism absorbed some elements of the paintings in India, Nepal and other parts of China and and gradually formed their unique style. We can see the shadow of Indian style from the frescoes of Jokhang Monastery and JingGang Monastery.

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Tibetan Opera

The opera, called “ache lhamo” in Tibetan, plays an important part in the social life of Tibetan people. It is a unique form in China’s various theatrical arts. “ache” means elder sister or a female, and “lhamo” means a fairy. Tibetan opera is an all-round performing art that tells the story by the form of fol dances and songs. Folk troupes of Tibetan opera are easily encountered any time and anywhere, with the audience from miles away to crowd the performer. This art style is influenced by Tibetan Buddhism from the view of skills and contents.
It’s widely believed that Tibetan opera comes from the following three aspects: folk songs and dance, folk rap, religious riruals and religious arts. Besides, there is a legend that the origin of Tibetan opera began from a dance to worhsip deity and the dance was created by Tibetan Buddhist, LianHuaShen, in 8th century. Later, LianHuaShen set up a theatrical troupe .It was composed of seven beautiful sisters who were good at dancing. They wrote and composed dramas of Buddhism stories and were on tour shows in Tibet. The shows not only cultivated ordinary people, but also collected some money.That is the beginning of Tibetan opera. Tibetan opera has many schools. It’s full of Tibetan chracteristics. Prince Nor-bzang, Princess WenChen, Prince Dri-med-kun-iden, Maiden Vgro-ba-bzang-mo, Brothers Don-yod and Don-grub, Gzugs-kyi-nyi-ma, Pad-ma-vod-vba, Maiden Shang-ma are eight classical operas, which have wonderful music, beautiful and colorful masks and finery.
Bands, musicians and musical instruments
Before the democratic reform in 1959, LangDa ,one of the forms of Tibetan opera, was usually sung without accompaniments. Even in some important occasions people sing and dance, only drums and cymbals were used as accompaniments.Today, such accompaniments are still used in some local bands.The bands in Chamdo and Dege use flute and Jialin(Tibetan Suona) 
Since Tibetan Opera Trouple was set up in 1960, it has grew into a large one. More national musical instruments and some western ones have gradually appeared in performances. Langda, one of Tibetan operas, had stringed instruments as accompaniments. The Tibetan Opera Trouple has its unique band performing system in which Tibetan musical instruments, like Jing hu, Te qin, dulcimer, Six-stringed fiddle, Qu flute and Tibetan Suona play the main part with two-stringed fiddle, violin, cello, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, oboe, etc. are also used. The small-scale band of national musical instruments falls into five groups: Stringed instruments group(including Tibetan Jing Hu, Te Qin, two-stringed fiddle, violin.), Plucking stringed instruments group(including dulcimer, alto and high-pitch six-stringed fiddle), Wind instrument group(including Qu flute, Bang flute, Tibetan Suona, trombone, trumpet, clarinet, oboe.), Base instrument group( including high-pitched violin, low-pitched violin),Percussion instrument group (including Tibetan drum, Tibetan cymbal, Cuan bell, Da Ma drum). But this musical instrument system is still in the stage of experiment.
One drum and one cymbal were used as accompaniments in traditional Tibetan opera performance, which determines the crucial role of their players and the beats of drum and cymbal. Like other local dramas, Tibetan drama contains a large quantity of patterned dancing acts and performers must be in harmony with the beats of drums and cymbals, otherwise they feel lost in dance and are unable to continue the dances. Jiang Cunm, a famous drum and cymbal player in Jue Mu Long Tibetan opera troupe, viewed the art of playing drum and cymbal as “the shining eyes in the face, the beating heart in the chest, the heaven I adore all the life.”
When he was young, Jiang Cun spent some time in Xue Chi Lin Ka, where Ge Er Ba, the Palace musical band of Dalai’s, practiced drums and cymbals, and where Zi Qia Men Zhe Bu taught the traditional beats of drums and cymbals. Jiang Cun went there every day. He also learned from his teacher La Wang Ou Zhu the art of drum and cymbal and the rigidly craving for art. With the small hammer, less than 13 inches long, Jiang Cun can play dozens of moods and rhythms, making the beating and rhythms properly go with the delicate expressions of various characters. Weak beatring is for sorrow; strong beating for anger. Both beatings are slow drumbeat, called Duan Tong in Tibet. Fast beating is for tension and excitement. Allegro drumbeat is used in intermezzo for line reading; integrated drumbeat in riding, advancing, and climbing in the performance; Beng Zi has its own drumbeat. Jiang Cun’s drumming evoked, intensified, and strengthened the artistic charm in Jue Mu Long school of Tibetan opera. Jiang Cun mastered the drum system for traditional Tibetan opera:the drum system used the syllable of the Tibetan language to reflect the beat and rhythm of drums and cymbals.
The old drum system cannot fully meet the need of the development of Tibetan opera. When it comes to the greeting action in the show, the old drum system fails to express it. Then, Jiang Cun cooperated closely with the dramatist and the performers. Given the performers’ conditions and the situation that Tibetan drama art has developed into a new level, they reformed the old drum system by extending some beats, changing some beats and even creating some new beats.
Musical instruments
Zhanianqin (A plucking stringed instrument)Zhanianqin, also called six-stringed fiddle, is one of the ancient plucking stringed instruments in Tibet and one of the main musical instruments in today’s professional Tibetan Opera Trouple. Old-fashioned zhanianqin has three groups of sounds, each group having two strings. Alto and high-pitched zhanianqin used in Tibetan opera today derived from it, which was transformed from double strings to a single string. High-pitched zhanianqin has four strings, Alto zhanianqin having five strings.
Picture 1: Teqin
Teqin comes from the Han nationality, similar to the Han nationality’s erhu (two-stringed fiddle) in shape, but the sound being louder, more high-pitched. It usually has a bamboo sound box, Mongolian goat’s skin, and a hard bow. Teqin is used as a musical accompaniment in folk dances like Nang Ma and Dui Xie. Now, the accompaniment with teqin has developed into a new set of skills with Tibetan characteristics, and it’s deeply loved by Tibetan people.
The name teqin is the transliteration of Chinese low-pitched fiddle.
Tibetan jinghu  
It derives from the Han people’s jinghu, but its bowings and fingerings are greatly different. Tibetan jinghu is the main musical instrument in the folk dances like Nang Ma and Dui Xie. Its shape is similar to Jinghu, but it has a larger sounding box and a high-pitched tone with a little thickness.Tibetan people love it very much.
Picture 2: Tibetan drum
Different Tibetan operas use the same round wooden drum with two sides and a long handle. The size of the drum varies in different operas. The accompaniment drum in Tibetan opera has its special tone, whose sound is deep, loud, and strong.
Tibetan cymbal
Tibetan cymbal, made of copper, has two bubble shape plates and the two plates strike each other to produce sound. Different striking produces different tones. This instrument is widely used in Tibetan operas, folk dances and religion dances.
Jialin (Tibetan Suona) 
Jialin, made of wood, is embroidered delicately with gold and silver and jewels.It used to be an important religious musical instrument in monasteries, and later entered in Tibetan operas. It is the main accompaniment in De Ge Tibetan opera.

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Tibetan Literature

Legend of King Gesar An introduction
King Gesar is a heroic epic created collectively by the Tibetans during the 11th to 13th century. As the beloved king of the ancient Tibetan kingdom of Ling, Gesar was believed to be the son of God of Heaven. Gesar and his followers bravely and resourcefully struggled against evil forces and conquered the kingdom of demons with great wisdoms and super natural power, bringing peace and happiness to his people. The great hero and his brave army are kept alive in the imaginative retelling of the epic. The epic contains a lot of great poetry and vivid description of the characters. It sings high praise for Gesar’s efforts to aid the weak and poor, to defeat the demons and to benefit the common people. It reflects the wishes of the ordinary Tibetans to fight against the evil and struggle for peace and freedom. Theme of the epic, King Gesar
The epic, King Gesar, was adapted according to legends of this real hero. His lifetime serves as the source of the great work. The theme of the epic centers on the life, deeds, and merits of the divine hero, Gesar, whose mission from heaven to this world was to rescue his loved ones from earthly calamities, unify disparate tribes, defeat ravaging monsters, and aid the weak and the poor. Artistic Achievements in King Gesar
The epic of King Gesar is a great work of both realism and romanticism. All the characters in the epic, no matter positive or negative, male or female, young or old, are described in such a vivid way that they are kept alive in the telling and singing of the epic.
Gesar is a great ballad - epic about an ancient Tibetan hero; it also tells us much about ancient Tibetan society, including war, production, living styles, nationality, religion and morality. Thus it is a virtual encyclopedia about the lives of ancient Tibetans, and enjoys high aesthetic and academic value. Story of the King Gesar
The story is set in the far distant past, when the people of the Tibetan plateau were being plagued by natural disasters and calamities, and demons and spirits were running wild. The Goddess of Mercy took pity on the people and asked the Amitabha Buddha if he would send the son of the God of Heaven to the world to defeat the evil demons.
Toiba Gawa, later known as Gesar, descended to earth and later became the king of the Tibetan people. Gesar is usually portrayed as a combination of god, dragon and a fierce spirit in early Tibetan religion. He possessed invincible powers, marvelous abilities and the protection of the god of Heaven, which helped him to defeat the demons, aid the poor and bring help to the common people.Becoming the King
The legend goes that Gesar was persecuted soon after his birth, then his mother and him were forced to move to the Yellow River area when he was only five years old. A few years later the Ling tribe also migrated to this area. Gesar grew up to win a great horse race, defeating his uncle and other tribal chiefs, for which the prize was the crown, and marriage with Qomo, the most beautiful girl in the tribe. He was then named the Lion King of the World, or Gesar Lhobo Zhadui.Subduing the Demons
When he ascended the throne, King Gesar was confronted with the invasion launched by four vicious enemies. The major part of the epic lies in battles between between Ling and different ancient states, such as Mo, Hor, Jiang and Moin.Battle between Mo and Ling
To the north of the State of Ling was the State of Mo ruled by King Lutsang who ate children. One day, he kidnapped Maisa, the second concubine of Gesar. To wipe out the demon and rescue his concubine, Gesar left for the north. He managed to get in touch with Maisa and the two worked to wipe out King Lutsang. Maisa hated to be Gesar’s concubine in the State of Ling. She wished to be his wife. She managed to make Gesar take her magic portion. As a result, Gesar stayed in the State of Mo for 12 years. During the period, the State of Ling was invaded by the State of Hor, and Gesar’s wife, Zhubmo, was kidnapped by the invaders, too. Battle between Hor and Ling
The State of Hor lay to the northeast of the State of Ling. It was ruled by three kings who were brothers. Named after tents in which they lived, they were called Yellow Tent King, White Tent King, and Black Tent King. White Tent King was the most powerful. He sent magic Parrot, Magpie and Crow to look for beauties for him, and the Crow flew to the State of Ling and was astonished by zhubmo’s beauty. When White Tent King was informed of the news, he launched a war against Ling. With the help of the traitors of Ling, White Tent King seized the power and took away zhubmo.
When Gesar woke up from the magic portion he took, he rushed back to Ling. In a battle, he killed White Tent King and brought back zhubmo. Battle between Jiang and Ling
To the southeast of the State of Ling there was the State of Jiang ruled by King Sadain, a sorcerer who was very greedy. Sadain tried to seize the salt fields belonging to the State of Ling. Gesar sent Sinba, a general formerly of the State of Hor, to win over Yulha Toju, son of Sadain, and he himself led his troops to guard the saltern. With help from Yulha Toju, Gesar knew everything about Sadain. When Sadain drank water one day, Gesar incarnated into a tiny gold fish and was swallowed by Sadain without awareness. Once in the stomach, Gesar incarnated into a large wheel which turned endlessly until Sadain surrendered. Battle between Moin and Ling
The State of Moin was enemy of Ling. It harassed and looted Ling when Ling was weak. When Ling became stronger and had subdued three demons, Sinchi, king of the State of Moin, was the only demon left un-subdued. Gesar decided to bring down Sinchi and marry his daughter Meido Zholma who was very pretty. Through fierce fight, both suffered. Gesar went over to fight Sinchi in person, and shot Sinchi to death in the end. Other minor battles
With the four demons killed, the State of Ling enjoyed peace and happiness. Then, the epic goes on with continuous minor battles waged by Gesar to defend the invaded neighboring states.
For example, as Gesar’s uncle stole some horses from the State of Dashi, both states saw red. This forced Gesar to fight the State of Dashi. Gesar won again, and distributed Dashi' s wealth among the people before returning to the State of Ling.
Chidain, king of the State of Kachi, had conquered Nepal, Korgas and some other small states, and sent troops to invade Ling. Gesar retaliated and killed Chidain.
In successive campaigns, Gesar defeated scores of small tribes and minor kingdoms known as zongs in ancient Tibet. Then, he defended the Salt Sea, launched battles to conquer 54 zongs. He won all these battles. The State of Ling grew in strength, and became very powerful.Returning to the Heaven
When Gesar had completed his mission on the earth, he returned to the heaven together with his mother and wife. Here lies the end of the epic, King Gesar. Features of King Gesar An early epic
Created during the 11th to 13th century, King Gesar is acclaimed as the oriental Iliad, after the Greek epic by Homer in the eighth century BC. Boast the longest epic in the world
So far, Gesar has been collected as a work composed of more than 120 volumes, with more than 1 million verses, altogether over 20 million words. The entire work is longer and has a greater number of verses than the world's other five great epics combined. (The other five epics are the ancient Babylonian Gilgamesh, the Greek Iliad and Odyssey, and the Indian Ramayana and Mahabharata.) Along with the Babylonian, Greek and Indian epics, Life of King Gesar is of significant value as part of the world's cultural treasure-house, making great contributions to human civilization.Enjoy popularity both in Tibet and abroad
Gesar is a popular epic in the Tibetan area. For generations, stories about Gesar had actually been passed down in ballads by folk artists in a combination of song and narration. There are a lot of folk artists known as bards in the Tibetan area, who keep the great hero and his brave army alive in the richly imaginative retelling of the epic. They are very popular and beloved by the common Tibetans.
The epic of King Gesar is also popular abroad. As early as 200 year ago, the Russian edition of King Gesar was published, and in 1839, appeared the German edition. In 1905, Life of King Gesar was published in both Tibetans and English. Noted as the world's only surviving epic, King Gesar has been translated into many languages, including English, French, German, Russian and Indian and has spread to more than 40 countries and regions worldwide. An epic awaits further sorting
Being a folklore passed down through generations in singing and retelling, Gasar still awaits sorting. In 1958, a special research institute was set up by the Qinghai Government to work on the gathering, collecting, sorting out, translating and publishing of the great work.

China Tibet Tourism-Introduction-Art-2

Tibetan Architecture

Anecdote: colorful toilets in Tibet
All the people who had been to Tibet, with no exception, would have been impressed deeply by Tibetan’s bold love and preference to colors. From monasteries to residential buildings, from the monk’s overall to the laymen’s garments, even to furniture and knitting, all the colors are rich and vigorous. However, there’s no a better place to show such a magnificence of colors than the toilets on the Tibet Plateau.

China Tibet Tourism-Introduction-Art-1

Tibetan Handicrafts

Tibetan Knives are traditional and well-known handicrafts with a peculiar style. they are indispensable in the life of herdsmen. Tibetans use them as the tools to defend, to slaughter livestock and to eat meat. Tibetans have a sense of security with knives because Tibetan look might and valiant with knives.Tibetan knives are produced in many regions in Tibet. People may focus on knives’practicality, sharpness, decoration, shape, etc. There are two categories: one for man and another for woman. Men’s knives tend to be more curly and sharper while women’s are delicate. The most famous Tibetan knives are Lhatse knife and XieTongMen knife in Shigates Region, whose delicate decorations are unique from those in other regions. Shigates knives are usually made of fine steel, with othe materials like bronze, silver, iron, sharkskin, ox horn, agate and wood for decration. Moveover, some of them are studded with gems. Thus, they are more expensive than the normal knives. The produing process is very complicated.

China Tibet Tourism-Introduction-Art

Painting and sculpture are two of the most representative items in Tibetan art. Tibetan painting is originated from ancient rock paintings, which mainly depict animals such as deer, yak, sheep, horse, and hunting activities. During the Tubo period, the art of painting was flourishing. Specially, after Buddhism was introduced to Tibet, the religious paintings had been further developed. They have paid more stress on absorbing the art essence of India, Nepal and Han national cultures with unique splendor and style. The expressive form in Tibetan painting mainly is in stone inscription, fresco, Thangka, etc.