Guest Blogger: Yenli Guo

Tibetan Thangka Painting

There are many astonishing artworks in the world of Tibetan art. Thangka has caught most of the attention of the world because of its spiritual meaning and aesthetic value. Thangka painting is very different from other modern art. It is not only a wonderful art creation, but also a religious painting.

Thangka painting could be used in various condition. Usually hung on the wall of the pray room in the monasteries, Thangka paintings aims to help practitioners to visualize the Buddha and develop a closed relationship with a meditational deity. Fundamentally it is a medium for expressing Buddhist ideals and aids to change the state of the mind of meditators. The Thangka could also be used for the good rebirth of the deceased. The Thangka is commissioned in the name of the deceased, which is supposed to create the necessary conditions for the happy rebirth. The Thangka is made up with vivid image of Buddha and the deities with many complex symbols.

Thangka painting originated from the vision or dreams of great lamas or meditators (from interview of local Thangka Painting). Figures of Buddha Shakyamuni, White Tara and Green Tara are common in Thangka painting. There can be one to several images in one Thangka. A good Thangka in details usually takes a painter several months to years to finish a painting, depending on the size of the image and the details of the painting. Measurement for the image of the Buddha or the deity and their pure land of them are strictly required in Thangka painting. Buddha or deity who resides in the Thangka painting brings good health, prosperity or long life to the meditators. Due to the commercialization of art, paintings with inaccurate measurement are common in art market. Thangka painting of low quality may result in negative influence to practitioners because unqualified measurement affects the Buddha or deity invoke into the picture, which influences the blessing people. Thus measurement is essential in the religious purpose of Thangka painting.

As a religious object, Thangka painting is a bridge between the meditational deity and the practitioner. Painters play an important role in this connection. The quality of the painting relies on the quality of painter. Good motivation is highly encouraged for the painters. Thus good qualified painter usually begin by purification of their spirit. The pure motivation of the painter is, the pure the Thangka painting becomes, which gives meditator better blessing.

Thangka painting is created on a canvas. First of all, an artist stretches the canvas over and wooden frame with cords, which makes up the foundation of the thangka painting. An experienced painter can distinguish the quality of foundation by the sound generated by the canvas. The Thangka painting is designed onto the canvas directly with pencil. After this colors are applied on the canvas. All the colors are derived from natural material including mineral, plants and animals. Chemicals are not used for coloring because traditional material does not fade, last longer, make the painting brighter and is more intensive. However some of the mineral material may be poisonous and thus the artists must be very careful when they apply the colors. Colors are applied from top to bottom and from outside to inside. Finally the details of the faces are added and gold and silver are applied. Usually the Thangkas are framed in silk brocade.

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