Thangkas tell sto­ries

China Daily (Canada) - - SPECIAL -

A thangka is a paint­ing on cot­ton, or silk ap­pliqué, usu­ally de­pict­ing a Bud­dhist de­ity or scene. It of­ten takes the form of a scroll banner but it is not flat like an oil or acrylic paint­ing. Thang in Ti­betan means to dis­play and ka means, silk though most are painted on cot­ton.

It con­sists of a pic­ture panel, which is then painted or em­broi­dered over. Gen­er­ally, thangkas last a long time and re­tain much of their lus­ter, but be­cause of their del­i­cate na­ture they have to be kept in dry places where mois­ture will not af­fect the qual­ity of the silk.

Thangkas served as im­por­tant teach­ing tools de­pict­ing the life of the Bud­dha, var­i­ous in­flu­en­tial lamas and other deities and bod­hisattvas. How­ever, thangkas are not only limited to Bud­dha or Bud­dhist deities; paint­ings such as Ti­betan med­i­cal tools and the med­i­cal sciences also are in­cluded.

What is be­lieved to be the first thangka of Ti­bet de­picted the dharma pro­tec­tion de­ity — the Palden Lhamo.

It is said that this thangka was painted by the Ti­betan king Songt­sen Gampo (AD 617-650) while his nose bled.

Be­tween the sev­enth and the ninth cen­turies, the thangka art style in Ti­bet was dom­i­nated by Pal­dre — a Nepali style.

PALDEN NY­IMA / CHINA DAILY

Thangkas paint­ings de­pict Bud­dhist life on cot­ton or silk ap­plique.

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