Thangkas tell stories

Updated: 2014-11-01 23:20

(China Daily North America)

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Thangkas tell stories

Thangkas paintings depict Buddhist life on cotton or silk applique. Palden Nyima / China Daily

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.