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From: Xinhua 2011-03-25 13:44:00
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Thangka painting inherited and developed among Tibetan young men

Dianzin fills in color on a Thangka painting in a Thangka workshop on Barkhor North Street in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region(TAR), March 24, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua]

Although having studied for three years, 20-year-old Qoipei Sherab is still only capable of line drawing and color filling, the most basic skills of Thangka painting. Dianzin, who is also 20 years old, starts laying out the outlines of a painting as he start the apprenticeship two years earlier.

Those two young men of Tibetan ethnic group are both apprentices of a Thangka workshop on the Barkhor North Street, working with another eight Thangka painters, including the boss Nyima Wangdui.

Located on the prosperous Barkhor North Street with flourishing Thangka shops, the Tashi Tagye Thangka Art Gallery is small and not very eye-catching. But according to its boss Nyima, it was the earliest one on Barkhor North Street and has been there for 12 years, seeing all the changes of the street and the prosperity of Thangka art.

At first my teacher and I worked in the Jokhang Temple for fresco remediation. Later as the work is finished, I opened this workshop. Nyima Wangdui introduced, at the early years only Tibetans dropped by, but in recent five years, more and more tourists came to buy Thankgas, including foreigners from Singapore and Britain. Nowadays, there are more Thangka shops, but with more businesses, we learnt a lot more.

Now, the workshop sold roughly 70 to 80 pieces of Thangka paintings annually, most of which were orders in advance.

As an art of devotion, commonly it takes several months or even a year to complete a fine Thankga painting. All the pigments are made of natural mineral materials to keep the color from fading. The gold color is even burnished with gold powders. All of those result in high prices of Thangka, with the good ones priced at tens of thousands RMB.

Though with a decent income, Nyima Wangdui still sits in his workshop painting Thankga all day long, between answering questions from curious visitors. The apprentices of Nyima are aged between twenty to thirty some, coming from multiple places such as Lhasa, Maizho and Doilung in TAR.

Qoipei Sherab is the latest. His father was once a Thangka painter. Being nurtured in the family with Thangka paintings everywhere, he fell into it and came to Lhasa alone at the age of 17 to learn the charming art.

Teacher chose me among several kids. He said proudly. He made a rapid progress in a fairly short time, which is largely attributed to his diligence.

Different from youth at his age, he spends almost all the time in learning Thangka painting. I have no other hobby. My only dream is to become the best Thangka painter. He said with awkward mandarin.

It seems that the art of Thankga is exempt from having the problem of no inheritor. A mature Thangka painter earns a monthly salary of 3,000 to 4,000 Yuan, thus attracting a lot of young people to step in. With a history of over 1,000 years, Thankga is a religious painting with unique Tibetan characteristics. It has been listed into the first roll of China's national intangible cultural heritages in 2006.

Now it has walked from temples to streets, then into commercial market. However, with the old teacher-apprentice mode of teaching, the ancient Tibetan art is getting prosperous culturally and commercially while keeping the original essence.

[editor : ]
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· Thangka painting inherited and developed among Tibetan young men
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