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13:22 Feb 17 2009

Special ReportNetizen's VoiceMedia Voice
English>>Tibet Online
Thangka,traditional Tibetan art, gives Buddha colorful new life
13:22, February 17, 2009  

Niangben sits quietly at the corner of the National Agriculture Exhibition Center, drawing the outline of a meditating Buddha. Soon a statuesque profile comes to life.

Niangben is one of the artists at the ongoing Beijing exhibition of traditional craftsmanship.

Thangka is the traditional Tibetan art of scroll painting, usually inspired by Buddhist themes and Regong is believed to be the birthplace of this art form.

Niangben is the president of Regong Painting Institute in Tongren county, Qinghai province, and has been creating Thangka works for more than 20 years. This year, the school has received more than 40 students from all across the country.

Students from poor regions, who are unable to pay the tuition fees, study for free.

"It's my teacher's will, and my will as well," Niangben says. "Before my teacher passed away, he asked me to continue our traditional art, make it known to more people and train more students."

Today there are more than 2,000 artists engaged in Thangka art in Regong.

To encourage more people to learn, the Qinghai government holds folk art exhibitions, offers Thangka painting majors in college and also issues grants.

A group of art companies have also been set up to promote the art outside the region. Some artists have even organized a Thangka art association.

Instead of repeating the work of the early masters, Niangben relies on his own understanding of Buddhist scripture to portray the Buddha and other religious figures.

Niangben describes the painting as a complicated process and adheres to traditional painting techniques, making use of natural colors, and uses gold dust or the ground powder of precious stones so the works display resplendent colors.

The first step is priming the canvas with a gesso base and using a stone to polish and remove the excessive gesso.

When the canvas dries, Niangben uses a pencil to sketch a figure. Seven basic colors are prepared and these are mixed into 38 colors.

The painting comes to life, step by step.

The bigger sections, such as clothes and leaves, are painted first and black or gold pens are used to paint the borders. Finishing touches are applied to the eyes and mouth of the Buddha icon.

"It's a very distinctive art," he says. "Its theme, what it portrays, is different from other art forms.

"So are its painting materials and procedures. It mainly deals with a religious subject.

"Although it's a religious subject, it's indeed a pursuit of harmony, health and unity of humankind."

Source: China Daily

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