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14:32 Dec 24 2009

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Charity auction boosts Thang-ga painting school
09:56, December 23, 2009  

The charity auction includes several Thang-ga paintings as well as woks of calligraphy. ( Photo)

A school teaching traditional Tibetan Thang-ka painting in West China's Qinghai Province is to be expanded with 300,000 yuan (US$45,000) raised at a December 19 charity auction organized by the Beijing Saving Foundation Association (BSFA).

The Tibetan word "Thang-ka" refers to silk, satin or cloth scroll paintings depicting Buddhist themes, historical events, folk tales and myths. Thang-ka painters use special pigments made from rare minerals and plants to make bright colors that can last for hundreds of years. Their works are hung in halls and temples and are regarded as devotional objects by Tibetans.

It takes a child six to seven years to learn the skills of a Thang-ka painter. The long training period, and the loss of some traditional Thang-ka pigments and painting techniques have threatened the survival of the art form. To protect this unique folk art, a school in Qinghai Province in western China teaches Thang-ka painting techniques to children from poor families free of charge. The project to boost the Longshu Painting Institute is co-sponsored by BSFA and the Qinghai Charitable Association. The aims of the Longshu Institute are to promote culture in poverty-stricken areas, provides a means for people to make a good living, and ensure the art form is passed down from generation to generation.

The Longshu Painting Institute was founded by the well-known Thang-ka artists Quzhi and Zhaxijiancuo, both students of Jiumeiquzong, a master painter who served the 9th Panchan Lama. Quzhi recruits students from poor families and gives them elementary lessons and Thang-ka painting lessons free of charge. Sometimes he even pays salaries to the students out of his own pocket to ease the financial burden on their families. The center has trained more than 200 children from local families, 56 of whom have gone on to become Thang-ka painters. Longshu students have participated in a number of national renovation projects, such as the frescoes at Wutai Mountain, the Ta'er Temple and the Labrang Monastery.

To further boost the teaching of Thang-ka, a formal school with more space and better teaching facilities was needed. On December 19, 2009, BSFA held a charity auction of more than 20 paintings in Beijing, including ink paintings by Fu Baoshi (1904-1965), as well as several Thang-ka paintings. Proceeds from the sale will be used to build new facilities and support poor students through their studies.

"This is the second charity auction we've held for the Longshu Painting Institute project," said Eric Wu, of the BSFA. "Many people have donated money for the construction of the school. Others have bid for items on auction. But we still have a 1.6 million yuan shortfall, even after counting the 1 million yuan raised in the first auction."

Wu said there a much bigger auction will be held next May and he is confident that by then they will have raised enough money to build the school.


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