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08:54 Jan 12 2011

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English>>Tibet Online
Tibetan butter sculpture inheritance worrisome
08:53, January 12, 2011  

Picture shows a Tibetan butter sculpture in Buddha design, photo from

The annual Tibetan butter sculpture exhibition at Ta'er Monastery (or Kumbum Monastery) in Qinghai Province, allures millions of tourists from home and abroad heading for the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Passed down from over 400 years ago, the colored butter sculpture, a specialized Tibetan artifact, is now facing a dilemma of talent shortage.

Tibetan butter sculpture has derived its name from the method of sculpting where the raw material, butter is made into various shapes such as Buddha, characters, landscapes, pavilions, animals, flowers and trees.

Every Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the first month on Chinese lunar calendar, a supplication ceremony will be hosted at the Kumbum Monastery, with butter sculpture being delicately made and exhibited to people of various ethnic groups.

Though originated from Tibet, butter sculpture in Kumbum Monastery boasts higher artistic level and unique style with various dimensions and rich contents. Numerous artists and painters, attracted by its unique artistic charm, have for long honored butter sculpture as the soul of arts and a source of artistic inspirations.

As a kind of sophisticated craftsmanship, butter sculpture has its own complicated and rough process of fabrication. Considering the low melting point of butter, art monks usually choose to make butter sculptures in a coldest room on the coldest day of the year.

"Most lama artists fell ill due to the cold conditions where butter sculptures are made, so do I," said Lozang Ngangchuo, who has been engaged in making butter sculptures for 22 years.

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