Thangka, A Unique Tibetan Culture


Thangkas can be made in a wide variety of techniques: silk tapestry with cut designs, color printing, embroidery, brocade, appliqué, and pearl inlay. Therefore, there are various styles.

The common size of thangkas, with a scroll at the bottom, is usually 75 centimeters long and 50 centimeters wide. Besides, there is the banner style, measuring is 1.1 meters long and about 3.5 meters wide.

According to the material, thangkas can be divided into two types: One, called gos-thang, is made of silk, and the other, called bris-thang, is made of pigment. The gos-thang is printed on the canvas while the bris-thang is painted on the canvas.

1. Gos-thang

According to the different kinds of silk, gos-thang can be divided into five classes:

(1) Tshem-drub-ma is made of different kinds of silk woven by hand.
(2) Lhan-dr-ub-ma or dras-drub-ma: To make this kind of thangka, different kinds of silk are first cut into different shapes and then connected with needles.
(3) Lhan-thabs-ma: This kind is a little similar to the second, but to make this one, different shapes of silk are glued together by glue water.
(4) Thag-drub-ma: This thangka is woven by hand.
(5) Dpar-ma: To make this kind of thangka, a molding board is necessary to print the pictures into the silk.

The largest thangka of the gos-thang kind is called gos-sku,which is too big to hang up. In fact, it is only used in some special religious rituals. In the Potala Palace, there is a gos-sku with a length of 55.8 meters and a width of about 46.81 meters, made during the 5th Dalai Lama period (17th century).

2. Bris-thang

According to the background color, bris-thang can be divided into five classes:

(1) Tsho-thang: The background is multicolor.
(2) Gser-thang: The background is yellow.
(3) Mtshal-thang: The background is vermilion.
(4) Dpar-thang: The background is black.
(5) Dpar-thang: The method making this kind of thangka is the same as that of water print.

The largest bris-thang is 3 meters long and 2 meters wide while the smallest one is about 30 centimeters long and 20 centimeters wide.

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