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Tibetan Thangka Paintings

Tibetan Thangka Paintings

Tibetan Thangka Paintings •Miantang School

Nominating unit(s): Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)

The Manniang School, popular in the Dbus Gtsang Region, has been the most influential school of Tibetan nationality Thangka paintings art since the 15th century. It was founded by Manla Thong Zhu, an artist born in the Luozha Manniang area, hence the name Manniang School. Manla Thong Zhu achieved his skills under the tutelage of Duoba Tashi. With hard work, Manla Thong Zhu made remarkable achievements in painting. He paid great attention to the drawing of lines. His paintings are elegant, smooth and bright and have different emphases. While considering the Jumaiba, he compiled the painting theory collection Painting Guide.

The Manniang School was formed during the Zanpu Era and came to its peak in the Pazhu Era and Gandan Pozhang Era. However, it reached a turning point between 1949 and 1966. From 1966 on, this form of art lost public attention. In response, local government have tried to preserve the painting techniques since the 1980s.

Tibetan Nationality Thangka Paintings·ChenZher School

Nominating unit(s): Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)

Founded by ChenZher ChanMou, ChenZher School has been popular in gtsang Tsang and the Shannan Prefecture since the middle of the 15th century. ChenZher ChanMou developed an interest in painting at an early age and founded ChenZher School on Tibetan-Nepalese painting styles and the painting techniques of the Han people and Indians. The emergence of the ChenZher School and Manniang School replaced the Nepalese style paintings, which were once popular in the Dbus Gtsang Region. Similar to Tibetan-Nepalese painting, the ChenZher School generally featureda large Bodhisattva while depicting natural scenery, it borrows elements from Han style paintings.  

Tibetan Nationality Thangka Paintings·Karzhi School

Nominating unit(s): Tibet & Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province

The Karzhi School is one of the three major schools of Tibetan nationality thangka paintings (the other two are Manniang School and ChenZher School). It is popular in the eastern region of Tibetan-inhabited areas and centers on Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province and Changdu, Tibet. It was founded by the Living Buddha Nanka Tashi in the 16th century and is also known as the Gamagachi School or Gazi School.

The Karzhi School is formed by combining various styles. It is based on the bronze Buddha portraits from southern Asia and is also profoundly influenced by Manniang School. The theoretical foundations for this school was completed by Nanka Tashi's contemporary, Living Buddha Karma Mikye Dorje. Later on, one of the masters of the Karzhi School borrowed traditional Chinese painting's unique styles and began to paint Thangka in an elaborate way where the Karzhi School is closer to Han style painting than the other major schools. Since Nanka Tashi, two other masters of Karzhi painting have emerged: Queji Tashi, who is famous for his turquoise painting, and Gaxugama Tashi renowned for his innovation in painting style. The two, together with Nanka Tashi, are known as the "Three Tashis" of Gazi School painting.

After the "Three Tashis," more masters of Thangka painting emerged and some of their works are regarded as model examples of the Karzhi School. The Karzhi School has a clear line of development and each stage has numerous masters. In the later years, due to the difference in regions and teachers, the styles within the school began to diverge, forming the "old Karzhi School" and the "new Karzhi School."

The most distinctive feature of the Karzhi School is its heavy and vivid colors. Over the past centuries, the school has formed special techniques in making and using pigments. With the basic colors white, red, yellow, blue and green, painters can make 9 large, 32 medium and 158 small strains of hues. The use of a golden color, one of the characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism painting, is regarded as sacred for the Buddha. In the Karzhi School, unique skills are applied to produce liquid gold, spread and rub gold onto the painting, draw golden lines, carve and paint gold. The gold  color is divided into specific strains of hues and can be used to form layers on a black background. In an area with a high concentration of golden color, different lines can be carved with a particular kind of stone (with a nickname of "line of gemstone").

With its complicated painting procedures, delicate craftsmanship, high cost and tradition of oral transmission, Tibetan nationality thangka paintings are in danger of extinction. In recent years, many folk painters have replaced traditional pigments with synthetic ones for their lower cost, which threatens traditional Thangka art. Therefore, it is urgent to take measures to preserve the Karzhi School of Tibetan nationality thangka paintings.