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Thangka masters modernize ancient art
By:chinadaily.com.cn
update:September 27,2020

Sherab Nyima (left), a thangka master, shows one of his seven large paintings enriched with content from modern life. [Photo by Palden Nyima/chinadaily.com.cn]
 
Sept.27,2020 -- Thangka, or Buddhist scroll painting, is a popular practice in Gojo county of the Tibet autonomous region, with local artists merging everyday life into ancient art.
 
Located in eastern Chamdo city, Gojo is regarded as a place popular for painting the Mansar style of thangka, a branch of the art that has been passed down for more than 300 years.
 
The modern updates avoid modifications to religious stories out of reverence.
 
According to the Gojo county government, the county has 11 thangka painting cooperatives and more than 100 artists. The total revenue generated by thangka painting hit more than 10 million yuan ($1.46 million) in 2019.
 
Last year, with financial support from the county's cultural bureau — an investment of 2.4 million yuan — 11 thangka masters in the county worked together to create seven large thangka with a variety of content, including an image of Beijing's Tian'anmen Square, a giant portrait depicting China's 56 ethnic groups and stories of people fighting COVID-19.

 
Sherab Nyima, a thangka master, shows one of his seven large paintings enriched with content from modern life. [Photo by Palden Nyima/chinadaily.com.cn]
 
Sherab Nyima, a thangka master and the founder of the county's Demar Art Heritage Cooperative, said he has painted thangka for more than 20 years and wanted to enrich the art by bringing in modern elements.
 
"Traditionally, Tibetan artists paint the thangka as a culture preservation practice and a religious belief. But today, more artists also regard the practice as a way to generate income," Sherab Nyima said.
 
He said artists in Gojo county mainly practice the Mansar style of Tibetan thangka painting, which originated in the 17th century.
 
"We want to keep the traditional painting as a soul, and we want to expand the art among rich people, tourists and government officials," he said, adding that orders in the past have usually come from Tibetans.
 
"We want people from all over the world to know the art, and we hope they will preserve it and pass it down to future generations."

 
Artists work on a thangka at a cooperative in Tibet’s Gojo county. [Photo by Palden Nyima/ chinadaily.com.cn]
 
 
Artists work on a thangka at a cooperative in Tibet’s Gojo county. [Photo by Palden Nyima/ chinadaily.com.cn]
 
 
Artists work on a thangka at a cooperative in Tibet's Gojo county. [Photo by Palden Nyima/ chinadaily.com.cn]
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