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Artists on mission to revive local thangka style

Reporter: Tao Yuan 丨 CCTV.com

09-17-2016 12:52 BJT

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One of the relics stored at the temple was a centuries-old thangka, a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cloth. Thangka art has been practised in all regions Tibetan Buddhism flourished, but it takes on a distinctive style in Luhuo County.

Works that engage the eye and mind.

But more importantly for Tibetan artists, an act of devotion.

"Those who don’t know better think thangka is an ordinary thing. But the art is profound. Every piece of work has a historic background," said  Pema Tsering, thangka teacher.

Pema Tsering returned to Luhuo to teach thangka after living in the modern metropolis of Shenzhen.

His students all come from poor Tibetan families of herdsmen or farmers.

Many are living with disabilities.

Artists here follow the style of the 17th Century thangka artist Namkha Gyan, known for his multi-layered compositions.

But there was a time here in the master's hometown where the art had all but disappeared.

"We were poor. Each family had many children to feed. All we wanted to do was to earn money. We didn’t want to paint," said Pema Tsering.

Today, the county is flourishing, but there’s still widespread poverty in the surrounding villages.

This collaboration by the students and teachers took three years to complete… and has just been sold for roughly 100 thousand US dollars.

The proceedings cover the students’ tuition and expenses… and provide a modest wage for the more advanced ones.

Nyima is nowhere near that level yet. He just started a few months ago. But he’s got a big dream.

"One day, when I can start earning some money with my paintings, I might be able to go to Lhasa. There I can hear all the stories about thangka," Nyima said.

"If they hadn’t come to the school, maybe they would have become herdsmen. Or maybe they'd just end up roaming the streets," Pema Tsering said.

The possibility to change lives is what made Pema give up the comforts of the big city life.

"The teachers here see this as a good deed. It improves the students lives, and also helps with passing down the art," he said.

A brush, linking two generations of artists, and with each stroke, a promise of a better future. Tao Yuan, CCTV, Sichuan Province.

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