Tibetan Art of Statue Making

The Tibetan art of statue making is another significant intangible cultural heritage of Tibet. During the Seventh Century, Our Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo initiate establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. He marries princess Wencheng from the Chinese Tang empire and Princess Bhrikuti from Nepal. Each brought with them the two holiest statues of Buddha. In Lhasa, to house these two statues, first two temples in Lhasa were commissioned. This elaborate project required skilled masters of many different crafts. This is the first time in Tibet in its history for construction of this magnitude, Artists was brought from Nepal and Tang to assist. This infusion of craftsmen laid a foundation for the Artistic tradition of Tibet, which would embellish and develop into a unique Tibetan style in the later generation.

Tibetan art of Statue making in one of the skills brought into Tibet during the construction of those Temples. Nowadays we use two materials to make a statue: clay and metal.

Just like other sacred arts, statues are made accordingly with the proportions of deities as they are laid out in scripture so they may be used as proper objects of meditation. The training of a statue-making artist is much lengthier than that of a thangka artist, because not only must a statue-maker learn the proportions of deities in two dimensions, he must master the new portions of depth.

Metals sheets of copper are hammered on anvils into the shapes of the different parts. Then the Statue is assembled, To make more prominent statues, The copper sheets are worked from both sides, To create the exquisite detail such as facial features and folds in clothing, allowing the artist the ability to fashion completely life-like forms.

Tibetan art of Statue making

The sand casting process is used in creating smaller statues. First, the clay model of the figure will create to cast. A mold is then made of this model using the mixture of sand and hay. It is then filled with molten copper and let to dry. The clay model can be used multiple times, yet the new mold must be created for each new statue.

The statue is either gilded or polished to shine, after completion. In the gliding process, gold leaf is mixed with mercury and then melted together to form a paste. This paste is of silver color, and it is applied to the statue in an even coat. Lastly, the mercury if burned off with flame, and only the gold remains. Many coating must be used to get a better finish.

Cold gold paint is used for the faces, it has a matte look, and reflect lights in a different way than gilding similar to how skin does. Once the statue is finished, it then transfers to the Thangka painter, where the artist would add the finishing touches to the face to give the personality to the figure.

We believe that a statue only comes to life after it is consecrated by a high lame through appropriate ritual. In the ceremony, the figure is filled with many offerings of relics, precious stones, incenses and rolled mantras. The statue is then sealed. The power of blessing increase in sculptures and other work of religious art as it ages. With the accumulated energy of the people who pray and use it to aid for visualization during Meditation. The craftsmen aim to create a statue worthy of carrying great blessing and treasured and passed down the generations of believers.

During your Tibet tour with us, you will be visiting a handicraft center in Lhasa where you will see the craftsmanship of statue making. While you are on Tibet travel, we can also help you find the really great places to buy the authentic Tibetan statues.

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