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Exclusive interview: Potala Palace's mural restorer

10-08-2012 09:21 BJT

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Thangka is a unique form of Tibetan painting, and is renowned for being both mysterious and attractive. With increasing interest in Tibetan art and culture, Thangka is gaining more and more attention from art lovers. We have been to meet one of the masters of Thangka, Luobusida, and enter his world of mysterious and enchanting painting.

In the Tancheng Temple, part of the Potala Palace, there is one corner where craftsmen are restoring the historic murals. The line drawings on the white canvas are extremely delicate and sophisticated. In an alley not far from the Potala Palace, we find the man who is the only one able to enter the Potala Palace to repair murals, the thangka master --- Luobusida.

Luobusida, the man who is the only one able to enter the Potala Palace to
repair murals, the thangka master.

In the showroom of the Tibet Thangka Academy, we see the works of Thangka by Luobusida and his apprentice. Luobusida told us that due to the long hours of work, his back problems are getting worse and he has been forced to take a break from this pain-staking work.

In 2005, a major restoration project began. But some of the work proved too difficult for the ordinary craftsmen, so one of Luobusida’s students, who was working at the Potala Palace recommended his teacher to them.

Luobusida, Thangka master, said, "We cannot paint directly on the mural. The best way is to copy down the parts still can be seen. For those we cannot directly copy down, I have to check the scriptures and archives."

Traditionally in Tibet, every household has had a Thangka. When someone dies, their family has usually commissioned a Thangka to be painted. This painting will record the time and date of their birth.

A visitor said, "I’m very interested in sketch. Today we just traveled here and I went to the second floor, visited the studio of the students and now come downstairs to find the teacher. We travelled all the way to get a better understanding of Tibetan culture. Our next destination will be Ali and then we’ll come back to Lhasa. I want to stay here to learn Thangka."

Thangka is a unique form of Tibetan painting, and is
renowned for being both mysterious and attractive.

Luobusida said, "To paint a Thangka, you have to choose cotton cloth. Then brush white raw material and leather glue on both sides of the canvas. When the canvas dry, polish it six times on a smooth wood and the cotton will be changed like paper. Then you have to decide which content to paint, Buddha or figure story. The next step is line drawing, it’s very crucial. Now many are drawn with pencil. Traditionally, we use charcoal. If there are mistakes, it’s easy to erase the wrong parts. With pencil, you have to use eraser to modify the painting It will damage the canvas."

Hui Yu, Tibet, said, "A medium-sized Thangka by Luobusida costs thousands of dollars, depending on its complexity and content. But Luobusida is not rich. Apart from the upkeep of the Thangka School, most of his income pays for students’ living expenses."

Now, there are more than 30 students in Luobusida’s Thangka School. They are mainly from poor rural areas. Their tuition and living costs are free.

Ci Wang Dun Zhu, Thangka student, said, "I am 23 years old. I have been studying here for three years. I like Thangka and the tuition is free, so I came."

Gong Jue Jie said, "The size of each Buddha is not the same, you have to study hard."

Luobusida said, "For us Tibetan religious people, it is a great honor to do this job. Our predecessors created such beautiful murals. We have the responsibility to protect these treasures. It’s worth everything."

Luobusida says, when he feels better, he will go back to repair murals in the Potala Palace, because the Potala Palace is the most sacred and irreplaceable place in the hearts of every Tibetan.

Potala Palace

Thangka is a unique form of Tibetan painting, and is renowned for being both
mysterious and attractive.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: CCTV.com

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