What to buy in Tibet
- Tibetan Costumes - Less affected by other costume cultures, Tibetan costumes remain in their original style. Both the style and the color combinations are very exotic. A piece of clothing, a small hat or even a piece of pulu will win the admiration of friends who have not been to Tibet. Click Tibetan Costume to learn more about Tibetan costumes and pulu.
- Thangkas - With a history of over 1,000 years, thangkas are Tibetan-style scrolls usually painted with figures of the Buddha or the Avalokitesvara.
- A brief introduction - A thangka is an exquisite scroll painting consisting of a picture panel either painted or embroidered, a textile mounted together with some ornamental and functional accessories. Thangkas show themselves in upright rectangular form with a few in horizontal oblong banners. The former one is the most common type found in monasteries and family altars, which is usually 75 centimeters (30 inches) long and 50 centimeters (20 inches) wide. However a thangka which is 55.80 meters (183 feet) high and 46.81 meters (154 feet) wide can be found in Potala Palace . Thangkas are used for conveying religious doctrines and for decorating monasteries etc.
- The history and development - Thangka plays a very important role in the history and development of Tibetan paintings. According to historical materials, the origin and development of thangka painting accompanied the evolution of Buddhism in Tibet. It is said that the first thangka appeared as early as 1,000 years ago. The painting which is convenient for carrying and collecting came into shape then, and was very popular among the nomadic people. At the end of the tenth century, Buddhism experienced a thriving era again after a period of time when Buddhism was in the doldrums. Since then thangka's have taken big strides in their development and come into a prosperous era. Painters with superb techniques have enjoyed great popularity which enabled the thangka to reach its peak during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and consequently different genres with distinctive painting styles appeared
- The creation of thangkas - Being a unique art genre only found in Tibet, the creation of thangkas is quite complicated, subtle and also requires different techniques and training skills. The process of making a thangka follows a precise set of rules that are considered sacred. After a proper cotton canvas is selected, each side of the cloth is stitched onto a wooden stick. Then the cloth is stretched over a wooden frame in order to create a smooth and flat surface. After setting up the cloth, a mixture made of glue and talcum powder is brushed evenly on both the front and back of the cloth. Then the cloth is removed to a flat position where it is thoroughly dried. Then using a shell or a round stone burnish on the both sides until the lines of the cloth are indescribable and the cloth looks and feels smooth and lustrous.
- Tsa-Tsa - Tsa-tsas are mainly used as holy oblation in Tibetan Buddhism, and certain small ones can be used as amulets. Tibetan people believe that making tsa-tsas is a process of accumulating merits and virtues. Tsa-tsas are believed to have the power to prevent disasters, cure illness, and provide atonement. After being empowered by a dignitary, they can be holy objects. These holy objects are always put in places that are believed to have a nimbus. Thus many tsa-tsas can be found inside stupas, Buddha statues, monastery altars, holy caves or beside holy mountains, holy lakes and other holy sites.
Tsa-tsas can be divided into several categories according to different ingredients that are added. The commonly seen and widespread ones are ordinary, made with clay without any special ingredients added. These tsa-tsas are always engraved with Tibetan barley or other symbols to express the maker's piety or blessing for a beautiful life. Ash tsa-tsas have ashes of late dignitaries added to the clay. Medicine tsa-tsas, which can be used as healing amulets when sick, have many rare and precious medicinal materials added, including pearl, carnelian and saffron, etc. They appear the same as other tsa-tsas except for their color. Another kind of tsa-tsa contains the liquid produced in the mummifying process of late high lamas. These tsa-tsas are the most precious, are mainly used as amulets, and only the nobles and relatives of high lamas can get them. Tsa-tsas made by high lamas themselves have the lamas' fingerprints on the backside, indicating a supernatural power was infused. These delicate tsa-tsas are finished with advanced techniques, which also makes them very precious.
Tsa-tsa refers to clay-made figures of the Buddha enshrined by Tibetans to ask for the blessings of the Buddha. They are treasures of Tibetan art. Tibetan Handicrafts will give you more information
Barkhor Street may be the busiest street in Tibet. It is not only a street of Tibetan culture, but also a business street. A wide variety of handicrafts, relic replicas, precious porcelain and delicate accessories are sold in the shops and stalls along the street, including most of the items mentioned above. Dazzled by arrays of goods, you may feel lost and wonder what to buy. These recommendations may help.
- Tibetan Knives - Besides their practical functions, Tibetan knives can also be used as a kind of accessory. Carved with various pictures on the sheath and adorned with shining jewels, they may outshine any item in your collection.
In addition to the items above, tourists can get Tibetan carpets, Tibetan paper, wooden bowls, embroideries and bone carvings, etc. Tibetan Medicine is also a good choice, but you'd better buy it in state-owned pharmacies.