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  • PIOUS GUIDE: Pedma is a thangka teacher working for the Tibetan Cultural Charity Foundation. The foundation has operated two terms of classes on thangka painting. "Students learn sutras everyday. When they practice drawing, they also listen to sutras for inner peace with earphones on," Pedma said (SHI GANG)
  • TWO-YEAR DEVOTION: A thangka master from Qinghai Province spends two years painting this 5-meter-long and 1.3-meter-wide thangka (SHI GANG)
  • PAPER FIRST: Beginners draw on paper before graduating to cloth medium (SHI GANG)
  • COLORING: A trainee colors thangka, listening to sutras. Coloring is one of basic techniques of the art (SHI GANG)
  • NATURE COLORS: Thangka is colored with natural materials, including plant and minerals (SHI GANG)
  • AT CLASS: Pedma guides a trainee to attend to color comparison (SHI GANG)
  • DIY: A trainee makes up color coating (SHI GANG)
  • EVERY STEP COUNTS: A trainee in thangka painting learns how to grind gold powder, a basic ingredient of the painting process (BAI SHI)
  • EXACT POSITION: A trainee draws with a slender calligraphy brush. Each line is less than 1 mm thick and must be finished in one smooth stroke (SHI GANG)
  • SACRED GOLD: Pedma guides a trainee to paint with gold coating (SHI GANG)
  • HIGHLIGHTING: Pedma draws Buddha's facial features. It is the last step of thangka painting, and the most demanding one (SHI GANG)

Thangka is a method of painting featuring religion, history, politics, culture and social activities and is essential to understanding Tibet and its culture.

Originally, thangka was painted with mineral pigments over embroidered tapestry and served as a portable shrine for Buddhist icons, as it was difficult for typically nomadic Tibetans to carry with bulky bronze sculptures or woodcarvings of Buddha statues for worship. Thus, thangka is also known as a "walking Buddha niche."

In 2006, the Tibetan art of thangka was listed among the first batch of national intangible cultural heritage items, drawing attention to its preservation and inheritance.

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