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Scroll with it: The life of a thangka star

By Source:ecns.cn 2016-04-06


A visitor takes photos of a piece of Thangka work at an exhibition of Tibetan Thangka painting in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, Jan. 18, 2016. Thangka, a Tibetan scroll-banner depicting various kinds of contents, has become a valuable kind of collection in recent years. [Xinhua/Fan Peishen]

When Sanggyaipo was taught to write the Tibetan alphabet in school in northwest China's Qinghai Province, he mischievously drew a mini Buddha with every stroke.

So began a passion for ethnic art that has seen Sanggyaipo, now 51, become a star of thangka, Tibetan Buddhist scroll paintings that have become fashionable -- and highly profitable -- in recent years.

A giant thangka that Sanggyaipo has recently completed after five exhausting years of research and painting is due to go on display in Beijing later this year. Here is the story of how he became a leading Chinese artist, pulling himself up from poverty and helping repair threatened Tibetan antiques along the way.

After school, young Sanggyaipo spent most of his time watching thangka masters in his village, the Tibetan autonomous prefecture of Huangnan, a cradle of thangka painting.

Sanggyaipo was eager to have a go himself. Life was hard and his family could not afford to buy him decent paper, but he enjoyed painting all the same, on used woven bags which he had cut into pieces.

After he finished middle school at 16, he began an apprenticeship with Gyaimoco, one of the great thangka painters. Sanggyaipo spent more than 10 years in his master's house, learning painting techniques and helping with the household chores in his spare time.

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