Tibetan Appliqué


Tibetan Appliqué

The Tibetan painting of Lord Buddha was first started in Tibet during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo (630 AD) Many of the religious paintings in Tibet are in the form of Thangka. It is a portable scroll banner, which depicts a religious art form and used as a valuable medium through which Buddhist ideals are expressed. The practitioners reflect and meditate on them in order to improve his or her spiritual well being. It is considered as a sacred object and not just a decorative art object.

The first ever painting of Lord Buddha, it was believed, was painted from the images of the Buddha reflected on water. Some believed that the painting of the Buddha, given as a gift for worship to king Uddiyana, was the first ever painting of Lord Buddha. In Tibet, painting is used from the time of the Neolithic period (3000 BC) since it was found on the archeological discovery of human dwellings at Karu, Chamdo in Kham in eastern Tibet. But the painting of Lord Buddha was first started in Tibet during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo (630 AD).

Many of the religious paintings in Tibet are in the form of Thangka. It is a portable scroll banner, which depicts a religious art form and used as a valuable medium through which Buddhist ideals are expressed. The practitioners reflect and meditate on them in order to improve his or her spiritual well being. It is considered as a sacred object and not just a decorative art object.


Origin of Tibetan Applique

It was first started by the fourth Karmapa Rolpai Dorjee (1340-1383 AD) who asked his followers to put white stones on the place where he rode his horse to build a huge brocade appliqué thangka. The open space marked with white stones were covered with cloth and later sewn together. Soon after that other religious sects also started making it for their own monastery and improved the technique of making it.

Different kinds of non-painted Thangkas:
  1. Embroidered thangka
  2. Glued appliqué thangka
  3. Appliqué thangka
  4. Woven thangka
  5. Block or Screen Printed on cloth thangka
Each has its own backgrounds and unique features, but here we will focus only on appliqué thangka.



Thanka Master


Master Artist Dorjee Wangdu

Master Dorjee Wangdue was born in Lhasa, Tibet in 1962. At the age of 16, he joined Namgyal Trantric Monastery of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and studied basic Buddhist philosophy and trantric rituals. It was his precious teacher and guide, Venerable Thubten Jamyang, a Kalachakra ceremony and ritual master assisting His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who encouraged him to learn and improve his in-born talent in making religious images of appliqué.

His first appliqué thangka was a three-long life deities as the main object of the alter at the palace of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Ladakh made in May, 1987. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama saw and blessed it, he found the quality of work up to the standard and advised to continue to improve and preserve this in-born talent in Tibetan Art.

From that day on he worked very hard and further improved his skills in making appliqué thangka. Following which, he established an appliqué thangka study centre in Dharamsala, North India, where many younger Tibetans are trained so that this unique art making applique thangka is preserved. He believes teaching this art form to the younger generation of Tibetans is also important since most of the trained artists in Tibet have passed away and the Chinese also continue to restrict anything that is related to Tibetan Buddhist practice. So far he trained over 150 students who are able to make appliqué thangka. His contribution for reviving and preservation of the art are revered and recognized about Tibetan community.