In Lhasa , Barkhor is the most famous traditional Tibetan shopping market. Tourist can find lots of odd and fascinating stuff. Small shops and stores on the street sell a variety of items like Buddha figures, prayers flags, fur hats, amulets, conch-shell trumpets, rosaries, horse bells, copper teapots and jewelry inlaid with turquoise and other gems.
Tibetan carpet is one of the three main kinds of carpets in the world, renowned for its excellent workmanship, unique patterns showing strong ethnic and religious characteristics. Some of the carpets are simple but elegant; others are noble and luxurious. All of them are exquisite works of art.
A Thangka is a painted or embroidered banner. In Tibetan the word 'than' stands for flat and the 'ka' means painting. Therefore, the Thangka is a kind of painting done on flat surface but which can be rolled up. The most common shape of a Thangka is the upright rectangular form.
Based on the techniques and materials, thangkas can be divided into several categories. Generally they are divided into two major categories: those which are painted and those which are made of silk.
The painted thangkas are further divided into five categories: gold background; red background; black background; cotton support outlines and touched up with colors; painted on cotton canvas with water soluble pigments, tempered with a herb and glue solution.
Tibetan fresco painting is an important part of Tibetan art. The painting of Buddha image must follow the rigid principles. They include the images of Buddha in his many manifestations, portraits of saints, great masters, founders of various Buddhist sects and the stories of their lives, wars, scenes of manual labour, construction of monastories and everyday life of the people.
Wooden Tablet Painting
Wooden Tablet Painting represents another branch of Tibetan art. Their subjects and pictorial composition are similar to those of thangka while the difference is that the pictures are drawn on wooden tablets of various shapes. Some of them have handles attached to them for holding and hanging.
The materials of Sand Painting are colored sand and minerals. They are filled inside a cone with a tiny hole at the tip. Many disperse thought the hole will form a single line in the picture. The subject is usually `mandala'.
The Tibetan artists absorbed the influences of the art of Han, Nepalese and Indian sculpture and developed a style and craft of their own which was distinctively Tibetan. The shaping of a bronze is a complicated process. It is so difficult and time-consuming that sometimes many artists spent all their lives making them but did not live to see them completed.
Masks depict the range of beings from deities to men and animals, qiangmu religious dances and folk tales. Those depicting humans are carved to display a certain characteristic such as honesty, harshness, greed or humor. Animals depicted are mainly deer, yaks, sheep and birds.
Most Butter Sculptures produced in Lhasa are made for the Lamp Festival on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Tibetan year. The butter is first mixed with ice water, and then mineral dyes mixed in. Working on a wooden support, a world of flowers and grass and towers and buildings, populated with men and animals and deities, is then created.
Wooden and Stone Carving
These beautiful engravings lavishly decorate the columns, beams, door, windows and cross-beam supports in Tibetan monasteries and temples. Shrines, platforms seating deities, altars, stupas and some ritual objects are often adorned with wood carving or stone carving.
Clay modeling of miniature Buddhist image represents a form of artistic expression in Tibetan Buddhism. As the modelings are not difficult to make and the material is easily obtainable, such objects of art are turned out in large quantities by Tibetan. They can be found almost everywhere.
The numerous ritual objects of Tibetan Buddhism may be divided into six groups symbolizing respect, praise, attendance, devotion, protection and guidance. Kasayas, necklaces and hadas are symbols of respect. Bells, drums, bone flutes, and six-string lutes symbolize praise. The Buddhas' throne, water vessels, flower baskets, and canopies belong to the attendance group. Rosary beads, the fish-shaped wooden percussion instrument, scepters, bells, and initiation vessels are used to show devotion. Images of protecting deities, and written secret messages signify protection. Wheels, cylinders, tablets, banners and stones with the `Six-Syllable True Teaching' on them symbolize guidance.