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A Thongdrel (alt. throngdrel) is a large appliqué religious image normally only unveiled during tsechus , the main religious festivals in Bhutan. They are the largest form of thangka paintings in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Thongdrels typically depict a seated Guru Rinpoche surrounded by holy beings in a composition that, unlike most smaller thangkas, is in a "landscape" format, somewhat wider than it is tall.
Appliqué is ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn or stuck onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern. It is commonly used as decoration, especially on garments. The technique is accomplished either by hand or machine. Appliqué is commonly practised with textiles, but the term may be applied to similar techniques used on different materials. In the context of ceramics, for example, an appliqué is a separate piece of clay added to the primary work, generally for the purpose of decoration.
Bhutan, officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked country in South Asia. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, the Sikkim state of India and the Chumbi Valley of Tibet in the west, the Arunachal Pradesh state of India in the east, and the states of Assam and West Bengal in the south. Bhutan is geopolitically in South Asia and is the region's second least populous nation after the Maldives. Thimphu is its capital and largest city, while Phuntsholing is its financial center.
A thangka, variously spelt as thangka, tangka, thanka, or tanka, is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. Thangkas are traditionally kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, mounted on a textile backing somewhat in the style of Chinese scroll paintings, with a further silk cover on the front. So treated, thangkas can last a long time, but because of their delicate nature, they have to be kept in dry places where moisture will not affect the quality of the silk. Most thangkas are relatively small, comparable in size to a Western half-length portrait, but some are extremely large, several metres in each dimension; these were designed to be displayed, typically for very brief periods on a monastery wall, as part of religious festivals. Most thangkas were intended for personal meditation or instruction of monastic students. They often have elaborate compositions including many very small figures. A central deity is often surrounded by other identified figures in a symmetrical composition. Narrative scenes are less common, but do appear.
Thongdrels are composed of several layers, mostly of silk. These begin with a backing, then the image itself, made up of appliqué pieces sewn to a background. Finally there is a yellow drape that covers and protects it when not on display. Thongdrels are stored rolled up. Thongdrels are displayed once a year as the highlight of the tsechu festival of a district or dzongkhag (although not every district has a thongdrel). Typically they are displayed on the last day of the tsechu. The painting is not allowed to be struck by the direct rays of the sun, thus it may be unfurled at around 3:00 in the morning and rolled back up by 7:30 AM.
A dzongkhag is an administrative and judicial district of Bhutan. The twenty dzongkhags of Bhutan are further divided into 205 gewogs. Some larger dzongkhags have one or more of an intermediate judicial division, known as dungkhags (sub-districts), which themselves comprise two or more gewogs. The Parliament of Bhutan passed legislation in 2002 and 2007 on the status, structure, and leadership of local governments, including dzongkhags. Its most recent legislation regarding dzongkhags is the Local Government Act of 2009. A dzongkhag is headed by a dzongdag, who is an elected official.
Usually the architecture of the dzong provides a wall with access above, down which they may be unrolled, but sometimes metal hanging frames may be used. Major Tibetan centres have structures built into the defensive walls or other buildings specifically designed to give a large space for the display of festival thangkas.
The mere viewing of the unfurled thongdrel is said to cleanse the viewer of sin. They may also be exhibited at other important occasions such as royal coronations, when the thongdrel from a number of monasteries may be transported to appear.
Cradled in the folds of the Himalayas, Bhutan has relied on its geographical isolation to protect itself from outside cultural influences. A sparsely populated country bordered by India to the south, and China to the north, Bhutan has long maintained a policy of strict isolationism, both culturally and economically, with the goal of preserving its cultural heritage and independence. Only in the last decades of the 20th century were foreigners allowed to visit the country, and only then in limited numbers. In this way, Bhutan has successfully preserved many aspects of its culture, which dates directly back to the mid-17th century.
Dzong architecture is a distinctive type of fortress architecture found mainly in Bhutan and Tibetan areas of China. The architecture is massive in style with towering exterior walls surrounding a complex of courtyards, temples, administrative offices, and monks' accommodation.
The Tibetan people are an ethnic group native to Tibet. Their current population is estimated to be around 6 million. In addition to living in Tibet, significant numbers of Tibetans live in other parts of China, as well as India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
For more than a thousand years, Tibetan artists have played a key role in the cultural life of Tibet. From designs for painted furniture to elaborate murals in religious buildings, their efforts have permeated virtually every facet of life on the Tibetan plateau. The vast majority of surviving artworks created before the mid-20th century are dedicated to the depiction of religious subjects, with the main forms being thangka, distemper paintings on cloth, Tibetan Buddhist wall paintings, and small statues in bronze, or large ones in clay, stucco or wood. They were commissioned by religious establishments or by pious individuals for use within the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and were manufactured in large workshops by monks and lay artists, who are mostly unknown.
The music of Bhutan is an integral part of its culture and plays a leading role in transmitting social values. Traditional Bhutanese music includes a spectrum of subgenres, ranging from folk to religious song and music. Some genres of traditional Bhutanese music intertwine vocals, instrumentation, and theatre and dance, while others are mainly vocal or instrumental. The much older traditional genres are distinguished from modern popular music such as rigsar.
Dechencholing Palace is located in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan, 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) to the north of the Tashichho Dzong and 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) north of the city centre. It was built in 1953 by the third king of Bhutan Druk Gyalpo Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
Tibet developed a distinct culture due to its geographic and climatic conditions. While influenced by neighboring cultures from China, India, and Nepal, the Himalayan region's remoteness and inaccessibility have preserved distinct local influences, and stimulated the development of its distinct culture.
Tshechu are annual religious Bhutanese festivals held in each district or dzongkhag of Bhutan on the tenth day of a month of the lunar Tibetan calendar. The month depends on the place. Tshechus are religious festivals of the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Tamzhing Lhündrup Monastery in Bumthang District in central Bhutan is the most important Nyingma gompa in Bhutan. Its temple and monastery are remarkable for their direct connection to the Bhutanese tertön and saint, Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) and his tulkus. It is now the seat of Sungtrul Rinpoche, the current speech incarnation of Pema Lingpa.
The dramyin or dranyen is a traditional Himalayan folk music lute with six strings, used primarily as an accompaniment to singing in the Drukpa Buddhist culture and society in Bhutan, as well as in Tibet, Sikkim and Himalayan West Bengal. It is often used in religious festivals of Tibetan Buddhism. The instrument is played by strumming, fingerpicking or plucking. The dramyen, chiwang (fiddle), and lingm (flute) comprise the basic instrumental inventory for traditional Bhutanese folk music.
Rinpung Dzong is a large dzong - Buddhist monastery and fortress - of the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school in Paro District, Bhutan. It houses the district Monastic Body and government administrative offices of Paro Dzongkhag. It is listed as a tentative site in Bhutan's Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.
Bhutanese art is similar to Tibetan art. Both are based upon Vajrayana Buddhism and its pantheon of teachers and divine beings.
Newa art is the art form practiced over centuries by Newa people. The pictorial art consists of:
Paro Taktsang, is a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site and the temple complex is located in the cliffside of the upper Paro valley in Bhutan.
The Punakha Dzong, also known as Pungtang Dewa chhenbi Phodrang, is the administrative centre of Punakha District in Punakha, Bhutan. Constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, 1st Zhabdrung Rinpoche, in 1637–38, it is the second oldest and second largest dzong in Bhutan and one of its most majestic structures. The dzong houses the sacred relics of the southern Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, including the Rangjung Kasarpani and the sacred remains of Ngawang Namgyal and the tertön Pema Lingpa.
Public holidays in Bhutan consist of both national holidays and local festivals or tshechus. While national holidays are observed throughout Bhutan, tsechus are only observed in their areas. Bhutan uses its own calendar, a variant of the lunisolar Tibetan calendar. Because it is a lunisolar calendar, dates of some national holidays and most tshechus change from year to year. For example, the new year, Losar, generally falls between February and March.
The conservation and restoration of Tibetan thangkas is the physical preservation of the traditional religious Tibetan painting form known as a thangka. When applied to thangkas of significant cultural heritage, this activity is generally undertaken by a conservator-restorer.
A thangka wall is, in Tibetan religious architecture, a stone-built structure used for hanging giant, or monumental, appliqued thangkas, or scrolls, in some of the major Buddhist monasteries of Tibet. These giant thangkas are called gos ku, goku, gheku, kiku in Tibetan. The thangka wall stands on a hillside from where it overlooks the monastic settlement. Its form is that of a narrow, elongated and tall rectangular building with a battered façade and a flat roof surrounded by a parapet.
Terris Nguyen Temple, born in California 1944, studied the art of Tibetan Thangka painting in Nepal during the years 1966 to 1975. For the past twenty five years, the Nguyen Temples have been the official artists to the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa and Tsurphu Monastery, Tibet.