The Mandala in Tibetan Thangkas

From 7 January to 18 January, the National Art Museum of China in Beijing presents the “Tibet in the Heaven-Joint Exhibition of Top Tibetan Thang-ga Works” exhibition. More than 20 thangkas is now shown to the public, and most of them are portraits of Buddhist figures.

Apart from the Buddhist figures, the mandala is also a common theme of thangkas. It literally means a circle in Tibetan, referring to a system of meditation. Tibetan monks use the mandala as a visual aid for concentration for activating the introversive forces hidden deep in mind. The mandala is a graphic representation of the activation process. There are many types and varieties of mandalas depending on the nature of divinity Central.

Tibetan monks do not just have the mandala on thangkas, but also with sand. As a spiritual practice, monks use sand of different colours to delicately construct the mandala on the altar, like drawing a sand painting. However, the most unexpected part of the practice, is that the sand is never attached to the painting board. Despite the tremendous time and energy devoted, the monks wipe away all their work once it is done. They then put the mixed-colour sand in one single pot and pour every particles in it into rivers and lakes. Construction and destruction, desires and nothingness—the mandala illuminates minds.


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【Related article: Exhibition on Tibetan Thangka at the National Art Museum of China