Tibetan Metal Wares
With the increasing demand for the household utensils, instrument of production and religious art, the metal ware crafts in Tibet has been in progressive development, forming a complete set of metal processing technologies, such as smelting, forging, working and carving, etc. The metal ware making in Tibet has a long history. According to the documentation, during the reign of Nyatri Tsanpo, the first Tibetan Tsanpo (400-300 B.C.), Tibet had entered the period of making and using both bronze ware and iron ware. Such weapons as spears, shields and bards had emerged. By the time of Trinyan Sungtsan, the 29th Tibetan Tsanpo, the technology level had been on the high side. The Tibetan people were not only able to extract silver, copper and iron and make weapons like spear, shield, sword and knife, but also capable of building the cable bridge. With the economic development and technological improvement, the metal ware craft became an independent trade.
The Tibetan metal wares can be classified into three categories according to their functions and purposes f the first one is that for the household living and production, i.e. such farm implement as ploughshare, hoe and knife, and such utility devices as flagon, cup, scoop, tray, stove, pan, dan, basin, pot and jar, etc. the second is that for ornament, including bracelet, finger ring, necklace as well as knife, saddle and etc; the third is that for religious purpose, mainly as the figures of Buddh9 and the dharma wares like axe, terbium, ceremonial dagger, cymbal, trumpet and bell, etc. Of all the three categories, the religious wares are most typical.
Making the statue of Buddha usually needs several significant processes, such as smelting, forging, carving, gilding, polishing and red presenting. The processes are rather sophisticated. First of all melt the metal into liquid state, then work it into metal sheet after cooling and hammer the sheet into initia1 shape. Then outline the figure of Buddha (partial or Whole, depending on the size of the figure) on the sheet with charcoal pencil, then hammer it into the final shape (for the big statue, weld the several pieces together). As for the engraving of the figure of Buddha, there are roughly three approaches: i.e. the light engraving, embossing and combination of boring along the outline with the embossing. For gilding, melt the gold and work to sheet after cooling, then cut it to filament formation and mix them with mercury and water, grand the mixture in mortar until it become magma. Clean the wares to be gilt, paint a thin layer of mercury first, and then paint the gold magma. After that bake the ware under fire and then polish it. This method was introduced to Chinese inland area in Yuan Dynasty according to the record. After gilding, make a special process called "red presentation", which make the wares present red and gold shinning color.
For casting of the figure of Buddha, two approaches are usually adopted, i.e. losing-wax method or die-cast method. The latter one is more broadly used. The large sized stature of Buddha used to be cast in several pieces then joined to one piece. An alloy material dominated by copper is usually used to make the statue, which is called "Lima" in Tibetan. it is like in India, the most valuable statue of Buddha is made of the alloy material consisting of eight precious metals.
Because of the demands from the everyday living, production and development of the religious arts, all sorts of non-official or semi-official metal ware processing mills were mushroomed. Especially the non-official ones, which were almost distributed over every counties, towns and even townships. The most developed regions are in Lhasa, Xigaze and Khan Region. Among the all, Dorjokemban in Lhasa was the center of metal smelting, processing and sculpturing of the Tibetan local government before l95l.
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