Overview of Tibetan Culture and Arts
In Tibet, you will always be amazed by the artistic wonders: the architectures, the prayer-flags, sculptures and Thangkas, songs and dances, which are representation of the Tibetan cultures. Tibetan arts have gone through a 5000 years of history. The prehistoric art was closely bound up with the aboriginal Bon religion, while its later development relied greatly on the Tibetan Buddhist culture. Therefore, it has been imbued with strong ethnic and regional features.
Bon is the main aboriginal religion during the prehistoric civilization on Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, which was established in the 5th century B.C. by Shenrab Miwoche, the prince of Zhang-zhung kingdom in western Tibet. Around the first century A.D. the religion began to spread eastward until fully distributed in Tsang region and Lhasa region. This marked its first zenith when it almost dominated the political, economic and cultural life in the early stage of the Tubo Kingdom. Bon advocated pantheism and believed that “every thing has a soul”. The deities, the supernatural powers of mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, the sun, the moon, stars, wind, rain, thunder, lightening, birds, and beast, etc. as many as one can enumerate, govern the birth, ageing, sickness, death, events and fortune of people, who could not predict and control their own destinies because people are believed to be created by the deities.
In the 7th century A.D., Buddhism was introduced to Tubo Kingdom on a large scale and Bon lost its dominance in the mid 8th century. Tibetan Buddihism has been ramified into four major sects: Nyingma Sect, Kadam Sect, Sakya Sect, Kagyu Sect and Gulug up to the 15th century. These sects had later on brought significant and extensive impacts on political, economic and cultural life of Tibetan people in progression of different period of time.
The Tibetan arts have been inevitably dyed with a distinctive religious arts, especially the Tibetan Buddhist ones, have constituted the main body of the Tibetan arts and made it stand out in utterly different way among the others.
Buddha is the sovereign of the realm of Tibetan Buddhism, and is the most frequently occurred figure in Tibetan art works as well. The major subject matters of Tibetan arts include Buddha, Bodhisattvas and a Variety of Deities, the mandala, the Gurus and Dharma Kings, the biographic Stories and Jataka Stories of Sakyamuni.
The major art forms are composed of Tibetan Architectures including Ancient Tomb Architectures, Monastery Architectures, Palace Architectures, Tibetan Residence Architectures; Tibetan Sculptures including Buddhist Sculptures, Metal Sculptures, Clay Modelings, Stone Carvings, Tibetan Paintings including Thangka, fresco, rock drawing and contemporary painting; Tibetan Handicrafts, Metal Wares, Masks, Block-Printing, Textiles Handicrafts and Wooden Wares.