If you're travelling to Shangri-La, make sure to pay a visit to the Thangka Centre opened by the Gyalthang Association of Culture Preservation to learn about the ancient Tibetan art of thangka painting, contribute in preserving the local Tibetan culture and, why not, maybe even do some drawing yourself.
Thangka is the ancient Buddhist art of painting religious subjects and deities onto fabric made of cotton, silk or linen. These images are traditionally used as teaching tools as well as visual support for meditation. The process of creating a thangka painting is complex and laborious, and it can take up to years to complete an artwork.
The Gyalthang Association of Culture, registered in Shangri-La and recognized by the local government, is one of the few non-governmental and non-profit organizations in north-west Yunnan.
The association invites experienced thangka art teachers from Tibet and Qinghai and yearly admits a number of talented Tibetan youths who are studying traditional thangka painting. Under their teachers' guidance, students are involved in the entire creative process: canva preparation, foundational line drawing, colour extraction from minerals and plants, paintbrush making, and finally painting, redrawing and shading.
All costs, including teachers and students' accommodation, study materials, etc. are covered by the association.
Besides teaching, the association holds periodical lectures and exhibitions in order to promote the centre and seek more attention and contributions from society.
In Shangri-La you will hardly find a person who hasn't heard about Dakpa, an inspiring and charismatic person with a passion for dancing and singing. Dakpa Kelden spent his early years as a monk in India, but decided to return to his beloved hometown and commit to the preservation of the Tibetan culture. He, together with a group of volunteers, founded the Gyalthang Association of Culture Preservation (simply known as Thangka Centre) with the aim of giving young people the opportunity to study Tibetan arts for free, encouraging new generations to preserve their traditions that are getting lost to modernization and spreading authentic Tibetan culture in such a popular tourist destination as Shangri-La.
As mysterious as it seems to be, thangka painting isn't only for Tibetans! In fact, the Thangka Centre also welcomes Chinese nationals and foreigners interested in learning programs and workshops that include thangka painting, chanting, Tibetan language and calligraphy. Additionally, the centre also organizes rural homestays in the nearby village of Trinyi, where visitors can experience the authentic rural Tibetan lifestyle and contribute to the development of ecofriendly tourism in the area.
If you're interested in studying or volunteering at the Thangka Centre, check out its website to get all the details.