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Tsering Art School
“for the preservation
and continuation of authentic Buddhist art”

Shechen Institute of Traditional Tibetan Art
The Shechen Institute of Traditional Tibetan Art, ‘Tsering Art School,’ was built under the direction of Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, with the generous support of the Dutch government and a private donor. It is housed within the grounds of the Shechen Monastery in Nepal. The aim of the Institute is to contribute to the preservation and continuation of the authentic Himalayan Buddhist arts.

The Institute houses: the Tsering Art School (thangka painting school), the Shechen Archives, the tailoring studio, a wood-crafting studio, clay-sculpture studio and incense manufacture.

Thangka Painting School
The thangka painting school was established by Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche in 1996 in response to the urgent need for young artists to receive a complete and thorough training in a pure and authentic lineage of Buddhist sacred painting. Thangkas are Tibetan Buddhist pictorial scrolls, either painted or made of fabric.

Previously in Tibet the main form of painting was Buddhist sacred art. During the 1960’s the ancient traditional arts in Tibet suffered irreparable damage when over 6,000 monasteries and the art works they contained were destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. In addition to this tragic loss, the degeneration of the authentic Buddhist painting traditions from the whole Himalayan region still continues today, largely because of the commercialisation of thangka production for a tourist market. This means that people without proper training are producing poorly executed thangkas with incorrect iconography. The overall result is that the sacred meaning and purpose of this precious art form is in danger being lost.

The goal of the school is thus to provide the opportunity for young men and women from the Himalayan region and abroad, to acquire the knowledge and skill to keep alive this sacred tradition from within its proper context of genuine Buddhist practice.

The Teacher, the Lineage
The Tsering Art School principal is Konchog Lhadrepa, a close disciple of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche who, at the age of 16 years, was sent by him to be trained in the Karma Gadri Tradition of thangka painting with the renowned master, Lhadre Tragyel at Rumtek in Sikkim. Since this time Konchog has continued to paint primarily for Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and other eminent lamas. Much of Konchog's vast knowledge has been acquired through his close training with Khyentse Rinpoche. Over the years he painted many works for Rinpoche, who advised him on the details of iconography. One of Konchogs’ major projects was to design and oversee the painting of the murals on the walls of the Shechen Monastery temple in Nepal, which took him and a team of artists more than four years to complete. He also painted thangkas and temples in Europe for five years, under the instruction of Khyentse Rinpoche. He is now among the last authentic holders of the Karma Gadri School of painting, which originated in Eastern Tibet and is a tradition famous for the beauty of its spacious landscapes, combined with a minute attention to detail and accuracy to the text. Konchog’s training, talent and experience make him an exceptionally qualified painting master.

The students are now mainly taught the painting techniques under the guidance of some of Konchog's senior graduate disciples who are monks from Shechen Monastery (Kalsang Tsering, Tashi Tenzin and Gyurme Norbu), with Konchog concentrating more on teaching classes on history and theory, based on the text book he has been writing for the school.

The Training
Thangka students are trained for six years under the guidance of Konchog and some of the graduate monks. The student body is drawn from the young monks of the Shechen Monastery as well as monks and lay men and women from the local community and from abroad. Enrollment is limited in order to enable training on an individual basis.

Due to the sacred nature of this art form, those who wish to study here must have taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and consider themselves to be Buddhist. Regardless of previous experience, anyone studying here must follow the proper sequence of training as defined by this tradition, and according to the teacher’s assessment of an individual’s progress.

At first the students learn the techniques of proportion and drawing and the use of paints and colours. Then they work on projects and learn to execute more detailed iconography. As the students gain experience, they begin to assist in fulfilling thangka commissions. In the final phase of study, the students learn to draw and paint mandalas and write Lantsa script.

The school fees are kept to a minimum to ensure that people from all backgrounds have the opportunity to acquire these skills. Due to visa restrictions, and other logistical difficulties, exceptions can be made for foreign students to study here on a short-term basis.

Graduation
The landmark first year of graduating students occurred in 2001. They will join the graduating students from this year in Nepal in a ceremonial offering of the Certificate of Lhadre Lopon in December 2003.
Thangka Commissions
A thangka painting is not simply a decoration or a creation of beauty, but is the means to convey the iconography and lineage essential for a Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner. These works of art function as models on which the practitioner can reflect and meditate.

By meditating on such objects, under the guidance of a qualified teacher, one can train the mind and gain an understanding of certain types of awareness that that specific image portrays.

Other reasons for commissioning a thangka painting may be to bring about good health, prosperity or long life. Sometimes they are commissioned to aid the recovery of a sick person, or to protect a person, or to help in the rebirth of someone who has died.

At Tsering Art School, thangkas are made in response to the customer's orders. Each thangka is designed to meet the patrons' particular requirements and will be carefully researched from the appropriate sacred texts, or by consulting lamas from particular lineages.


Other Workshops

Traditional Tibetan Appliqué & Tailoring
The tailoring studio houses an experienced craftsman who makes ritual costumes, thangka brocades, and many other decorative and ritual items for monasteries and individuals.

The appliqué artists are trained in making appliqué and embroidered thangkas. These thangkas are constructed from many pieces of hand-cut and embroidered pieces of silk and brocade, and take many months to complete. These artists are also applying their skills to revive the old tradition of purely embroidered thangkas, using silk thread and handmade cloth.

Wood carving
An expert wood craftsman makes carved wooden masks for the monastic dances, which are then painted by the students at the thangka school. He makes smaller replica monastic masks for decoration. These and many other traditional items can be purchased or made to order from our workshop. One of the specialties of this workshop is to make carved wooden tormas, under the guidance of Konchog. Other items include:

Stupas
Phurbas
Sok-par/ Zen-par
Masks
Tashi dargye hangings
Drum-stick handles
Damarus
Incense burners

Tormas
The tormas are hand carved from wood by our woodcraftsman and painted by the students. They are made by commission, according to the necessary requirem

Clay Sculpture
The Bhutanese are famed for their excellent clay sculpting tradition. The master sculptor of our workshop is Lhundrup, who has trained in sculpting for many years in Bhutan under the guidance of the best teachers. He has now joined our team of artisans in 2003 and is working on fulfilling commissions. He can accept a few students, but no more than five. Please contact the art school for further information.

Shechen Incense
The incense being made under the Tsering Art School for Shechen monastery is manufactured according to the formula of the Nyingma monastery of Mindroling in central Tibet, which is renowned for the purity of its traditions. It is said that the subtle perfume of the incense at Mindroling could be perceived even outside the temple in which it was burned. The incense is made up of more than one hundred ingredients, chiefly comprising of wild plants gathered at a high altitude in the Himalayas, which have been selected and processed with the utmost care. The manufacture of incense represents one of the many facets of the sacred arts of Tibet and as such merits being preserved.

There are three qualities of offering incense available for purchase, as well as an incense used specifically for ‘Sur’ practice, (Sur-po) and a special substance, which can also be used for filling statues and stupas called Zang-Druk (bZang drug)

New Workshop!
Buddhist clay sculpturing classes and commissions from our new workshop, with one of the famed Bhutanese Sculptors.


Special Projects

Special Areas for Sponsorship
Help us preserve Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhist cultures by making a donation (tax-deductible in U.S.A) to Tsering Art School or by sponsoring a student.

Student Sponsorship
$450 pays for school fees for a boarding student for one year. $150 supports a day student for one year. Pocket money for the student is extra.

We seek sponsorship only for those students coming from poor backgrounds who would otherwise be unable to pay the school fees. Sponsors will be given one thangka painted by the student who they have sponsored.


Information, Products and Sales
For further information about the Tsering Art School, Shechen Institute of Traditional Tibetan Art, or to make inquiries about purchasing textiles, masks or incense or commissioning a thangka or tormas, please contact:

Tsering Art School
Shechen Monastery
PO Box 136, Baudha
Kathmandu, Nepal

(Ph) 977-1-4496097
(fax) 977-1-4470215

Email: zorig@asia.com

Links:
See www.himalayanart.org for thangka images from Shechen Archives and from Tsering Art School.

See www.hlf.org.np for information on the thangka school project in Kavre district by the Himalayan Light Foundation, provided with the training from the Tsering Art School teachers.

See www.interlog.com/~pema/arts.htm for statue painting and temple decoration completed by Konchog and Gyalpo Lama in the year 2000 in Canada.

See http://web.stlawu.edu/gallery/exhibit-s04.htm#visualprayers for recent attendance of Tsering Art School graduate and teacher, Kalsang Tsering in an exhibition named "Visual Prayers" on Tibetan Buddhist art at the St. Lawrence University, Richard F. Brush Gallery. Also included were an exhibition of photos by Mathieu Ricard. (Thanks to Cathy Tedford, Director Richard F. Brush Gallery).