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Thangka Center in Shangri-la Helps Preserve Tibetan Culture

updated: 2011-11-03

Xinhua, November 3, 2011
Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Dakpa Kelden is discussing Thangka painting skills with his students in his office which is in a two-story Tibetan-style building.
The middle-aged Tibetan man is a principal founder of the Thangka Center and the Shangri-la Association of Cultural Preservation in Shangri-la County, Deqen Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in southwest China's Yunnan Province.
Established in 2006, the non-governmental and non-profit association is dedicated to protecting and inheriting the ethnic Tibetan culture.
Dakpa Kelden used to be a monk when young and once studied tourism management in Austria. He can speak fluent Tibetan, Han, English and Hindu languages.
He said that the Thangka painting skill has to be inherited and passed down to future generations because it is an important part of the Tibetan culture; otherwise the young Tibetans will gradually forget their own ethnic culture.
The center, which started with three students at the very beginning, currently has about 20 students, all of whom are Tibetans from Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited areas in other parts of China.
Aged 10-25, the students not only study Thangka painting skills, but also learn Tibetan, Han and English languages, and most importantly, the Tibetan culture.
All coming from poor families, the students enjoy totally free education during their four-year study in the center.
Apart from government's support, the founder also called for attention of the international community in carrying forward the Tibetan culture, an integral part of the splendid Chinese culture.
Lozang Khedup, 35, a local Tibetan monk, is one of the center's two Thangka painting teachers.
He said, "Thangka has been increasingly becoming a handicraft, thus losing its cultural connotation. It is expensive only for its valued pigments and workmanship, not for its cultural meaning."
He noted that nowadays, lots of young people consider culture as a certain object, for example, a piece of Thangka.

In fact, he said, an object is only the carrier of the culture, not the culture itself; therefore, teaching the Tibetan culture is more important than the Thangka painting skills.

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1.Shangri-La Travel Guide