Category Archives: Amdo

Amdo Art China Gansu Tibet

Tibetan Briefcase Art

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The below is a collection of Tibetan book-holders. I took the photos where they were hung and stacked in the entry-way of the main prayer hall of rGan Gya dGon Pa, on the plateau north of Labrang, while bumping around on a fortressologizing trip with my dad this summer. Afterwards I spent a long time looking to buy one in various places. They are hard to find now, and good ones have to be commissioned specially from craftsmen. The best ones here have been individually hand painted on each panel, and the wooden frame enameled with silver. Other than rGan Gya, where it seemed that every monk had one, I have not seen them in common use elsewhere.

These things are called by are different names in different places. In Labrang they are called Shog Bu Ba Li, in Rebgong they are called Lag Shing, and in Lhasa-dialect they are Shing Leb. Tibetan books (dPe Cha) are long, flat, and loose-leafed. The idea is that you bind the book with cloth, press them between these two boards, and bind the whole thing tight with a cord. I think they are an eminently lovely way to carry your books around.

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Amdo Art Tibet

More Tibetan Doors and Windows

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A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to spend two nights in a place called gYu Thog Monastery, in ‘Dzam Thang rDzong of south-eastern Amdo. (The place can be found on the maps as 四川壤塘縣魚托寺). The monastery is one of the few bKa’ rGyud sect institutions in eastern Tibet, and houses several hundred monks. The people I met were extremely kind and hospitable to a foreign traveler who arrived both sunburned and soaking wet, and who was unable to walk for most of the next day due to blisters.

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Although the area considers itself part of Amdo, the architectural influence of nearby Khams is everywhere obvious. The traditional houses are built usually built of white-painted stone and red-painted timber, in three stories accessed by stairs or ladders. The lowest story is (traditionally) used as a barn for yaks and sheep. The middle story is living spaces and the third story is a cavernous attic often open on one or two sides, used for storage and for drying grain. In the more modern houses, the first story has become a sort of garage for motorcycles and boots, while the second and third stories contain bed rooms and big multi-use living rooms with central cooking stoves and duvets for sleeping.

As is my usual habit, I went around the place one rainy morning with a camera and a stick for dogs, collecting pictures of doors and windows. Traditionally such windows would have been made of a wooden grill with an outer covering of boards to be closed when foul weather threatened – one or two examples of this can be seen below. In the present day (despite the traditional form, none of these houses are particularly old) glass is commonly used. The results are below; I put what I thought were the prettiest examples at full scale.

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Finally, just because I don’t think I ever put these up on this blog before (although they’ve been on the sidebar), here is another collection of doors and windows from places around Khams. These were taken over the course of a walking trip in winter and spring 2009. They represent a variety of different regional styles, from all over both northern and southern Khams.

 

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