- by Eric
- Last Updated: 2020-02-06
Tibetan Butter Sculpture is a special form of art made of ghee. Fortunately, after the founding of the Bonismo, Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche changed a lot of primitive belief methods, including the way to offer a sacrifice to deities, and so on. The new way is to use Zanba and ghee to form a variety of colored thread disks to replace the animals to be sacrificed, therefore reduce the killing. This is the origin of Dolma and Butter sculpture.
Dolma and Butter sculpture were widely used as offerings by other Tibetan Buddhist denominations and became a major feature of Tibetan Buddhism. Many of the customs and traditions of modern Tibetans have also been passed down from the ancient Bon religion. Many unique ways of praying of Tibetans are also relics of the ancient Bon religion, such as kora/worshipping/circumambulating the holy mountains/lakes, scattering wind horse flags(Longda), hanging multi-colored prayer flags, engraving Buddhism scriptures on stones, and placing mani piles, divination, worshipping the Dolma plate, butter sculpture, and even using a prayer wheel, etc. All the abovementioned features are now indivisible of Tibetan culture.
Today, you can see butter sculptures in many Tibetan Monasteries. Taér Temple, which is located in Xi'ning, Qinghai Province, is well-known for its finest butter sculpture. As one of the "Great Three Arts" of Ta'er Monastery, Butter Sculpture is shown as Buddha statues, figures, landscapes, pavilions, birds and animals, flowers and trees, etc. The collection of butter sculptures in Ta'er Temple not only has quite high artistic value and style but also has a grand scale and colorful contents.
It can be dated back to the 1400s during the Ming Dynasty even though its origin was entirely mystical and mysterious. We can look back into its history in two different versions.
First, we were made to believe that since the arrival of the Sakyamuni Buddha statue in Lhasa, the monks planned to adorn it with different flowers to be used for offering during the bleak winter of Tibet. And since getting flowers during this time was difficult, the monks then plan to use Dri (the female yak) butter.
While the second version of the origin of the Tibetan butter sculpture lies with Tsongkhapa(the founder of Gelug sect) according to his dream. He dreamed that the thorns turned to be a bright lamp, the weeds turned into flowers, countless rare treasures, colorful and brilliant. Tsongkhapa then instructed the Tibetan monks to carve a sculpture with butter to successfully visualize his legendary dream. Later, the butter sculpture being displayed everywhere in the Tibetan temples and monasteries.
Tibetan people have the custom of dedicating butter to temples, which are generally only to use as Buddha lamps and monks' food. Before The Lantern Festival(the 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar), they paid tribute to Taér Temple with pure white butter. The monks kneaded butter into the shape of the embryo made from various mineral dyes and then set up scaffolding in the cold room to complete. In order to keep the styling from melting due to body temperature, the monks need to put their hands into the biting snow water to cool down. That's also the reason why some people say it's cruel art.
Related Articles & Posts
Tibetan people always keep a mysterious veil to the public. Here's an introduction of Tibetan people from their lifestyle, history, robes, inhabitants, food, architecture, occupational life, hada, language, religion and entertainment. ...
Prince Wencheng(625-680) married to Songtsan Gambo for lasting peace. She made historic contributions in promoting the economic and cultural exchanges between the Tang Dynasty and the Tubo Kingdom. She's always been appreciated and admired by the Tibetan people. ...
Bon—The Indigenous Religion of Tibet
Tourist introduction to Bonismo. Bon, as a Tibetan indigenous religion, after centuries of evolution, it's now officially recognized as a religious group with equal rights as the Buddhist schools. Tibetan Buddhism is derived from Bon and Buddhism. See more details. ...
Khata and related Etiquette
Khata, transliteration of Tibetan. It's a kind of silk and cotton fabric. Most of them are white and blue. Offering "Khata" means to show purity, sincerity, loyalty, and respect to the other party. It is the most common Tibetan courtesy. ...
Tibetan Butter Tea - Po cha
Butter tea, commonly known as Po cha in Tibet, is a typical Tibetan tea with salty in taste. If you are new in Tibet, you may have tasted this tea, especially, during cold days! Tibetans love to serve this tea to their guests. ...
8 Auspicious Symbols of Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism is the main religion in Tibet, and it has a deep impression on Tibetans' lives. If you travel to Tibet, you will see the the eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism, but what's the significance of them? ...
As the crystallization of Tibetan wisdom and experience, Tibetan Calendar is widely used in the roof of the world and some other places with the old tradition. You can learn more about Tibetan Culture from this very useful tool. ...
Tibet Customs and Traditions
A guide to Tibetan customs and traditions for visitors covering greetings, etiquette, eating, drinking, tea culture, sky burial, and more travel advice. ...
Tibetan Buddhist Monastic Robe - Kasaya
Tibet has rich cultures where you can find authentic traditions of Buddhists in every element of the place. It was almost 2500 years back when Lord Buddha himself wore monastic robes. Check the history, meaning and various types of Kasaya in Tibet. ...
Tibetan Cliff and Rock Carving
Tibet is a land with long history and rich traditional cultures. As one of the most important heritages from ancient time, Tibetan Cliff and Rock Carving is known for its unique style and exquisite appearance. ...