The Arts of Tibet Online

Jewellery was an indispensable accessory for every Tibetan regardless of rank or station. At the end of their plaits women wore medallions set with turquoise or perhaps even an Indian rupee. Elongated gold or silver mounts framing turquoise or coral stones hung from the locks of hair on either side of the forehead. Men and women wore many rings of silver or gold, their whole surface crammed with religious and prophylactic chains.
Tibetan art quick links and architecture have been almost entirely religious in character (see Tibetan Buddhism). The art of Tibetan Lamaism retains strong elements drawn from the forms of both Hinduism and Buddhism in India and Nepal, and was later influenced by the arts of China. In architecture, the chorten, or Tibetan stupa, was derived from Indian prototypes and was composed of one or more square bases, a square balcony, a bulbous dome, and a mast upholding umbrellas, surmounted by a flame finial. Tibet is famed for its gigantic monastery-cities, which house thousands of monks. The one at Tashi Lumpo, built in the 15th cent., is the headquarters for the Tashi Lama. A labyrinthian complex, it is composed of long streets of cells, which surround courtyards.
For more than a thousand years, Tibetan artists have played a key role in the cultural life of Tibet. From designs for painted furniture to elaborate murals in religious buildings, their efforts have permeated virtually every facet of life on the Tibetan plateau. The vast majority of surviving artworks created before the mid-20th century are dedicated to the depiction of religious subjects, for the most part being distemper on cloth or murals. They were commissioned by religious establishments or by pious individuals for use within the practice of Tibetan Buddhism and were manufactured in large workshops by uncredited artists. These works not only document spiritual concepts but also demonstrate the vitality of Tibetan aesthetics over the centuries in terms of the cross-fertilisation of stylistic influences from other Chinese, Nepalese, and Indian styles.
The visible remains of Tibetan Art and its artefacts that have survived through the centuries from the earliest times are very few. Much has been destroyed by the ravages of recent history, but still, even though many of the illustrations in this book are otherwise inaccessible to the public, there remains a large selection of objects from this mystical culture in many of the world's art and ethnographic museums. The relatively few traders, pilgrims and explorers that visited Tibet over the centuries had to overcome the sheer physical difficulties of a hostile landscape, and, an even more hostile reception to outsiders from the Tibetans themselves. The Tibetans regarded these unwanted visitors as suspicious and threatening to their secluded way of life.