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Thangka

Tib., than-ka; scroll painting

A class of sacred art developed in Tibet. The paintings are prepared, and empowered by the constant recital of appropriate mantras, by highly trained adepts as a "dwelling-place" for deities and/or the corresponding psychic energies. Similar to mandalas, such images are often used as an aid to visualization.

Most thangkas either represent key elements of the Buddhist teachings or show major figures from the historical lineage of a specific school or tradition within Tibetan Buddhism.

Although the representation of figures and symbols is highly canonized, several styles of Thangka painting have developed, at least up to the 16th century. With the spread of Buddhism to Western societies in the late 20th century, the use of modern paints and techniques has, once more, led to a new style distinguished by new and vibrant colors.