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Tibetan Prayer Flags


Last modified: 2006-03-18 by phil nelson
Keywords: tibet | thangka |
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In the book "Sieben Jahre in Tibet" by Heinrich Harrer there are two photos showing the display of a huge flag at a mountain slope in Tibet.

The silk flag was displayed once a year by 60 monks. Unfortunately, it is impossible to see what the flag shows.
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 21 October 2003

I have been told in Ladakh and Zanskar, two areas where Tibetan Buddhism is the dominant religion, that each monastery kept a huge flag rolled in a sacred room of the monastery, and displays it only in the most important religious festivals, usually once a year or even less. The prototype of such flags was kept in the biggest Tibetan monastery of China, whose name I cannot remember now, and was destroyed by the Red Guards after the invasion of Tibet. This act is still considered as one of the major sacrileges committed during the invasion.
Ivan Sache, 21 October 2003

It is a giant thangka (the usual transcription of the Tibetan word). Thangkas come in all sizes and are religious pictures on textiles, painted or appliquéd. They are hung on walls in private homes and in temples, and the large monasteries had or have giant ones for outdoor display, often on a specially built wall or screen in the hillside. Read more about them at:
Lars Roede, 22 October 2003

The word literally means "object to be unwound". The great thangkas are called "gos-sku". One of the biggest "gos-sku" dates back to the end of the 17th century and shows the Amitabha Buddha. It measures 55.80 x 46.81 and is kept in the Potala in Lhassa. (Source: Encyclopaedia Universalis, which has a detailed description of the stylistic evolution of the thangka through the ages).
Ivan Sache, 22 October 2003