The following is a cut and paste reproduction of a Chinese document on the subject of tsa tsa, written by a Tibetan, Bari Lobsang Tashi. It is entitled On the introduction of the Tibetan Buddhist Mini Clay Image (Tsha-tsha) into Tibetan-inhabited areas and its development, and for as long as it lasts, you can find the original by clicking here.
Ordinarily, things of this nature from the China Tibet Information Center leave a bad taste in the mouth -- I don't know why, they just do. You get a creepy feeling, and words like "exploitation" float around, not to mention "poor scholarship." You are, after all, dealing with the products of a government flack operation. But, in the case of the following, I found it interesting, informative, and unusual, in that it shows familiarity with (and access to) Western sources.
We are starting to see more of such things coming out of Tibet, done by younger Tibetans working within the Chinese system, trying to get in touch with their cultural heritage. Shouldn't this be encouraged?
Anyway... here is the item. Please bear in mind -- this is Bari Lobsang Tashi's work, not mine, and only lightly edited.
Buddhist culture was officially introduced into Tibetan-inhabited areas in the 7th century A.D. Until that time, the influence of Bonpo culture on Tibetan society had been all-pervasive. However, its teachings and disciplines were less systematic and perfect, which offered Buddhism a good opportunity to infiltrate. So like any other foreign culture, Buddhism began its spread from small areas and special groups to the whole of Tibetan society, which exerted a great impact on the native-born Bonpo culture and forced it to review and readjust its own teachings and disciplines. Likewise, in order to establish itself on the Tibetan Plateau for a long period and achieve continuous development, Buddhism also absorbed some rituals from Bonpo culture at the very beginning. Buddhism and Bonpo, in their on-going competltion, interchanged, integrated and learned from each other, gradually forming Tibetan Buddhist culture of the later period. During this period, foreign Indian Buddhist art, breaking through lingual and literal obstacles with its intuitive and real 1st qualities, helped Buddhism to both adapt itself and expand into Tibetan-inhabited areas. As a result, it played a very important role in the spread of Buddhist doctrines. It not only promoted the development of religious art there, but also enriched expressive means and forms of Buddhism. As a mini-sculpture art best known and popular today "Tsha-tsha" is a typical example.
"Tsha-tsha" is a homophony of a Sanskrit word from a dialect in ancient India, or in the middle and the north of Central Asia(1). In the view of Tibetans, "Tsha-tsha" is a kind of mini-sculpture with well-designed figures full of decorative and symbolic meanings. Some are mainly decorated with bass-relief or line cutting to show the meaning of Buddhist statues. Some are carved in the round. That is, they are printed with metal molds made by engravers through complicated and miscellaneous working procedures. The Indian origins of "Tsha-tsha" can be proved by ancient historical Tibetan documents and the styles of a few early-discovered "Tsha-tshas". Nowadays, some researchers indicate that "Tsha-tsha" is not the sole expressive form of Tibetan Buddhist statue. As "Tsha-tshas" were spread from the north of the Indian-Pakistan Peninsula to Burma and Thailand, where impressions of "Tsha-tsha" are also visible up to the present.(2) What's more, it has developed further in Tibetan-inhabited areas than in its cradle lands.
In Tibetan-inhabited areas, we can often see various "Tsha-tshas" of all materials and with the sculprural characteristics of different periods around some stupas and monasteries. Obviously, because of its small volume, "Tsha-tsha" is convenient for early Buddhist pilgrims to take from India or Central Asia to Tibet. Accordingly, with the development of Buddhism in Tibetan-inhabited areas, it was gradually integrated into the Tibetan local religious art.
Nowadays, as one of more unique sculptural forms in Tibetan art, "Tsha-tsha" is often mentioned in the treatises on Tibetan traditional art. Through collecting, arranging and researching, many scholars have made a deeper-level study of it. As a result, lots of high-level theses and papers have been published. Among those scholars, Mr.Tucci, a famous Italian Orientalist, is worth mentioning. In his book "Transhimalaya", he gives an introduction to the origin, function and incidence of "Tsha-tsha", which great inspires us to do further research work.
By collecting and arranging "Tsha-tshas", Mr. Zhang Ying compiled a book entitled "Tibetan Molded Clay-sculpture". It contains more than two hundred pictures of various "Tsha-tshas", which are convenient for study. In the book, he points out that a major characteristic of "Tsha-tsha" is that it is a micro world of Buddha. Besides, Mr. Liu Dong(from Tianjin) also shows us great numbers of his rare and precious "Tsha-tsha" collection. He has not only made great contributions to the collection, arrangement and studies of "Tsha-tsha", but also gained extensive results.
Based on extant study results and limited clues from Tibetan historical documents, the author intends to discuss the introduction of "Tsha-tsha" into Tibetan-inhabited areas and its development, and try to add some correlative contents in terms of his personal "Tsha-tsha" collection.
In Tibetan historical materials, the Sanskrit-Tibetan phonetic transliteration has been used as the name of "Tsha-tsha" in all ages, which would be a clear proof of foreign artwork. Occasionally, in the west of Tibet and dBus-gTsang Regions, we can find one or two early "Tsha-tshas" in the ruins of monasteries and groups of stupas. They are of Nepalese style, which was a major influence in the history of Tibetan traditional art. Typical characteristics of Indian Matula Grandhr ra arts are narrow ribbons along with almost naked bodies in various poses. Moreover, Sanskrit incantations are neatly carved around them. I have picked up several "Tsha-tshas" with the above-mentioned features around the Tombs of the Tibetan Kings and Yum-bu-bla-sgang in vPhyongs-rgyas County,Lho-kha. A1though I can't draw the conclusion that these "Tsha-tshas" were made in the period of the Tubo Kingdom, the molds for printing them would be masterpieces of that time. Probably, lots of early-stage "Tsha-tshas" were brought into Tibet from India or Central Asia. However, there still exists another possibility that foreign craft-experts fnished them when supervising casting work in Tibetan-inhabited areas. Some "Tsha-tshas" are carved with Tibetan and Sanskrit scripts. The Tibetan writing is disordered and crude, while the San-skrit is neat and clear, which probably shows the craftsman's nationality.
I. The Introduction of "Tsha-tsha" into Tibetan-inhabited Areas
In the history of Tibetan Buddhism, it is recognized that the first contact of Buddhist culture with Tibetan culture is in the period of the reign of 27th Tubo King Lha-tho-do-snya-brtsan. As then Tubo chieftains had the first official contact with Indian and Nepalese Buddhists. With the expansion of Tubo rul-ing forces in Tibetan-inhabited areas and the founding of the Tubo Regime and the unification of Tibet's scattered regions into a single one by Srong-htsan-sgam-po, this contact was of especial significance in Tibetan history.
It is recorded in Blue Annals that Lha-tho-do-snya-brtsan, son of the last one among "three bTsan-pos", is the incarnation of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva. When he sat on the roof of Yum-bu-bla-sgang, esoteric scriptures entitled "Karandavyuha-sutra, Sutras on the Names of Buddha and Bodhisattvas", a gold stupa and others fell down from the sky. So all of them named "gNyan-po-gsang-ba" were enshrined and worshiped. Lha-tho-do-snya-brtsan died at the age of 120. Rampa Pandita said:Bonists favored the sky then, so they said that these scriptures fell down from the sky. Actually, a Pandita and a translator brought them into Tibet. As the Tibetan king neither knew Sutras nor understood their meanings, the Pandita and the translator returned to India. This opinion is quite exact.(3) That is also recorded in "History of Tar-klung": "From the sky descended "Sutras on the Names of Buddha and Bodhisattvas", a one-elbow-high gold pagoda, the Six Tibetan Sacred Words, wish-fulfilling pearl bowls, seals and so on. Along with them, some words said:'After five dynasties, the meaning can be understood'. Although nobody can tell what they are, obviously they are very rare. So they are put in the palace with wines, jades and fruits as offerings. Thereafter, though in his eighties, the king recovered his youthful vigor: his hair turned to black,and his face became unwrinkled and his skin silky. Finally he died at the age of one hundred and twenty.(4)" In "A Feast or Wise Men", there is an additional explanation for sacred relics of gNyan-po-gsang-ba:"Among them, there is a four-floored iadestupa. A mold named Tsi-ndhata-ma-nivi brkos-phor refers to a mold of an eleven-faced Avalokiteshvara, and mold named Ma-dravi--phyag-rgyas means a precious one-elbow-high stone carved with the Six Tibetan Sacred Words.(5)" If we make a simple analysis on the above-mentioned materials, it is easy to find that among the sacred relics there are sutras, stupas and statues of Buddha. In Buddhism, they are called Asraya, "three refuges", absolutely necessary for Buddhists or Buddhist workplaces, and respectively represent Buddha's body(statue), words(sutra) and mind(stupa). The word "brkos-phor" in "Tsi-ndha-ma-nivi-brkos-phor" means mold, that is, a mold of "Tsha-tsha". Which is also explained in "A Tibetan-Cbinese Dictionary". Actually, the mold named Tsindha-ma-nivi-brkos-phor among the sacred relics of gNyan-po-gsang-ba is a mold of "Tsha-tsha" with chief incantations of the Eleven faced Avalokitesvara as its major content. It is the first recorded mold of "Tsha-tsha" in the history of Tibet. Possibly, early Buddhist disseminators preached Buddhism in foreign countries by taking mini "Tsha-tsha" molds with them as Buddhist worship matter. So in regions with limited language and writing, this way is effective. In the 9th century, when Samye Monastery was being built, the sacred relics of gNyan-po-gsang-ba were put into the white pagodas(outside the en-trance of Samye Monastery) as inner-hidden scared relics(6). However, we have no idea of the detailed shape and material of the first recorded mold of"Tsha-tsha".
Since the 7th century, after the introduction of Buddhism into Tubo society, Tubo King Srong-btsan--sgam-po had personally produced several "Tsha-tshas", which later were stored in several important statues of Buddha inJokhang Temple(7). In addition, in the construction of Samye Monastery(the first monastery of Tibetan Buddhism), Padmasambhava personally printed a set of "Tsha-tshas" with his own image. Parts of these "Tsha-tshas" were stored in the niches of the famous Nyingmapa Monastery as scared relics(before the Democratic Reform, at Ba-ri Monastery in vPhyongs-rgyas, one"Tsha-tsha" was taken as a protective treasure).In the 11th century,Atisa visited Ti-bet and presided over printing great numbers of "Tsha-tshas" around Grol-ma-lha-khang Temple in Nyi-thang.This place was described to be full of "Tsha-tshas", piled up just like a hill. Besides, the walls of the major hall of Zhalu Monastery(built in the sRme period)were also studded with"Tsha-tshas" with several statues of Buddha that are graceful in shape,exquisite in carving,vivid in image and well proportioned. Accordingly, those "Tsha-tshas" belong to a style of statue under the influence of the art style in the Indian Pala Kingdom in the 12th century, However, they show us another form of offering and purpose for "Tsha-tsha".
To date, the making and printing of "Tsha-tshas" still goes on. Meanwhile, combined with aesthetic needs of all Tibetan-inhabited areas, they have developed into rich and colorful forms. Nowadays, in addition to exquisite and vivid production techniques, the appearances of "Tsha-tshas" have greatly changed. Early "Tsha-tshas" were less beautiful in appearance. Due to their combination with inherent aesthetic culture ofTibetan-inhabited areas, they vary in shape and are abundant in symbolic meaning. Familiar shapes include round, trigon, vault, square, petal, and pagoda as well as one-layered and multi-layered.From them, we can feel the naturaI combination and remarkabIe development of two cultures.
II. Classification of "Tsha-tsha" According to Molds and Materials
"Tsha-tsha" molds can be classified into single-mold(i.e.flat mold) and double-mold(i.e.double-leaf mold). Most are inlaid, relief and line-carved artworks, along with parts of pagoda-shaped and round-carved mini ones are printed by a flat mold. While all the "Tsha-tshas" made by double-mold are three-dimensional and round, such as the statues of Sakyamuni, Padmasa-mbhava, Tsong-kha-pa, Buddha of Boundless Longevity and Taras. They are large and have relatively complex shapes. What's more, only by joining two molds, can a complete, three-dimensional body be printed. Of course, there is another kind of "Tsha-tsha" especially used as amulets, whose shape is flat and double faces are carved with clear designs. Only by putting two "Tsha-tshas" with different designs togethe, forms a set. Thus this kind of "Tsha-tsha" is very rare and precious. There is no definite standard on the size of a "Tsha-tsha". Generally the maximum is about 30-40cm. high, and the minimum about I-cm. Usually, a round-carved artwork higher than 30-cm. is not a "Tsha-tsha", even though it is printed by mold. Being printed by mold and small in volume are the most common characteristics of a"Tsha-tsha". There are very few existing large inlaid "Tsha-tshas", each statue carved on them is very small. However, the limited space has no influence on artistic charm of a "Tsha-tsha".
Nowadays, in monasteries, stupas or caves in Tibetan-inhabited areas, it is easy to find some incomplete or intact "Tsha-tshas", which are basically classifled into three kinds according to their printing materials.
The first kind, the most popular, is printed in clay. Most of common "Tsha-tshas" belong to this kind. As a cheap printing material, clay is easy to find in many parts of Tibet. However, the clay for printing "Tsha-tshas" must be exquisite, glutinous and convenient for making and printing. Usually, one clay Tsha-tsha mold can be used to print over one hundred, even tens of thousands of "Tshat-shas". Owing to the difference of clay quality in various places, clay "Tsha-tshas" made in Lhasa are red(the colour of the clay), and those in rTsa-mdav, mNgav-ris offwhite and in Lho-kha bluegray. However, clay quality will not have any influence on the quality of printed "Tsha-tshas". The most serious fault in clay "Tsha-tsha" lies in the fact that they are unable to withstand the effects of the weather. So only in safe places out of the rain(such as in caves or in the inner parts of pagodas or Tsha-khang(8)), can you see intact clay "Tsha-tshas".
The second kind is pottery "Tsha-tshas" made through the process of baking and firing. As their manufacturing procedure is more complex, this kind of Tsha-tsha are very rare, except in "hometowns of pottery", such as Gra-nang and Gung-dkar of Lho-kha, Lhun-grub and Mal-gro-gung-dkar of Lhasa, and mKhar-stod, Gyantse of Shigatze. All of above-mentioned places have established pottery industries, famous in gTsang Region.Whereas,in my art exploration,I have seen only a few of pottery "Tsha-tshas" around Yum-bu-bla-sgang of Lho-kha, the Tombs of the Tibetan Kings in vPhyongs-rgyas, Sakya Monastery of Shigatze and Rwa-sgreng Monastery in Lhun-grub County. This presents three possibilities: I. On the way to a pilgrimage, Buddhist believers from pottery making towns brought "Tsha-tshas" with them, enshrined and worshiped them. 2. Very few monasteries asked pottery towns to make Tsha-tshas, and then kept them in their monasteries. In some period of history the technique of baking pottery was mastered by the locals, and then gradually lost. According to today's study and research, two or three thousand years ago, in the ruins of karro (mkhar-ro)(Chab-mdo County) and chu-gong(in Lhasa) as well as in vPhreng-vgo Ditch, Gong-dkar Count, Lho-kha, a great number of pottery articles made with exquisite techniques were discovered. From that, we can draw a conclusion that no pottery craftwork exists in above-mentioned places now, that is, the baking technique has been completely lost. Owing to the difficulty and complexity of manufacturing pottery, the amount of pottery "Tsha-tsha" is greatly reduced. However, thanks to the quality of its special material(i.e against rain and abrasion), this kind of rare "Tsha-tshas" is preserved.
The third kind of "Tsha-tsha" is very rare. As it is printed with mixed materials made of precious Tibetan medicines(sometimes costly spice), it is called "medicine Tsha-tsha". Usually this kind of "Tsha-tsha", small in volume, take statues of Yidam and the founders of religious schools as their contents. So they are Often put inside of important statues of Buddha as holy stored matter or amulets.
III. Contents of "Tsha-tsha"
Basically, "Tsha-tsha" is a profound expression of both religion and art. There are not only simple Tsha-tshas with images of Buddha, Bodhisattva, Yidam, protective deities, eminent monks and Rin-po-ches, but also complex Tsha-tshas with images of stupas, Mandalas and Dharanis. In particular, after making full use of planar space and overcoming the limits of sculp tural art in expressing contents, the inlaid and relief "Tsha-tshas" show a vivid and rich paradisiacal fantasv as well as natural scenes(high mountains, green water flesh flowers, grass and trees), for example, the large "Tsha-tsha" describing Buddha's Pure Lands(e.g.Tara Pure Land, Padmasambhava Pure Land, Maitreya Pure Land). Contents of this kind of "Tsha-tsha" are more extensive, and include major Buddha, attendants of Buddha, palace construction, natural scenes and animal sculptures. In composition, they are exactly the same as Thang-khas. Furthermore, by the means of embossment, they make scenes of Buddha's Pure Lands grander and more beautiful. Basically, this kind of "Tsha-tsha" is about 30-cm-high, and the characters or the statues of Buddha on them are usually only two or three millimeters high. Even so, the carving and painting in details are not ignored. I would like to take another kind of Dharanis "Tsha-tsha" as an example. I collected them in rTsa-mdav, mNgav-riS, and they are simple in appearance. The face of the mold is elliptic and the outline border is irregular. The cover is carved with Dharanis in Sanskrit and Tibetan, and the central part includes a small stupa depicted by carved lines. In addition, the circular writing is clear and neat (obviously characteristic of foreign craftworks). Near Lhasa, I have found a Dharanis"Tsha-tsha", whose writing style belongs to Tibetan regular script(dBucan)(i.e.typography). Obviously, it is made in the later period. Another round "Tsha-tsha" is about IO-cm. high, finely sculpted, well proportioned and graceful in appearance. Its central part, carved with a Bodhi Stupa, is embossed.The body and the outline of the stupa clearly show plastic characteristics of the later period. This "Tsha-tsha" comes from Nyi-ma-lcang-rwa, Mal-gro-gung-dkar. Apart from that, there is another kind of "Tsha-tsha" with images of Buddha. They are exactly the same in appearance and outline as the flat shape of a stupa, and belong to the group including a mixture of a statue of Buddha and a stupa. Similarly there still exists a kind of double-faced "Tsha-tsha": one face is printed with an image of Buddha, the other a stupa. The above-mentioned kinds of "Tsha-tshas" are comparatively rare. More popular are "Tsha-tshas" with images of Buddha or without any image. In structure, many "Tsha-tshas" only have a single image of Buddha on them, and more have three images of Buddha in one, such as three Buddhas of Longevly, Tsong-kha-pa and his disciples, Buddhist Trinity, three Buddhas, Buddhas of the Three Times. Besides these, a few "Tsha-tshas" have eight Medicine Buddhas, twenty-one Taras and Thirty-five Buddhas on them.
Round-carved "Tsha-tshas" are plentiful. They are the same in content as inlaid "Tsha-tshas". Just with the limits of expressive language, most of them are carved with a single statue. In monasteries, we can often see one thousand Tsha-tshas with images of Tara and the same number Tsha-tshas with images of Padmasambhava, which all are carved in the round. Generally speaking, most of the methods for carvingin the round are used to produce stupa "Tsha-tshas". In Buddhism, eight kinds of stupas represent eight different states of mind(each shape represents a different moment in the life of Buddha). As a result, eachkind of stupa has different religious meanings and shapes(minimum to one or two millimeter high, maximum to 30 cm):I. single stupa; 2.eight stupas in one; 3.one stupa carved with thousands of stupas in the same style(two 30-cm.-high stupas worshiped in the major hall of Sera Monastry in Lhasa belong to the third kind). The in-the-round carved stupa Tsha-tshas printed in the dBus-gTsang region basically keeps the original shape of a stupa, embossment(in the topshaped cone carved with eight kinds of stupas) or repetition of some stupa.TodaTg near Labrang Monastery in Xiahe County and Milarepa Pavilion in gtsos／gtsod Monastery of Gansu Province, there exists another kind of pyramid-shaped stupa "Tsha-tsha" with a square or a triangular bottom. Their covers are carved with hundreds of small stupas or statues of the Trinity with small stupas of typical regional characteristics.
IV. Classification According to Functions
1. "Phyag-tsha" is similar to "famous artists' work". "Phyag", the honorific name for hands in Tibetan, refers to the work made by famous Buddhist artists, eminent monks or Rin-po-ches. Thus those "Tsha-tshas", personally made and worshiped by famous religious figures, such as kings of past dynasties, Padmasambhava, Atisa, Tsong-kha-pa, Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas, are named "Phyag-tsha". On the back of those "Phyag-tshas" are printed seals, fingerprints, handprints or other special marks. They are of various materials, sometimes clay, mostly mixed. Buddhist believers think "Phyag-tsha" are amulets, so the numbers are limited and they have become rare and sacred. (Those "Tsha-tshas" carved with Yamantaka Yidam and presented by the Tenth Panchen Lama to Tibetan high-class religious figures belong to "Phyag-tsha") Actually, "Phyag-tshas" have no differences from other common "Tsha-tshas" in volume, content and type.
2. gDung-tsha or spur-tsha. In Tibetan-inhabited areas, after the death of saints, grand monks and Rin-po-ches, people dehydrate their bodies and smear them with spice. Then the water from their bodies will be used to soak clay. As a result, the "Tsha-tshas" printed in that kind of clay is called "gDung-tsha". "gDung" a transliterated word in Tibetan, is an honorific title of a reliquaua Buddhists think of "gDung-tshas" as talismans with special magic, so they regard them as a treasure. Accordingly, they are also limited in quantity.
3. Bone Tsha-tsha(rus-tsha). Bone Tsha-tsha is a Tsha-tsha mixed with a person's bone ashes. Tibetan funerals include burial, water burial, cremation, celestial burial and pagoda burial. After cremation and celestial burial, the family will ask mourners to take boneashes home, and then mix them with clay to print "Tsha-tshas". As for the contents on "Tsha-tshas", Common people's bone ashes are generally used to print some stupa "Tsha-tshas". After drying, those "Tshatshas" are printed with red, yellow, blue, green or golden powder(or keep original color). Besides, this kind of "Tsha-tsha"can also be used to print statues of Vajrabodhisattva and Akshobya so as to remove the sins made by the people in the present life. Usually, after being empowered, those bone "Tsha-tshas" will be put on high mountaintops or some clean places on the exterior circle of prayer wheels so as to accumulate merits. Putting them into Buddhist niches at home also doesn't violate taboos. Generally, bone ashes of saints, successful monks or Rin-po-ches are used to print "Tsha-tshas" with images of Manjushri, Tara, Yamantaka and others. Sometimes, some Rin-po-ches will Ieave the last words to their disciples, i.e. using their bone ashes to make "Tsha-tshas" of a certain deity. As a rule, all of these "Tsha-tshas" will be enshrined within the stupas and statues of Buddha, and stored as amulets by believers.
4. Medical Tsha-tsha (sMan-tsha). Just as its name implies, it is printed with medical powder, whose elements consist of plants or minerals of Tibetan medicines. Usually, this kind of "Tsha-tsha" is enshrined in Buddhist niches at home or taken out with as amulets. As costly and limited in printing, they are seldom produced.
5. Water "Tsha-tsha" (Chu-tsha). In monasteries or by roadsides, we can occasionally see several Buddhist believers squat by rivers or ponds, holding one or more metal boxes fastened with ropes, and ceaselessly putting them into water to soak them. They are just printing "Tsha-tshas" in water. Those metal boxes are "Tsha-tsha" molds carved with Buddhist statues, and they have no difierence from any other kind of "Tsha-tsha" mold. The behavior of printing this kind of"Tsha-tsha" is more like performance art in modern art activities.
6. Clay "Tsha-tsha" (Sa-tsha). Generally, it refers to a common "Tsha-tsha". In each monastery, a great number of "Tsha-tshas" are printed in the construction of huge statues of Buddhas or stupas. Owing to the difference in Tibetan Buddhist sects, printing contents are selected. Printed "Tsha-tshas"should be prayed first, and then put into the inner part of statues of Buddha or stupas. Afterwards, the remainder is kept in "Tsa-khangs" around monasteries. Generally, "Tsha-tsha" molds are made by ingravers(specially invited by monasteries), and then kept in monasteries. If necessary, believers can borrow them from monasteries. In addition, individuals can also offer money to make "Tsha-tsha" molds. In the designated period every year, they can produce lots of "Tsha-tsha" to illustrate disasters for family numbers. Sometimes, this kind of "Tsha-tsha" mold is carved with the benefactor's name and prayers. Usually, most clay "Tsha-tshas" are inlaid with one or more grains of barley on their back. Some barley grains are empowered in religious rituals. Some are specially picked out from the grains harvested by farmers in the first season of one year for worshiping Buddha and rewarding kindness. Barleys gains inlaid in "Tsha-tsha" are regarded as offerings or holy stored matter. All kinds of above-mentioned "Tsha-tshas" (made with clay or baked in a kiln)belong to clay "Tsha-tshas".
In addition, it is said that in some places there exist fire "Tsha-tshas", which are made by buckling and pressing molds time and again above the fire. In the working process, fire is taken as fictile material to print "Tsha-tsha". However, this is only a legend I have ever heard of. Nowadays, in dBus-gTsang Regions, this kind of habitude seems to disappear. Another kind of habitude of printing "Tsha-tsha" is: to hang the mini "Tsha-tsha" molds on a hand prayer wheel, turn the wheel, then print "Tsha-tsha" in the wind. Whether it is true still needs further research. However, if we can print "Tsha-tsha" in water, why not in wind? From this point of view, "Tsha-tsha" can be made with clay water, fire or wind, that is to say, with all the materials in the world. Tibetans think that the human body consists of four elements, that is, earth, water, fire and wind. Thus, the selection of materials of "Tsha-tsha" probably has a close connection with the four elements.
In Tibetan-inhabited areas, some "Tsha-tshas" are enshrined and worshiped in caves, some within statues of Buddhas or stupas, and some in niches in a monastery hall(some even wrapped with silk and worshipped in delicate golden or silver niches). Basically, the distinction of oblation forms of the same Buddha or the same stupa lies in the quality of printing materials, the level of printers or special prayers from eminent monks, which are very important for Buddhists, as those show their sense of values. Thus, sometimes, judging the preciousness of a "Tsha-tsha" is neither by its exquisite carving nor by its vivid shape, but by its profound religious meanings.
V. "Tsha-tsha" Mold Production
We have mentioned that "Tsha-tsha" is a kind of mini clay image made by molds. Usually, molds are cast with such metals as red copper, yellow copper and iron, sometimes with stone. Therefore, one mold can be used by several generations, and can reprint countless "Tsha-tshas". The casting and carving level is a major standard to value the expressive level of a "Tsha-tsha". Generally, making one mold needs three basic working procedures: 1. Clay-sculptor makes clay molds,i.e. mother molds. 2. Founders cast, that is, make molds. 3.Engravers make up, concavely carve and adjust their forms and structures. According to Tibetan sculpture tradition, the concave carving work belongs to special work done by professional artisans who play an important role in developing "Tsha-tsha" art. The cooperation of three working procedures is a key factor, which determines whether a "Tsha-tsha" is perfect.
In Tibetan-inhabited areas, with the development and maturation of religious art, "Tsha-tsha" has changed a lot. It has gradually developed from a simple design or a mini clay image of Buddha(full of foreign innuence) to a kind of art of Tibetan regional and cultural characteristics, which we can easily find from a few "Tsha-tshas" made in various periods. Moreover, among three hundred "Tsha-tshas" collected over ther years, the author can also feel the developing frame of Tibetan religious art.
In a word, since it was introduced into Tibetan inhabited areas in the 4th century, the mini clay image "Tsha-tsha" (in Tibetan Buddhism), due to its unique religious art form, has made a great contribution to the spread of Buddhism, and promoted its continuous development and extensive application. Meanwhile, with the perfect casting technique and carving craft, the limit in volume and the increase in content have less influence on Tsha-tsha's accuracy and richness. Let's take Tsha-tshas with images of Thousand-handed and Thousand-eyed Avalokiteshvara and Yamantaka Yidam as examples. Although they are carved on one or two cm. high"Tsha-tsha", they still can show beautiful poses and structures. What a supernatural flower of Tibetan traditional art "Tsha-tsha" is.
1 [ItaIy] G.Tucci, translated by Xiang Hongjia, Transhimalaya.Lhasa: Tibet People Publishing House, 1987: Page 42
2 Same as above.
3 VGos gZhon-nu-dpal, translated by Guo Heqing, "Blue Annals" Lhasa:Tibetan People Publishing House, 1985: Page 26
4 Shakya-rin-chen-bde, "History of yar-klung". (in Tibetan) Lhasa: Tibetan People Publishing House, 1988: Page 48
5 DPav-bogTsug-lag-phrengba, "A Feast for Wise Men". (in Tibetan) Tibetan National Institute of Xianyang, mimeograph edition, Page 27
6 Zhang Yisun, "A Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary". Beijing: National Publishing House, 1985: Pagel77
7 Dung-dKar Blo-bzang-vphrin-las. "Dongdkar Tibetology Dictionary". Beijing: China Tibetology PublishingHouse, 2002: Page 933
8 Tsa-khang refers to a small building, especially for holding "Tsha-tshas"