(sanskrit tsak li
or tsa ka’ li
) is a genre of miniature religious painting of the peoples of Tibet. Researchers of the Oriental culture and traditions use the term “initiation cards”. Artists create tsakli for participation in rituals, and the artworks do not have a decorative or aesthetic function. Bright and graceful images have become not only an indispensable attribute of Tibetan temples, but also an adornment of museums and private collections. Initiation cards are involved in funeral rites, tantric rituals, initiations, or knowledge transfer. Such pictures appeared to simplify ritual painting and to substitute the ceremonial objects or religious attributes. Tsakli paintings suggest both visualization and literal reading of the image.
Scientists have not determined the exact time of the ancient art emergence, and it is believed that tsakli paintings appeared in remote areas of Tibet with the advent of Buddhism. Since then, they have occupied a key place in the ancient rituals of Tibetan monasteries. The study of canons and artistic images of Buddhist art continued from the beginning of the second millennium A.D. to the present day. During the Chinese “cultural revolution”, 7,000 temples and monasteries in Tibet were destroyed, and the study of the unique art direction encountered difficulties with territorial and state isolation of the remaining 8 monasteries. The tragic events of the 20th century led to the destruction of monuments of spiritual and artistic heritage and prompted art historians to the close studying of the rare painting genre elements.
In the tsaklis, they depicted spiritual teachers, peaceful and angry deities, ritual attributes and symbols. The material for the miniatures was cardboard of layers of Himalayan paper, fabric, thin sheets of Himalayan mica. The craftsmen carved the images on the plates, and then printed the picture on paper or fabric. The main principle of initiation cards was the law: one picture holds one image of a deity or symbol, therefore, in order to conduct rituals or funeral rites, the artists created series, sets of ten to one hundred cards. Tsakli represented objects through detailed and subtle drawing, helped to focus eyes and attention on one subject or symbol, to read and recognize the ritual text on the front or back side. Artistic content was often bilateral, but allowed departure from strict canons and the absence of background staining. Artists did not sign the works, so they remained unknown to posterity.Famous ritual artworks
“Rigzin, Carriers of Awareness
” 1181, “Delusion of Hatred
” 1410, “Bon Tsakli Set
” 1450, “Bon Religion. Action as a Way of Empowerment