Thangka painting offers a way to alleviate poverty

The news was updated on June 11, 2019.

Tongren County in Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, northwest China’s Qinghai Province is known as “the hometown of Tibetan paintings”. It is located at the intersection of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Loess Plateau. The terrain here is complex and filled with ravines. The special environment here makes Tongren closed off and underdeveloped, and it is one of 15 counties in deep poverty in Qinghai Province.

In order to enable poor households to achieve long-term, sustainable poverty alleviation, Qinghai Province has implemented an action plan for development and poverty alleviation for 130,000 households in 42 impoverished counties with working ability and who are willing to develop production. Industries include characteristic cultural industries, trade and service, rural tourism, agricultural and livestock products processing, and special breeding industries.

22-year old Rinchen Tseringja has been studying at the Tongren County Regong Longshu Painting Center for four years. “My father only earns 1,800 yuan (260 US dollars) per month, which is difficult to maintain a family’s livelihood on. I left school after primary school because of my family’s poverty.” Now, Rinchen Tseringja earns more than 20,000 yuan (2,892 US dollars) per year, which has greatly improved his family’s living conditions.

The Regong Longshu Painting Center opened by famous thangka painting artists Tashi Gyatso and Chodri is a key institution for training thangka painting artists. According to staff member Rinchen Drolma, there are more than 160 students studying long-term at the painting center, including 10 from impoverished households.

“When we recruit students, the painting center is more inclined to provide learning opportunities for children of poorer households. Tuition is free for all students, and they are also given free room and board and transportation back home,” said Rinchen Drolma.

There is an 18-year-old female student named Tsezang Drolma studying thangka painting in the Longshu Painting Center. She said that influenced by her father, and since they were young, she and her older sister began studying drawing thangka painting. As a result, her family’s income has greatly increased.

“My father used to sell one scroll of thangka painting that took two years to make for 700,000 yuan (101,235 US dollars).” She said.

According to Wu Wanying, director of the Tongren County Poverty Alleviation and Development Bureau, Tongren County relies on Regong culture to develop industrialization to alleviate poverty. After three years of poverty alleviation efforts, the incidence of poverty in Tongren Country dropped from 20 percent to 4.3 percent. Tongren County strives to train 2,000 impoverished people by the year 2020 and achieve a goal of “one person studying art to lift the whole family out of poverty”.