Archive for the ‘Mayul School Photos’ Category

Mandarin Chinese is set to replace Tibetan as the official language of instruction in Tibetan schools in Qinghai province.  In an October 2010 decision, the provincial government of Qinghai, which had previously allowed schools offering the nine years of compulsory education to use Tibetan as the language of instruction, indicated that Mandarin must be the language of instruction by 2015.  Xinhua, the official news agency, reported widespread protests to this move October 17-20 in Tibetan areas of Qinghai: Malho (Chin: Huangnan), Tsolho (Chin: Hainan) Tsojang (Chin: Haibei) and Golog (Chin: Guoluo).

The Mayul School, located in Golog, does not need to adhere to this policy since it is a private vocational institution, but if Tibetan is dropped from the regular curriculum, then future students at the Mayul School will be less prepared for their course of study in Tibetan language. These changes might also cause a further deterioration of the attendance rate for Tibetan students, which averages just 2.2 years of education as opposed to over 10 years for Han Chinese living in urban areas.

Students Outside an Classroom Building, Mayul School, Qinghai

The loss of Tibetan as the language of instruction in schools would further endanger the vitality of Tibetan culture and identity, making the role of the Mayul School all the more important as a place where students can study traditional Tibetan culture, while learning foreign languages, in their own language. Preservation of native languages is a right affirmed in the Chinese constitution, which states: “The people of all nationalities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages, and to preserve or reform their own ways and customs.” Our hope is that educational reform in Qinghai will align with this constitutional right and allow Tibetan school children to study Tibetan in Tibetan.

– Eric C. Rath


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For our recent presentation on the Tibetan art classes at the Mayul school, Professor Yoonmi Nam created some handouts so that everyone can learn to draw a Buddha in the Tibetan style.  You will find these with  PDF versions to download below.

Dorje (right) teaching students the fundamentals of drawing (photo by Eric Conrad)

These handouts follow the methods of the Tibetan art teacher, Dorje, at the Mayul School.  Dorje begins each class by sketching a figure, and he often includes the template needed to create the correct proportions for the figure.  Students have to master the proportions on these templates to know how to draw according to Tibetan artistic conventions.  Tibetan paintings begin as drawings to which color is added, hence drawing is the literal foundation for Tibetan painting.

Professor Nam has provided images within a grid and the initial lines drawn onto that grid that form the foundation for two figures: the head of a Buddha and a seated Buddha.

Head of a Buddha (by Yoonmi Nam)

buddha head, detail

Guidelines to draw a Buddha's head (Yoonmi Nam)

Head Guidelines

Seated Buddha (by Yoonmi Nam)

seated buddha

Guidelines to draw a seated Buddha (by Yoonmi Nam)

Seated Buddha Guidelines

Try drawing your own Buddha and let us hear about it.

– Eric Rath

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Besides teaching drawing classes to the students in the school, Dorje, the traditional art teacher, maintains an ongoing painting studio at the school.

Dorje in Drawing Class

There he works on his own commissions and trains apprentices in the rigorous art of tanghka painting.  Here are few photos of his studio.

Two Works in Progress

Note how the tangkha are painted on canvas stretched tightly on wood frames.

Dorje Explains how to Apply Colors

Work in Progress (detail)

Work in Progress (detail, 2)

It can take seven months to finish one tangkha painting and the level of detail in these examples explains the reason for that.

– Eric C. Rath

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Festival Dancer

Today the school held a celebration marking the completion of its construction.  The students performed dances, recitations, skits, and songs for the assembled guests and local townspeople.

Festival Singer

For members of the project team, it was exciting to learn the hidden talents of the students.  Their enthusiasm and joy were contagious.

Festival Dancers

We saw similar joy in the faces of the members of the community viewing the event.  The pride and joy of parents at a school recital are no doubt universal, but these had a special meaning for a community that did not have a school before, particularly one whose goals are the preservation of native culture and the improvement of the economic condition of local peoples.  The joy then expresses the new opportunities now available to the students and the community.

— Eric C. Rath

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Drawing Two Lines

Two white lines on a blackboard form an angle, then a plane for other forms to appear, round shapes that become a head, a torso, then limbs.  A female form appears.  Naked at first, but with a few more chalk lines added — and seldom erased — Dorje, the teacher of traditional art at the Mayul School gives form to a goddess by adding details: folds of flesh, cloth drapery, and jewelry, until he at last steps back, views his work and draws in the eyes to complete the goddess Tara now adorning the classroom blackboard.  The model, which took 10 minutes to complete, is ready for the twenty students in the class to copy.

Dorje Drawing

Dorje who was trained in the Rekong tradition of painting, which is the most prominent in this region, also spent three years in Lhasa studying art.  He currently teaches 70 students in the Mayul school in a program partially funded by our grant project.  He has been teaching since here since the autumn of last year.
While visiting the school this summer we are attending Dorje’s morning and afternoon art classes, each with about 20 students, teenage boys and girls, who are monks and laity.  In some class sessions he lectures about traditional Tibetan art, providing the historical, religious, and cultural context for producing traditional paintings.  These are mounted on fabric, appear on the walls of religious buildings, and elsewhere.  Religious institutions in Tibetan regions of China patronize traditional painters and so do lay people.  And Tibetan art has a well established and growing international market, making traditional painting a lucrative vocation for the Mayul School’s graduates who are able to pursue it.  A completed painting, which could take seven months to finish, sells for about $1,500 locally, and it commands much more on the international market.  This is a lot of money in a town where a filling lunch of dumpling soup and a side dish costs only $1.50 at a local restaurant.

Tara in a Classroom

Even the Tibetan students who are not able to become professional artists will develop a greater appreciation for their cultural heritage, which is an equally important goal of our project.

— Eric C. Rath

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Construction of the school is complete.  Here are a few recent photographs.  There will be a dedication ceremony on July 17, and information about that will be posted.

Mayul School with Temple Stupa in Background

School Grounds: red administration building and blue dorm

Students and Classroom Building

School Hallway

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