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Butter flowers blossom at Kumbum Monastery


14:44, March 01, 2013

Tibetan monks have made intricate, colored sculptures out of butter, as part of a tradition that is as old as Buddhism itself. (CNTV)

Tibetan monks have made intricate, colored sculptures out of butter, as part of a tradition that is as old as Buddhism itself.

At the Kumbum Monastery in Northwest China’s Qinghai Province, they continue to sculpt fantastic flowers, animals, birds and plants. Every year during this period, more than 100,000 pilgrims and tourists from all over China came to the monastery, to witness the delicate process of creating this art work.

This is the Kumbum Monastery, located in Northwest China’s Qinghai Province.

Monks are busy making flowers and sculptures with coloured butter, under very low temperatures. Each fold of flowers, each facial expression of the gods, and each movement of animals, are vivid and delicate. One sculpture can take up to six months to complete, as it’s part of the path to enlightenment, upon which the monks create a positive collective world karma to overcome epidemics, hunger, and war.

All Tibetan temples have the tradition of making butter sculptures, but the scale at Kumbum Monastery is the largest, and the sculptures here are the most delicate.

Monk Artist, Kumbum Monastery, said, "The most difficult part is making the sculptures in such cold water, which is minus ten degrees or lower. We have to make each part in the water and then stick them together."

Kumbum Monastery was built in 1560. It used to be a small monastery for intensive meditations. Every October, monk in the monastery devotes all their time to making butter sculptures.

Monk Artist, Kumbum Monastery, said, "We make butter sculptures from 8:30 to 12 in the morning, and 2 to 5 in the afternoon. Altogether, there are 20 monks. We spent three months on these sculptures."

Due to the tough sculpting process, many monks suffer from arthritis in their hand joints. But they never give up, because it is an important way to show their sincerity. In May 2006, the skill of butter sculpture making was listed as China’s national intangible culture heritage. Each year at this time, the butter flowers blossom at the monastery, under cold temperatures.

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