Buddhist monasteries, Tibetan


Buddhist monasteries, Tibetan
The last quarter of the twentieth century has witnessed considerable expansion in architectural changes and adaptations of Tibetan monastic architecture in China. Whereas architectural adaptability was never an important factor in early periods, in the present it has become of key significance.
Traditionally, Tibetan monastic buildings are constructed of mortar and stone or sometimes sundried bricks, and if possible a plaster is applied. Tall buildings have walls with a narrowing upward slope. Protruding and sloping door and window jambs are also used. The combined effect makes buildings appear taller than they really are. The stone walls are load-bearing and large wooden beams support a wattle and plaster floor. Large expanses between walls have pillars with stone footings to support beams. Often the first floor does not have windows, and staircases are external to the building. Most buildings are whitewashed with the jambs in burgundy, although other colour combinations are commonly found. Most of the buildings have flat roofs. However, when possible, the shrine and other buildings will have a Chinese-style roof made of metal. These could be multi-layered and decorated. Many of these traditional-style buildings can be found in the Chinese provinces near Tibet. An excellent example is Maigui Monastery in Hongyuan county, Sichuan.
In addition, stupas are constructed. These too are traditionally made of stone or sun-dried brick with an outer plaster. The Tibetans prefer a style that has a square base with a series of steps sloping towards the top. Below the midpoint, a cylindrical structure sloping out towards a flat top is located. Above this is the stylized umbrella in a pyramid shape topped with a crescent moon and flame symbol. The location of the stupa within the complex seems to follow no set pattern. In general, stupas containing the remains of esteemed lamas are placed on an elevated spot. An excellent example is the great stupa at Mt Wutai.
The layout of monastic complexes follows the Indian pattern, although Chinese influences are noted. The shrine is in the centre, with the monks’ cells and other functional buildings on both sides and the whole forming an enclosure with a gated entrance. Walls were used as in-fills between buildings and surrounding them. Because, of the organic growth in these complexes the pattern becomes broken. An example of this would be Changqing Chunke e Monastery in Litang county, Sichuan. In the later quarter of the twentieth century this pattern was still followed when possible. In these Chinese areas, the largest changes have been the increased use of oven-baked bricks and accommodating electricity, plumbing and air-conditioning.
The adoptive nature in Tibetan Buddhist architecture is well demonstrated at the famous Guanhai Si at Wutai Mountain. This is a completely Chinese-looking temple in architectural form, yet the inside is very Tibetan, with a large Yamantaka (a wrathful bodhisattva). Another example from Wutai Mountain is Pusa Dian, one of the main pilgrimage sites, a Gelugpa temple on the inside but very Chinese in outer architectural style.
Combinations of Chinese and Tibetan styles can also be found, as in Mt Wutai’s Guanyin Dong. The lower section of the temple, which straddles the mountainside, is completely Chinese in style. However, as one climbs the thousands of stairs, Tibetan architectural elements are clearly noted.
Denwood, Philip (1972). ‘The Tibetan Temple—Art in its Architectural Setting’. In W.Watson (ed.), Mahayanist Art after AD 900. London: University of London.
A.W.BARBER

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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