Tibetan Pottery Wares

Pottery in Tibet has a more than 5000-year history. Neolithic pottery pieces and unbroken pottery wares unearthed at Karub ruins in Qamdo are the earliest pottery ware crafts ever discovered in Tibet. The patterns were of the objects were made by pasting, carving and drawing. They are mainly woven patterns, labyrinth-patterns, water streaks, lozenges, and straight lines, appearing in the middle part of the body of the ware. The pottery jars with either single ear or double ears were beautifully built and finely worked.

Currently, the main pottery-making centers in Tibet are in Gyantse, Medrogongkar, Lhundrup, Mangkang, Channing, Chagyab, and Sog. Styles include coarse sandy wares, glazed pottery, red pottery, black pottery, and painted pottery. Among the types are urns, jars, olla, post, bowls, basins, incense holders and cups. They fall into two broad categories according to their functions and purposes: 1) those for religious purpose and 2) those for everyday life use.

Religious utensils have traditionally been used for worship, consecration and being buried with the dead. Especially in the early days, they were not only the containers for offerings to the deities but also the symbols of the wealth and power, which were only used in great rituals and events. Today, religious pottery wares are generally painted black and white with a red background. The shapes mainly are jars and bowls for things live making offerings and lighting incense. Patterns include lotus flowers, the eight auspicious symbols such as the treasure banner and shell. Pottery wares used in everyday life are generally not painted.

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