The thangka is a striking visual art form that originated in Nepal and later spread to neighboring Tibet along with Buddhism beginning in the 7th century A.D. (the oldest surviving thangka dates from 999 A.D.). “Thangka” means ‘that which can be rolled up,’ because it is a painted or appliqué image on a cotton or silk scroll. Thangkas typically depict Buddhist deities, stories or mandalas. They can range from a few inches in size to over 60 feet wide for giant festival thangkas, which are displayed on buildings or hillsides.
Thangkas combine styles and motifs from several cultures. Because they were first developed in Nepal, the style of the figures is Nepalese, though the measurements, costumes and objects are Indian (Buddhism originated in India). The background landscapes are based on Chinese art.