Tibetan temples stand as witness to the richness and many-layered creative arts expressed in their decorations. These include interior architecture, with integrate murals and elaborately carved pillar tops. To this are added a wide range of decorative textiles comprising carpets used as pillar wrap-arounds, sumptuous brocades for the inside and cotton and yak hair ones for the outside. 

Gyaltsens and pillar ornaments, Lhasa, 1940’s

Gyaltsens and pillar decorations: Lhasa, 1940’s

In Tibetan, interior textile ornaments are known as ‘trawa trapche’. They comprise brocade skirting and friezes that ornament to top of walls or cover ceilings and are known as “sky covers”.Trapche came in many forms, and the more elaborate would include exquisite appliques of decorative patterns: flowers and birds, or dzipaks spitting endless chains of jewels. There were also gyaltsens or victory banners, brocade multi layered brocade cylinders hung from the ceiling between the temple pillars or on the patio, as well as various pillar ornaments and covers for thrones and tables. Temple ornaments required great amounts of brocade, and although Tibet never produced them, they traded them against horses with China, and had thousands of precious, ancient rolls stored in their treasure vaults. 

Brocade skirts, table and throne ornaments. Lhasa, 1940’s

Outside the temple, there would be heavy yak hair woven curtains, usually plain black, or with Dharma wheels appliqued onto the base. Awnings would be cotton applique, of wheels of Dharma flanked by male and female deer, garudas with spread wings, snakes in their beaks or dzipaks spitting jewels. In later times, printed versions were found to be more convenient and replaceable, mostly in use these days.
Yak hair fabric awnings on the Potala. Lhasa, 1940’s

Shading panels decorated with Dharma wheels. Lhasa, 1940’s