Bronze Making

Dêgê, Sichuan
Producer: Dawa Drolma
Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
[Catalog No. CFV11255; © 2017 Smithsonian Institution]

The art of making bronze has a long history on the Tibetan Plateau, especially in the valley of Dzongsar in Dêgê County, Sichuan Province. One particular tradition is known in Tibetan as khyenle: khyen refers to the Dzongsar Khyentse Buddhist lineage, and le means bronze. In this video, the master artisan Nima, along with his son and apprentice Dawa Dakpa, describe the processes of making bronze and its importance within the local community. Nima and Dawa are the sixth and seventh generations of the Khyentse bronze lineage, and together they maintain the tradition, crafting exquisite bronze statues, rituals objects, and musical instruments. Intense focus is essential to bronze work. To create a Buddhist deity in bronze requires full concentration and thoughts that are both positive and compassionate. Both artists say that when they work, their state of mind is akin to meditation.

Questions for Discussion

  • What are some of the different steps involved in the bronze making process? What tools and materials do you see being used in the video?
  • Compare Tibetan bronze making to ancient Chinese bronze production. What method is depicted in this video? What method was used in ancient China?
  • How is the bronze making apprenticeship described in this video different from attending an art college or university?
  • The bronze objects in this video are made to be used in Buddhist religious practice. Why are statues and images important in Buddhism? Learn about Tibetan Buddhist Shrines online or visit the National Museum of Asian Art to discover more about objects like those depicted in the video.