Thangka documentary gains fans in Japan

TOKYO-In an interview regarding documentary The Land of Sky, Home of the Thangka Painters, Japanese documentary director Takashi Inoue made some remarks about his work in Tokyo.

"The inheritance of traditional Tibetan culture as a way to get rid of poverty, and fostering a new industry through the inheritance of thangka painting technology so as to promote the region's revitalization and development, is such a great deed," Inoue says.

The documentary, which was coproduced by China and Japan, had a rerun on Japan's public broadcaster NHK in May following a successful premiere in March.

Many Japanese viewers were moved by the exquisite thangka art and the stories of young Tibetan people's unceasing effort and continuous struggles for self-improvement.

Japanese viewers have been heaping praise on the documentary on social media.

"I have a goal to see the real thangka before I die!"

"These young people, who do not give up because of the environment or the climate, who can embrace their dreams in the face of adversity and grow tenaciously, are really remarkable. It is really a tour de force," read comments on social media.

On the documentary's popularity among Japanese viewers, Inoue says they are very interested in Tibetan culture, and the stories of the documentary's hero and heroine are very touching.

"Through hard work and studies at the art institute, the heroine became a well-known technician of thangka craft and ushered in a great life change. The hero, who used to be a troubled teenager, cleansed his spirit and created a brand-new self through painting," he says. "Their struggle and growth are themes that resonate with not only Chinese and Japanese audiences, but also with the global audience."

Inoue says the documentary also conveys his new understanding of China and that the country is always committed to cultural preservation.

Born in 1952, Inoue graduated from Waseda University and started working in NHK in 1976, focusing on filming documentaries in the areas of history, culture and art. He currently works as a columnist and an honorary professor at Tokyo University of the Arts.

In the 1990s, Inoue traveled across China for a documentary series on China's reform and opening-up. He says he has witnessed China's changes firsthand.

Inoue says China's inheritance and protection of traditional cultures deserve attention.

"In the process of modernization, it is easy to gradually ignore some traditional cultures. I have noticed that the Chinese government has made great effort in cultural protection to revitalize traditional culture," he says. "It's a great deed. More and more people are recognizing the value of traditional Tibetan culture."

Inoue says he believes that passing on painting skills and protecting traditional culture not only revitalize culture, but they also revive tradition and is a way to get rid of poverty.

He says it is touching to witness the persistence and efforts of Tibetan youths inheriting traditional culture.

"I want to be able to pass on these emotions to Japan and hope that young Japanese people can gain inspiration from them," he says.

"The world China will face in the future may be more complicated, but there is no doubt that reform and opening-up have borne fruitful results in China."

The director also announced the filming of new documentary Return of the Antiques began on May 20, in cooperation with China.

A teacher explains thangka painting techniques at an intangible heritage training center in Aba Tibetan autonomous prefecture, Sichuan province, in November last year. XINHUA

A scene from the trailer of The Land of Sky, Home of the Thangka Painters. XINHUA