Research on the Decoration Appearance of Tibetan Architectures under the Perspective of Tourism Industry


The characteristics of all Tibetans’ religious belief combine the development of Tibetan architectural art with the development of Tibetan society to keep them in step. In addition, it also carries the development history of Tibetan nationality and national personality, which directly reflects on the contemporaneous building decoration, building concept, building layout, building function, etc. And in the modern period of Tibetan architecture, thanks to the development of Tibetan tourism and our country’s support for cultural construction and ecological construction of ethnic minorities, the development of Tibetan architecture decoration is, at present, in an exploring period when the traditional architectural decoration style is integrated with the modern architectural function characteristics. Besides, what has changed the most is the explosion on external aspects, such as decoration materials and the pattern of manifestation etc. But its main connotation still sticks to traditional religious belief rules of the Tibetan people and Tibetan people’s worship and respect for nature, god and everything in the world, which are the deepest, most stable and most characteristic ideological essence and internal soul.

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Xie, G. (2020) Research on the Decoration Appearance of Tibetan Architectures under the Perspective of Tourism Industry. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 8, 413-421. doi: 10.4236/jss.2020.84029.

1. Development Overview

Tibetan nationality is a nomad ethnic in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, with a long history, and also a traditional religious nationality believing “all things have their own spirit”. Tibetan area has its own unique high, cold and vast natural geoclimatic conditions and continental climatic characteristics and local Buddhism inherent revere, sanctification, reliance and spirit of worship together creating the mysterious and wild architectural style of the Tibetan Minority. In each historical stage, the concept of Tibetan construction, space structure and the architectural style of the decorative arts of ethnic minorities all contain rich Tibetan ethnic style and distinct regional cultural features. “In Tibetan area of Sichuan, the religious atmosphere pervades everywhere, … and even the ordinary houses are filled with religious atmosphere” (Li, 2019). The art of Tibetan architectural decoration, derived from religion, is an ancient and artistic expression of architectural art, including many Tibetan specialized art projects, such as culture, folkways, history, aesthetics, psychology, and society.

As for the Tibetan architectural decorative art, the development of Tibetan art has a more complex and systemic cultural history background. On the one hand, the Tibetan architectural decorative art pays much attention to functional modern Tibetan architecture with more intuitive and intense visual shock and psychological impact. On the other hand, as a collection of Tibetan architecture, architectural components and architectural beam frame’s layout, beautification and decoration, Tibetan architectural decorative art is a simultaneous reflection and presentation of the cultural development in Tibetan economy and society and historical era, and also a true reflection of the development of the times and the progress of society and culture.

2. Schema Language

The painting and architectural art in the development of tourism are one of the most significant architectural art inheritance and protection methods of ancient buildings of traditional ethics in China. The difference of architectural decorative art between Tibetan-style architecture and other ethnic groups under the development of minority tourism and cultural industry is mainly reflected in the decoration of building components and interior soft furnishings etc. Tibetan architecture pays more attention to the practicality of architecture; refines and simplifies its forms of expression remains its intrinsic meaning so as to better adapt to the general living needs of the modern people in our country. Tibetan style and architectural decorative art mainly reflect in the decoration of interior and exterior facades of building, the decorated part of architectural truss and interior decoration and so on, and they also pay much attention to the perfect integration between practicality and art decoration and the embodiment and expression of Tibetan traditional cultural features. The Tibetan architectural decoration art shows the unique style and high-level craftsmanship of Tibetan painting and sculpture art and also reflects the solemn artistic features of Tibetan architectural decoration art, achieving the perfect integration with splendid landscape of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

2.1. Color

Color is the soul of beauty. Tibetan architecture has various colors. Although, Tibetan people live in different regions and belong to different factions, they are coincident in color choice and color identification. The most representative colors are white, blue, red, yellow and green. The five colors in the color view of Tibetan Buddhism stand for fire, cloud, sky, soil and water, which are direct reflection on good things, such as blue sky, cloud, snowy mountain, grassland river and lake. They all have the same feature that is rich and pure, applying strong contrast and mixing these colors, forming a unique color system with Tibetan characteristics, which truly reflects the style of the Tibetan simple and wild features.

The Tibetan people are influenced by the srid-pa-rgyud-kyi-bon customs and Buddhist culture. Each color has their own special meaning and symbol and the application form of each color are limited by strict rules (Figure 1). So far, the research and analysis on interior and exterior color application of Tibetan architecture is mainly on the basis of religious culture that is more useful for us to deeply explore the mysterious features of this minority. Among these decorative colors, white is the most divine decorative color in their minds. White is often used to describe good people or things, such as snowflakes and hearts of people, which means auspice and good luck. In addition, white is mostly used on building exterior walls in building decoration and accounts for the largest application area. However, black stands for evil and crime, which contains the meanings of majesty, ferociousness, horror, and dark. It is universally used indoors and windows of building so as to drive out evil or demon. The loyal Tibetan Buddhists hold the opinion that white stands for east, yellow means south, red represents west, green is north, and the four colors of white, yellow, red, and green symbolize the four directions and four industries, which are also widely used in residential houses, including the connotation of exorcising demon, refuge, increasing profitability and driving out devil etc. Except for the four colors of white, yellow, red, and green, blue means empty and pure heart just like the sky. It is a color that

Figure 1. Tibetan architecture (the source of the photo: self taken by the author).

can be seen everywhere, representing where there is the sky, there are human beings; where there are human beings, there is a Buddha (Tian, 2013).

The self-contained color view in the color culture of Tibetan residential architecture is complementary to Tibetan natural and people-to-people environment. Only realizing the harmony with natural environment and unifying with people-to-people environment, can the application of residential color culture directly highlight national character and the intelligent Tibetan people obviously Take this to extreme.

2.2. The Main Composition of Tibetan Architectural Decoration

The main decoration skills of Tibetan architecture are bronze carving, clay sculpture, stone carving, wood carving, painting, etc. among which painting and carving, as tools for Tibetan people express their religious and original respects etc. in architectural art, are one of the most direct decoration ways (Figure 2). Wood carving, a significant carrier of architectural material, is the most wildly used by Tibetan people in architectural decoration art. Nowadays, Tibetan people wildly use such architectural decorative art ways in columns, beams, and cymbals as the main color expression areas of Tibetan residential architectural decoration arts, so as to realize the coordination between making up, strengthening, improving, adjusting architectural functions and decorative art styles. On the one hand, it can make architectural style accord with the cultural and aesthetic tastes batter and satisfy residential living requirements. On the other hand, it demonstrates consistent pursuits on religious beliefs and ideologies of the contemporary Tibetan people (Yang, Li & Zhao, 2015). The Tibetan architectures can achieve

Figure 2. Sopo restaurant door head of Jiuzhaigou Valley (the source of the photo: self taken by the author).

perfect balance between function of pattern, color, theme, contents and architecture itself and structure. Abundant colored painting and carving skills not only emphasize the beauty of architectural structure but also build up architectural forms of religion.

2.2.1. Decoration and Painting

The decoration and painting of Tibetan construction is the embodiment of Tibetan people’s “pattern style” language ideology mode. They express the world’s constant inner meaning of everything in the world from painting’s contents, themes and expression means that is their rational attitude on the basis of wit. Consequently, they don’t care about the fleeting transient appearance and this relatively developed logical thinking decides high-level development of Tibetan painting art in form, aesthetic perception and detail.

Tibetan architectural decoration painting belongs to decorative pattern painting in the form of classification. The colored decorative themes in residential buildings are mainly geometry, plants, animals, text, characters, artifacts, etc. People use these decorative patterns derived from the nature and their working and living environment as dermatoglyphic pattern and endow them with national symbolism. Then, ordering them in single picture, two consecutive and quartet continuous arrangement form and placing them in the front of building, ceiling and cloister and other architectural structure. The most common pattern, such as the Eight Auspicious Symbols picture (Figure 3), Four Harmonious Friends picture, longevity picture and other auspicious pictures, has developed into performance patterns with mature colored art containing the unique Tibetan representative and symbolic meaning.

2.2.2. Sculpture

Sculpture is one of the important artistic appearance that Tibetan used in construction and residential decoration, which is a link connecting painting with

Figure 3. Auspicious eight treasures pattern hand drawing (the source of the photo: self taken by the author).

construction. Therefore, Tibetan construction art appearance focuses on the development of caring skills. The famous leader of Tubo Dynasty, the 33rd Zamp King Songtsan Gambo, took the lead to learn and encouraged Tibetan people to study the knowledge of carving. In addition, he also introduced many excellent sculptors from mainland, India and Nepal etc. As a result, the carving skills of Tibetan construction not only made up for and enriched the settled space form in construction but also strengthened artistic expressiveness and appreciation of construction. Carving is an artistic form between painting and sculpture. Tibetan carving skills has no essential difference with the Han nationality and Tibetan carving skills mainly express artistic features and regionalism from color of construction decoration, decorative theme and cultural meaning. Among Tibetan residential buildings, wood is the most popular carving materials (Figure 4), which has flexible and abundant space form and materials that have advantages of high integration with construction and strong expressiveness.

3. The Inner Meaning of Construction Decoration

The core meaning of Tibetan construction decoration art to keep eternity is religious belief that is Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore, although the survival environment and preservation condition of Tibetan construction are harsh, Tibetan people still consider construction decoration art as the most important thing in the construction art system, highlighting the superior aesthetic level and artistic taste of Tibetan people. Tibetan people are highly revere and respect for the nature and God that is their tradition, passing by thousand years, along with the development of Tibetan religious belief so as to gradually form a complete and stable applying art system.

The effect of Tibetan religious cultural ideology on construction decoration art is eternal. In Tibetan, the content and theme of construction decoration, through

Figure 4. Tibetan carved wooden door head (the source of the photo: self taken by the author).

various artistic techniques such as hypotheticals, metonymy, and homophony, are endowed with certain symbolic meaning. However, some similar themes or matters in religion are different from folk’s symbolic meaning. At the same time, it may contain some Buddhist meaning on the basis of original folk symbolic meaning, which mainly propagates religious beliefs, places Tibetan people’s longing for positive emotions such as happiness, unity and peace etc. and pursues the harmonious coexistence of nature and everything in nature, such as the relationship between the God and human beings. Hence, Tibetan people always seek to the constant laws and core principles in natural things. The pattern style shown by concrete form is mainly want to express the mysterious metaphorical and symbolic meaning behind the pattern.

4. Artistic Style

4.1. The Overview of Tibetan Architectural Decorative Art

The decoration art culture of Tibetan architecture is a product that totally adheres to religious belief and it is a product of Tibetan Buddhism that has passed through the process of survival of the fittest in the local traditional culture of Bonismo and other foreign culture, such as ancient India Nepal, Tantra Buddhism and Middle-earth Zen Buddhism. As a result, Tibetan is different from other nationalities in artistic culture and ideology decided by the personality thinking, which emphasizes the art of collectivism, working hardly to look for eternal pattern hidden in the surface of nature and also doesn’t encourage changing artistic character at the same time. The Tibetan people express their beliefs through the form of architectural decoration and show the symbolic meaning of natural things in their hearts.

4.2. The Artistic Development of Tibetan Architectural Decoration

Tibetan architectural decoration shows artistic sense of Tibetan architecture in the process of beautifying and improving building and building architect. Tibetan decorative art is based on the art of religion, culture and architecture in Tibetan areas and it is combined with modern information technology, scientific technology and advanced equipment forming a complex with art and technology (Huang, 2014). The architectural decoration is left with deep print of culture created by different history background. In particular, the modern era of Tibetan architecture is in the exploration period when traditional Tibetan architecture style is integrated with the functional characteristic of modern architecture. With the development of Tibetan tourism and the requirement of Central government’s cultural construction and ecological construction, the many local governments in Tibetan pay attention to the cultural features and regional characteristic construction and pursues tasteful costumes and high level regional ethnic cultural construction, trying to realize the balance between the artistic pattern and the development and changing of times so as to make the decoration art of Tibetan architecture sustain forever and further upgrade artistic standard. Therefore, the prelude of Tibetan modern construction opened. The Tibetan modern construction is not the concept of time but concludes cultural features that is the construction work with traditional cultural elements and the cultural features of time.

5. Conclusion

As for Tibetan people, decoration is not dispensable possession. It closely combines formal expression with people’s aesthetic, emotion and thought and it is important media for people to imagine in mental and beautify life (Cai, 2012). Under the background of developing tourism, the most prominent feature of modern Tibetan architectural decoration is that it is superior to and more inclusive than traditional Tibetan architectural decoration in terms of content and form. In addition, the form of modern Tibetan architectural decoration is more diverse and colorful, which hasn’t mired in inherent hierarchical limitation and material application forms of traditional Tibetan architectural decoration and integrated the feature of architectural decorative art, such as palace, garden and temple etc. In terms of structural array and formal designation, it tends to integrate (Xia, 2001). The architecture decoration art of Tibetan residential house under the tourism development strategy is not only a perfect combination of Tibetan ideology and functional products with the requirement of survival, but also must take into consideration the service requirements, which is necessary for the development of the tertiary industry. Besides, it sticks to the complementarity of decorative arts and the structure of the architecture itself with the development of time, and adheres to the core expressions of Tibetan architectural decorative styles and distinctive cultures, which are the fundamental solutions for Tibetan architectural decorative arts to adjust to the development and changes of times and to be sustainable forever.


This project is funded by the graduate innovative scientific research project [grant number: CX2019SZ186] of Southwest University for nationalities.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this paper.


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