Making Portable Buddha Statues - Tsa Tsa from the Himalaya

Making Portable Buddha Statues - Tsa Tsa from the Himalaya

This article is translated from Sorang Wangqing's blog.


Interested in our Tsa Tsa Molds?

Please click on the link - Tsa Tsa Molds and Amulet

A portable altar made of wood with painted decorations from the 1950s.
The interior features a painted and gilded clay "dabber."
The altar walls are painted with offerings, flowers, and musical instruments.


In the religious psychology of the Tibetan people, those who build stupas for themselves to accumulate merit while also benefiting others can be called good spiritual guides, thereby embodying a fundamental tenet of Buddhism: self-benefit benefits others.

                                     - Togden "The First Volume of Heavenly Buddha Land"

 "Nepalese Tsa Tsa"
The style is bold and enchanting, with a distinctive exotic feel.
Photography: Galerie Makara.


 "Manjushri Bodhisattva, representing wisdom
With extraordinary talents and virtues, leading all bodhisattvas, hence known as the Prince of the Dharma Kings"
15th-17th century Photography: Kunga Gyältsen


What is Tsa Tsa

In 1938, Italian Tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci conducted an extensive survey in southeastern Kashmir and western Tibet. Upon his return, he published a special work.

This work is divided into two parts, one of which focuses on the symbolic meaning of Tibetan stupas.

The other part, which may have seemed somewhat niche at the time, examines a type of clay miniature Buddha statues known as "Tsa-Tsa" (also a unique form of Buddhist art in Tibet).

 The most famous Tibetan scholar of the last century, Tucci,
in western Tibet area in 1935.

Photograph by Eugenio Ghersi.


 Tutu's research on "Tsa Tsa" may have been groundbreaking on a global scale at the time, as it was the first time "Tsa Tsa" as a distinctive form of Tibetan art received attention from experts and scholars, prompting further research and discussion.

In Tucci's study, the name "tsa tsa" is derived from Sanskrit. "Tsatsa" was first used in Tibet and is related to the formal introduction of stupas into Tibet. According to existing relics and historical records, the introduction of stupas into Tibet can be traced back to the 7th century during the reign of the Songtsen Gampo dynasty. The eminent monk Atisha initiated the widespread use of "tsa tsa" in Tibet.

In terms of practicality, "tsa tsa" is a special type of blessing stupa.

Due to its production filled with aesthetic details and techniques, as well as its unique religious significance, "tsatsa" is also a distinctive form of Tibetan Buddhist art with a strong regional characteristic.


 "Tsa Tsa" - Tibetan Buddhist art that combines religious significance with aesthetic detail.

Photography by Amos Dahlitz.


Meeting with Tsa Tsa

Walking in the Tibetan area, if you have a heart and observe carefully, you will find that the use of "Tsa Tsa" is extremely common and widespread, whether in large or small temples or in ordinary households.

In scenes such as large-scale religious ceremonies, monks' practices, or daily blessings in villages and tribes, "Tsa Tsa" carries and plays a unique and important role.

 Photography: Ven. Katy Cole.

 "In Tibet, people accumulate merit
A large number of small clay sculptures like "Tsa Tsa" are quite common"
"Tibetan Religious Art"


The first time I saw "Tsa Tsa" was on a Mani heap at the foot of the Jokhang Temple. They were arranged in a scattered manner in various corners of the heap. They looked like small clay tablets, each depicting different gods, stupas, or other images with sacred symbolisms.

 Panorama of Tsepak Tsok Monastery
Featured in "Tibet Series: Tsepak Tsok Monastery"

 My Tibetan friend Sangdzo, who is a teacher, explained to me in detail about this delicate and exquisite micro sculpture art, its uses, production methods, and significance. Once again, I was filled with awe and admiration for the wisdom and devotion of the Tibetan people.

 Photography: Margaret Weiss


Accumulate merits, dedicate oneself to practice

Making "Tsa Tsa" is considered by Tibetans as a way to accumulate merits. It is one of the basic practices of the Diamond Vehicle - a way to eliminate obstacles, purify negativity, and create light and positive energy (merits). Tibetans believe that if a practitioner can complete ten thousand "ca ca" in their lifetime, it signifies a great advancement and immeasurable merits in personal practice.

 Tsa Tsa Mold
Photography: Nyima Dolma Sundari


The relief of "Tsa Tsa"
is made by pressing with a hard mold or using a single-sided concave and convex plate mold.
Small clay Buddhas and stupa hills
are made using a mold that is to a large extent similar to a soft mold.
"Tibetan Religious Art"


In the past, Tibetans were accustomed to using clay to make "Tsa Tsa". They filled the clay in metal molds, pressed it, then after demolding, they fired it to make it hard, easy for preservation and use, thus making a "Tsa Tsa".

However, with the development of social productivity, changes in people's understanding, lifestyles, and living environment, the materials used in making "Tsa Tsa" are no longer limited to simple clay.

Some more modern and durable materials, such as resin, plaster, soapstone, and even tin, are also being used. 

 A Tibetan woman making a "Tsa Tsa"
Photography by: ཨོཾ OM 𝕋𝕀𝔹𝔼𝕋

During the process of making "Tsa Tsa," burning juniper branches, the rituals of butter lamp offerings, prayers, and recitations are considered extremely important by the Tibetan people.

They believe that only through such a sincere ceremony, infused with blessings, can the "Tsa Tsa" be extraordinary and worthy of offering.

The "Tsa Tsa" blessed by high lamas and holy men is considered a priceless treasure in the hearts of Tibetans, and it is passed down through generations within their families.
Manjusri "Tsa Tsa"
Photography: Bodhi Tsa-tsa


Manjusri symbolizes wisdom
Regarded as enhancing the ability of eloquence, memory, and learning
Manjusri pierces through ignorance with transcendent insight
Liberates sentient beings from the chains of karma and samsara

Protected and Blessed

Depending on the different purposes, "Tsa Tsa" comes in different colors, shapes, patterns, placements, and production methods.

For example, white "Tsa Tsa" represents benevolent deities, while red "Tsa Tsa" represents wrathful deities. Tibetan people believe that after death, individuals will belong to different deities, and many believers use "Tsa Tsa" to express their desire for their souls to belong to benevolent deities. Golden "Tsa Tsa" symbolizes richness, while yellow "Tsa Tsa" represents elegance.

Common Buddhist figures found on "Tsa Tsa" include Shakyamuni Buddha, Mahakala, Maitreya Buddha, Black Mahakala, and Thousand-armed Avalokiteshvara, as well as aesthetically pleasing and intricately detailed mandala "Tsa Tsa" such as Dharmapala mandala, Four-armed Avalokiteshvara mandala, Six-armed Avalokiteshvara mandala, Immeasurable Light Buddha mandala, Immeasurable Life Buddha mandala, and more.

 The "Tsa Tsa" of Vajrapani


 The Longevity Trinity of Amitayus Buddha, White Tara, and Vajrayogini "Tsa Tsa"


"Goddess Tara is no less important than Guanyin
Her diverse forms are the most common subject in Tibetan iconography
She and Guanyin are more focused on the welfare of mortals, and are easier to help believers."
- Tugchi, "Heavenly Buddha Land, Volume One"


Tibetans not only place "Tsa Tsa" on stupas, altars, prayer wheels, and niches, but also in more hidden sacred places, such as caves for meditation, holy mountains, and sacred lakes.
Some smaller "Tsa Tsa" can be placed in portable Ghau boxes, or in vehicles, as travelers see them as protective amulets.
Regardless of their size, "Tsa Tsa" symbolize the Buddha. Placed anywhere, people believe they can bestow blessings and protection upon them.

 Photography: kaiwang

In funeral ceremonies, "Tsa Tsa" also plays a very important role. The "Tsa Tsa" used in funerals has a conical stupa-like shape. Inside, there are barley or wheat grains, as well as the ashes of the deceased. Sometimes the seeds hidden inside will sprout. Tibetans believe that this symbolizes the cycle of life.



 Water Tsa Tsa

Unlike traditional forms of "Tsa Tsa," "Water Tsa Tsa" may be difficult for people to understand, as it does not have a specific concrete form and cannot be stored in certain places. "Water Tsa Tsa" is usually closely related to bodies of water such as lakes and rivers, and during the production process, it immediately dissolves into the water. Tibetans believe that this contains the meaning of "liberation upon sight."

Even in the water, there are countless beings, so water is the perfect resting place for these sacred objects. For anyone who comes into contact with it, "Water Tsa Tsa" is a wonderful prayer and blessing.

 Photography: Yannick Beaudoin

Last year, I had the rare opportunity to travel to Tibet again and witness the making of a "Water Tsa Tsa" with my friend Sangzhu. We sat by a river as Tibetan friends recited mantras along the water and used special tools to create the "Tsa Tsa".

The tool is roughly right-angled, with one end serving as a handle and the other end as a template that touches the water. The technique involves gently moving the template up and down to create a slight lapping motion, causing the template to tap the water and imprint sacred shapes onto the flowing water, blessing all who come into contact with it.

 Brass "Tsa Tsa" mold
Photography: Christopher Morawski

Tibetans believe that the "Water Tsa Tsa" is even more meaningful and valuable than the clay "Tsa Tsa". The images of Buddhas imprinted in the water will spread blessings as the water flows downstream, perhaps offering a more vast and wonderful way of bestowing blessings to all.


Wisdom and Devotion

A small "Tsa Tsa", like a tiny pebble, contains infinite spirituality and divinity. As a sacred object, as a form of art, the "Tsa Tsa" carries the pure spirit of the Tibetan people, and reveals the wisdom and reverence of the Tibetan people.

In this restless age, this sacred, beautiful, and unique object continues its mission and life in Tibet. It is being discovered, appreciated, studied, and learned by more and more people. More and more people are inheriting it with heartfelt passion, not just its production techniques, but also inheriting a culture, allowing its heritage to continue to thrive and flow. This is a comforting and inspiring thing for people.


 Photography: Ng.Han..L


Under the pure and clear blue sky of the Tibetan land, Tsa Tsa, accompanied by the drifting incense, fluttering colorful prayer flags, and murmuring chanting, carries beautiful wishes to all corners of the world, reaching deep into the souls of those blessed individuals.

Photography: Tuchi, included in "Vatican Buddha Land: Volume One"

Interested in our Tsa Tsa Molds?

Please click on the link - Tsa Tsa Molds and Amulet

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