Butter Fingers

Written by Alana Jolley

March 6, 2014

Butter Fingers

Elaborate Butter Fingers have created sculptures made by Monk artists for the Chunga Choepa (Butter Lamp) festival.  Held on varying dates each year, but March 16, 2014.

The Butter Lamp festival celebrates Buddha’s miracles and the victory of Buddha over nonbelievers.  It is a time to attend Temples and Monasteries and exhibit much devotion. The Butter Lamps (sculptures) depict deities, birds, animals, plants, flowers and human figures.

They are lighted at night and there is much singing, dancing, and blessings given while people also burn their own butter lamps on rooftops and pray.  The religious event is centuries old, but the art of butter sculpturing began over 2,500 years ago.

The Chunga Choepa festival is associated with several cultural myths, but one from the year 641 A.D. tells of Princess Wencheng bringing a statue of Sakyamuni (Buddhism originates with his teachings) to Chang’an to express respect.  She and her disciples placed butter sculptures in front of the statue of Buddha. Since then it has been an important cultural celebration for the Tibetan people, and a specialized art of the Monks of the Ta’er Temple.

Before sculpting the butter, mixed with a wheat mixture, Monks bathe and perform rituals before they begin their artistry.  In order for the butter not to melt while they are working, the Monks must keep their butter fingers cold by constantly immersing them in frigid ice water.  Watch the amazing art of butter sculpting today.  Then return and Explore More! in Cultural Anthropology.  Here you can learn about more rituals and which Global Village these Butter Finger-sculptors hail from.





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