Yundrung Loyul lives and works in the town of Drango (head of the rock). Drango sits on a mountain slope and in the valley at the confluence of the Zhe-chu and Nyi-chu rivers. Yundrung Loyul describes himself as being of the nineteenth generation of thangka painters associated with the local painter Namka Gyal (1610-1690). Known as the “decorator of the sky,” Namka Gyal is the focus of Yundrung Loyul’s Namka Gyal Museum and Namka Gyal Studio and Showroom. Yungdrung Loyul’s studio is above his company’s showroom.
The Namka Gyal Museum contains thirty-one thangkas copied from Namaka Gyal’s series Buddha’s History. Two of the original thangkas were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. The remaining paintings are housed in a monastery. Five to six years ago Yundrung Loyul, among other thangka painters associated with his company, Horpukdrup Namka Gyal Thangka, created teh copies, spending two to three months on each painting. The museum also contains copies of Namka Gyal’s series Eight Disciples of the Buddha.
Yundrung Loyul is the son of a local high school art teacher. Yundrung Loyul’s first thangka teacher was Drango based Bai Mai Tsering. He was fifteen or sixteen when he began learning the art. In addition to learning thangka painting, Yungdrung Loyul is also schooled in Chinese and Western style painting. This is the result of his studies at Sichuan University and Southwestern College of Nationalities in Chengdu. Bai Mai Tserling says that as a student of thangka, Yundrung Loyul was very clever, a good listener, and hardworking. Bai Mai Tsering’s approach to teaching thangka painting is to first teach his students to paint a sword, next feet, followed by the facial features of the goddess Tara. Students begin with no color moving to the use of color. Ideally students apprentice for five to six years.
Yundrung Loyul says you need a “kind and pious heart” to study thangka. In his view, having a good heart contributes to a beautiful thangka. Thangka painting is also a part of his Buddhist practice. A kind and pious heart is reincarnated into the painting; “a beautiful world reincarnated into a beautiful world.”
Yundrung Loyul’s students come to him between the ages of thirteen to twenty and are brought by “fate and destiny.” Most of his students are Tibetan, but he will teach anyone. His students pay three hundred yuan ($46.00 US) a month to learn from him.
Yungdrung Loyul also has a group of students that he teaches for free. These are students who are orphaned, may be from single parent homes or who have disabilities. His purpose is to teach them skills so that they can make a living.