Buddhist woodcarving is a traditional way of Tibetan woodcarving that aims to empower culture through designs based on nature. Dating back its origin to the seventh century, the art motifs used bear inspirations from nature, spiritual awareness, and religious symbols. The delicate carving work is commonly found on crossbeams of houses, furniture, doors, and window frames, virtually inspired by ancient Buddhist architecture. At times, these carvings bear philosophical descriptions and religious significance also, as the Tibetan culture is closely intertwined with Buddhism. This unique style of wood carvings is still under constant innovation for higher standards by expert artists who hold vast knowledge of motifs and design patterns. It reconciles the traditional art with the modern, seeking to expand the valuable cognizance of Tibetan values and their expression in art and literature.
The carving bearing Buddhist symbols are regarded among the special ones, as it depicts the core theories of the religion. Tashi Takgye or eight auspicious symbols, namely parasol, golden fish, treasure vase, lotus, conch shell, endless knot, victory banner, and wheel; forms the primary designs learned by a beginner. Here each symbol represents an aspect of Buddhist teaching and is believed to intensify the power when they appear together. In classical times, woodcarvers were rendered the position of architects and also engineers. They took the responsibility of constructing the building beams, fitting the wooden panels together. The wood and shapes used are analyzed carefully to figure the approach so that the weight could be balanced evenly. The application of this style of architecture can be found at ancient temples and palaces even today. Thus with passing generations, the woodcarvers at Norbulingka grasped the techniques of precisely fitting the joints of any wood products without using any nails or hinges.
Training on Buddhist wood carving starts with elaborate drawing practice. The beginner starts with traditional designs on paper and is not allowed to work on wood until they are competent in drawing. For practice on wood, pinewood is usually recommended for beginners as it is much softer than teakwood, which is usually preferred by experts. The student simultaneously also masters the fundamentals of carpentry like cutting and joining the wooden pieces without any hardware. After the completion of studentship, which may last upto 13 years, they are then let to try elaborate carvings of thrones and shrine-rooms of monasteries. Thus the artistry has passed from generation to artisans at Norbulingka, Himachal Pradesh, rendering elegant products.