Tsaklis or Initiation Cards

Tsakli of a dakini

For information about tsakli and links to other sources please visit our tsakli information page. Here we are presenting a small part of the collection of tsakli we have accumulated in over a decade of collecting this little known but very affordable expression of Tibetan art.

We use the word "tsakli" and Tibetan "initiation card" interchangeably. "tsagli" and "tsakali" are variants of the spelling. Many Tibetans pronounce the word with a silent "k" so it sounds more like sal-li.

We had the choice of either presenting detailed photos of a smaller number of tsakli or showing group photos of a larger number and only providing an occasional detailed photograph. Because we have such a large collection we have decided to do a little of both. On this page we will be showing sets of tsakli and only one photo of a representative card from the set. We have another page for displaying individual cards .

For each group of tsakli we are providing a link to a representative card and occasionally a link to a photo of the reverse side if that is of interest. We would also like to point out that the group photos have been taken with a digital camera while the images of individual cards and their reverse sides have been done using a scanner. Because of the controlled lighting and direct contact with the scanner surface these scanned images are more representative of the actual cards than are the photographs. Click anywhere inside the group photo to be taken to the sample tsakli; use your back button to return to the main page.

As will be apparent from our display here the painting quality on tsaklis can range anywhere from near thangka quality in detail and expression to nearly cartoon-like. Many tsakli lend themselves readily to matting and framing, either individually or in groups.

To request a price list, please put "tsakli price list" in the subject line and send us an email by clicking here.

Tsaklis or Initiation Cards

initiation cards in a group of four

Four tsakli depicting wrathful protectors make up this set. Each wears a tiger skin around his waist, has a third eye and wild hair, and holds a sharp instrument in his right hand. Each cards measures 4-1/4 x 6-1/4 inches. The reverse side of each has six or seven lines in the Ume script. The cards appear quite old and the paper is very soft, not at all brittle. The fronts have not been glazed, so the paint, though worn and abraded in places, is still very vibrant. The card in the individual scan, both front and back, is the far right.

group of five tsakli

These five tsakli all belonged to the same set, and we suspect that it might have been the same as the four above, though these look and feel quite different because these have been glazed and are quite hard and stiff. They are virtually identical dimensionally to the four above (4-1/4 x 6-1/4), the figures are on very similar lotus bases and the coloration is the same, though with these it is very darkened. Unlike the ones above, there is no inscription on the reverse sides of these.

group of 20 cards

The twenty cards in this set each measure 4-3/8 x 5-1/4. They have all been slightly glazed - just enough to make taking a good group photograph very difficult. Click on the link to see the individual scan and you will get a much better feel for their appearance. A strip of cloth has been glued to the top and bottom of the reverse side of each card, and all have a line of writing in the u-chen script. The cards themselves are in good condition but they have all darkened with age; moreover they are all flecked with tiny dark spots, front and back.

nine initiation cards form this group

Measuring 3-3/4 x 5-1/2, these nine cards all show similar damage to the bottom margins, probably the result of dampness. Fortunately, the damage has been largely confined to the margin and the painting itself escaped much or any paint loss. The painting quality of these cards is very fine and delicate. They also have interesting calligraphy in the ume script on the reverse side . Though smaller than some, these would be particularly good cards for framing.

group of 31 tsaqli cards

A set of 31 tsakli. Each measures 3-7/8 x 4-3/8 inches. These cards are all in good condition like the example shown. Most but not all have considerable calligraphy on the reverse. This is is the Ume'script, a cursive form of Tibetan writing used for both personal and textual purposes. Click anywhere within the group photograph to see a photo of the individual card being used as a sample. (Use your Back button to return to the main page). Click here to see a photo of the reverse side of the same tsakli. The sample is the farthest card to the right in the third row from the bottom - a small image of Manjushree in front of a large vase.

mixed group of thirteen cards

Miscellaneous group of thirteen tsakli. Individual cards like these are displayed on a separate page of individual tsakli.

To be continued....


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All photographs are the property of Paul Morse and may not be used without permission.
Last updated: Monday, November 03, 2003
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