In the summer of 2016 I visited a small town in Tibetan Sichuan called LiTang. The town lies at approximately 4000-4500m above sea level with most of the buildings and amenities appearing at the bottom of the village, and a monumental three level monastery at the top. The Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling monastery is next to the palace of the Xianggen living Buddha. Xiangen commissions about 300 artists from Lhasa to paint for the monastery. Each painting is a careful interpretation of a story, fable-like in its gesture of teaching.
For one month I learnt techniques from one of these painters, to paint the image of the Four Dutiful Friends.
There is a bird that picks a seed from a fruit, a rabbit that digs a hole for it, a monkey that fertilises it and an elephant that waters it. Together these four animals and their actions assist in the creation of a productive, fruitful tree. Their interdependence lingers allowing them to enjoy the fruits of this tree after nurturing it. This image will encourage harmony wherever it hangs, as the strengths of one person may be the weakness of another.