Since the introduction of Buddhism in the 7th century A.D. in Tibet, these intriguing woodblocks were used to print text and images on paper and used as charms or amulets.


These magical formulae were:

– folded and worn as an amulet for protection.

– made into scrolls and placed inside a prayer wheel.

– inserted into religious images during rites of consecration.

– rolled up and eaten as a medicine.


Another popular type incorporates “lucky” or auspicious symbols for attracting good luck, wealth and happiness. Most commonly as a prayer flag.


The third type is used as amulets for getting rid of malefic influences or banishing sickness-bringing demons.


The last and most important type is in the form of a mandala (circular structure). They are connected with protection, meditation and purification. Most commonly worn as a protective amulet, folded up, empowered by a lama and bound with colored threads.



When a charm is to be printed, first a suitable ink is prepared from soot, burnt rice or barley grains. Now they also use Chinese block ink. Sometimes a binding medium is added, such as an animal gum, tree resin or grain pulp. Mixed with water.

With a brush the ink is spread on the block, the paper is laid on top and pressure is applied with the hand through a cloth pad. The quality of a print depends on the woodblock, the preparation of the ink and the fineness of the paper.


Tibetan woodblock charms and talismans are very vital in their expressiveness, even those which would normally never be seen, except by the lama at the time of empowerment. They are powerful in their visual impact. The skill and patience required to carve the woodblocks can hardly be imagined.


The blocks can be ancient but it is difficult to date them since the design has never changed since the beginning.


They can be found in Sikkim, Darjeeling, Bhutan, North and North-East Nepal and Tibet.



Lit.   “Tibetan Tantric Charms & Amulets”,  Nik Douglas. (1978)

“Lamaism in Sikhim”, L.A. Waddell. (1894)