Dharmapala Thangka CentreTibetan Antiques

Zanpar - Tsampa - Torma


These three Tibetan expressions are closely correlated.

Zanpars are wooden models used for making prints with Tibetan dough.

Tsampa [Tibetan: རྩམ་པ་, ,rtsam pa] is the Tibetan staple foodstuff.

Tormas are sacrificed offerings on Tibetan Buddhist altars made mostly from butter, sometime also formed from Tsampa and decorated with Zanpar prints.


Zanpar stick

Four sided Zanpar Stick with animal carvings. A very common motiv on these wooden sticks.

Tsampa Dough

Tsampar Dough

The Tsampa - mixture used for making prints from the Zanpar consists mainly of roasted barley flour, water, butter and milk. Wheat flour can also be used. Some texts mention a mixture of four sorts of grain. Seemingly the sort of grain was not so important, changing to the local agrarian conditions. All additions like finger nails, hairs, parts of clothing helps to strengthen the positive effect of the Zanpar rituals, especially of the substitute rituals mentioned later on. Traces of different colors at some motives indicate the use of color powder in some cases. It is usually mixed with the salty Tibetan butter tea.



Tormas [Tib: gtor ma] are figures made mostly of flour and butter used in tantric rituals or as offerings in Tibetan Buddhism. They may be dyed in different colors, often with white or red for the main body of the torma.

They are made in specific shapes based on their purpose, usually conical in form. A very large, central shrine torma may be constructed for festivals, though typically they are small and placed directly on a shrine, on a plate, mounted on leather or held on a special base like a skull.