An Early Thangka of Avalokitesvara from the Guge Kingdom

Heller, Amy (2015). An Early Thangka of Avalokitesvara from the Guge Kingdom. Journal of Tibetology, 10, pp. 70-84. Center for Tibetan Studies, Sichuan University

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From 1933-1937, Professor Giuseppe Tucci discovered many early Tibetan illuminated manuscripts and mural paintings as well as sculptures in Tholing, Tabo, Mang nang and remote temples of the Guge kingdom, echoed by recent discoveries of ancient temples with murals and manuscripts by teams led by Professors Huo Wei at Nyag/Khatse and Zhang Jianlin in Tholing. These works of art have revealed the aesthetic of the Kashmiri artists invited to embellish the temples founded under the aegis of Lha bla ma Ye shes 'od and the royal family of Guge -Pu hrang during the 11th to 12th century. This article will focus on a thangka of a distinctive red aspect of Avalokiteśvara. This painting is highly important for its aesthetic and historic significance as an example of portable painting of the Kashmiri school in western Tibet during the apogee of the Guge kingdom. This thangka exhibits features of painting techniques specific to this school of painting. Also, in the light of comparison with the mural paintings of Mang nang photographed by Dr. Eugenio Ghersi during the Tucci expeditions, this thangka has close chronological and aesthetic parallels in terms of the maṇḍala composition in square configuration as well as the Kashmiri stylistic grammar and preferences for chromatic modeling and chiaroscuro. In terms of religious history, there is correlation to ritual evocations conserved among the Tibetan Dunhuang
manuscripts as well as to the Vajradhātu maṇḍala, the primary Buddhist cycle represented in both wall paintings and sculpture in early temples of western Tibet following its re-translation into Tibetan language by the royal chapelain Rin chen bzang po (958-1055) and a Kashmiri Buddhist master.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute for the Science of Religion

UniBE Contributor:

Heller, Amy Lee


200 Religion
700 Arts > 750 Painting
900 History > 950 History of Asia


Center for Tibetan Studies, Sichuan University




Ursina Wüthrich

Date Deposited:

16 Dec 2019 18:01

Last Modified:

21 Dec 2021 10:00


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