Könchokling, Upper Mustang

Könchokling (དཀོན་མཆོག་གླིང་) is the modern name given to a cave in the Choshar region of Upper Mustang, Nepal. The unusually shaped cave is dedicated to the 84 mahāsiddha as transmitted in the verses of Vajrāsana, which are written underneath them. The cave and its composition are studied in some detail in the article mentioned below, and can be attributed to the 14th century and a Kagyü school context. The ◊ Könchokling gallery contains the complete documentation of the cave done in 2012, including details of the accompanying verses, which are also transcribed. Both the Mahāsiddha depictions as well as the text would deserve a more detailed study to establish a more precise context.

  • Luczanits, Christian. 2014 June. The Cave of Great Adepts. Orientations 45, no. 5: 50-61.
  • Fieni, Luigi. 2010. Early Cave Paintings Rediscovered in Upper Lo. In Wonders of Lo : the artistic heritage of Mustang, ed. Erberto Lo Bue, 62 (2), 56-63. Mumbai: Marg Foundation.

Lamayuru, Ladakh

While Lamayuru is best known for its picturesque Drigung Kagyü monastery, minor monuments around it preserve the village's most ancient heritage.

Among the group of chörten (མཆོད་རྟེན་) on the western approach to the village are three passage chörten with the remains of paintings. One of these (◊ Buddha Chörten) has been the subject of an article presenting an unusual, rather Central Tibetan painting style of the 13th century in Ladakh. As with the chörten of Alchi Shangrong, the gateway is built on an east-west axis, the present entrance facing west (285°). The fragmentary paintings inside may even be by the same workshop as those at Alchi and thus roughly contemporaneous. While for my article I only had black and white photographic documentation taken in 1994, the images in the gallery are from 1998 and in colour.

The other chörten (◊ Teacher Chörten) contains the portraits of teachers in local monastic robes in the centre of the two preserved walls.

  • Luczanits, Christian. 1998. On an Unusual Painting Style in Ladakh. In The Inner Asian International Style 12th-14th Centuries. Papers presented at a panel of the 7th seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Graz 1995, eds. Deborah E. Klimburg-Salter, and Eva Allinger, VII, 151-169. Wien: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften.

Lachuse, Ladakh

The Buddhist temple of Lachuse, located in a side valley some distance off Kanji, Ladakh, preserves some of the oldest wood carvings in the western Himalayan region. The remains are remarkable for the massive capitals, an elaborate door and interesting fragments that loosely relate to the Alchi group of monuments but likely precede those. These ancient fragments have been reused in a recent temple structure.

  • Poell, Heinrich. 2014. The Wood Carvings of Lachuse. A Hidden Jewel of Early Mediaeval Ladakhi Art. In Art and Architecture in Ladakh, eds. Erberto Lo Bue, and John Bray, 35, 191-225. Leiden: Brill.
  • Poell, Heinrich. 2013. The Temple Door of Lachuse: Early Wood Art from Ladakh. Mārg 64, no. 3: 14-25.

Luri, Upper Mustang

The Luri chörten cave in Upper Mustang is well-known due to its exceptional quality. Indeed, the effort put into this cave is astounding considering its location and accessibility. The documentation assembled in the ◊ Luri gallery has largely been taken by Philip Lieberman (1993/1994) and Jaroslav Poncar, who kindly made it available.

Despite the publicaitons listed below, Luri is still somewhat enigmatic. Dating it, depends very much on the date of the expansion of Shalu, and neither the iconography nor the captioned teachers depicted above the main figures on the back wall have been fully understood. The function of the cave has not been addressed as such either. I assume it is a commemorative monument for an charismatic teacher entombed in its chörten, and it probably was not built for being visited.

  • Neumann, Helmut F., and Heidi A. Neumann. 2010. Early Wall Paintings in Lo: Luri Reconsidered. In Wonders of Lo: the artistic heritage of Mustang, ed. Erberto Lo Bue, 62 (2), 64-75. Mumbai: Marg Foundation. 
  • Neumann, Helmut F. 1997. Paintings of the Lori Stūpa in Mustang. In Tibetan Art, eds. Jane Casey Singer, and Philip Denwood, 178-85, figs. 204. London: Laurence King. 
  • Neumann, Helmut F. 1994. The Wall Paintings of the Lori Gonpa. Orientations 25, no. 11: 79-91. 
  • Gutschow, Niels. 1994. The Chörten of the Cave at Luri. Ancient Nepal 136 - Special Edition on Mustang, 137-145.

Mangyu, Ladakh

The temples at the village of ◊ Mangyu once quite literally rivalled those of Alchi in age and quality, but they are much less well preserved today. While Alchi has been founded by representatives of the Dro (འབྲོ་) clan, Mangyu was financed by the Mer (སྨེར་) clan. A sense of rivalry can not only be recognised in artistic quality, but also in the actual interpretation of Buddhism represented.

The documentation uploaded so far is focused predominately on the clay sculptures, only for what I call the Four Sculpture Chörten the full documentation has been added. The paintings in this chörten are certainly one of the highlights of Mangyu. While I have used my documentation a lot for comparison, I have not published on Mangyu beyond its clay sculptures.

  • Linrothe, Rob. 2011. Skirting the Bodhisattva: Fabricating Visionary Art. Études mongoles et sibériennes, centrasiatiques et tibétaines 42, 2-48.
  • van Ham, Peter. 2010. Heavenly Himalayas. The murals of Mangyu and other discoveries in Ladakh. Munich: Prestel.
  • Linrothe, Robert N. 1994. The Murals of Mangyu: A Distillation of Mature Esoteric Buddhist Iconography. Orientations 25, no. 11: 92-102.


Shalkhar, Upper Kinnaur

Shalkhar is a few kilometers northwest of Chango in Upper Kinnaur. Its monastery, called Lhabrang (ལྷ་བྲང་), is connected by the local tradition with the famous translator Rinchen Zangpo (རིན་ཆེན་བཟང་པོ་).

One temple of Shalkhar called Samdrub Chöling (བསམ་གྲུབ་ཆོས་གླིང་) was destroyed in the earthquake of 1975 and only a few pieces of sculpture and some manuscripts remind one today of this once important centre of Buddhism at the time of the early west Tibetan kings. A carved ◊ wooden capital, miraculously well preserved and still in use today, is probably the earliest remaining element of this temple and may be attributed to the 11th century.

  • Luczanits, Christian. 1996. Early Buddhist Wood Carvings from Himachal Pradesh. Orientations 27, no. 6: 67-75.
  • 克里斯汀˙羅札尼茨=Luczanits, Christian. 2003. 西喜馬拉雅地區的早期佛教木刻藝術=The Early Wood Carved Art of Buddhism in the West Himalayan Regions. 西藏研究=Tibetan Studies n.3, no. 總第88期: 115-120.


Sumda Chung, Ladakh

The tiny village of Sumda Chung miraculously preserves all but one of the original sculptures of a Vajradhātu mandala in the niche of its assembly hall. This group is also remarkable for its painting. Of the assembly hall itself only the left side wall and the back part of the room date to the foundation of the temple, while the right wall and entrance area have largely been repainted. The left wall features a fairly well preserved Dharmadhātu mandala with wonderful details. Flanking the front wall of the assembly hall are two chapels dedicated to large sculptures of the Bodhisattvas Maitreya and Avalokiteśvara.

Historically, the site is closely associated with Alchi, as the Dro (འབྲོ་) family that founded Alchi Choskhor derived from Sumda. While only one building has survived, in 1994 two temple ruins could also be identified on the slope towards the village houses. One preserved a wonderful wooden door, which now has been moved to Hemis, the other the fragments of murals from the same period as the assembly hall. The site, thus, once must have been much more important than apparent today.

The ◊ Sumda Chung gallery so far only contains the documentation of 1994 as far as I have it digitally.


Tangye, Upper Mustang

Tangye is a rather remote but picturesque village with a small temple and many chörten. At the eastern end of the village is a painted passage chörten. While the paintings are severely damaged they are an important historical document about the history of Buddhism in the region. While a Sakya school context is clear from the iconography, I have not tried to date the paintings. The ◊ Tangye Passage Chörten gallery provides a documentation of the chörten that is detailed enough that it can be studied. To my knowledge this monument has not yet been published.

Tashi Kabum, Upper Mustang

Tashi Kabum is another chörten cave like Luri and quite close to it, but it is considerably simpler and less well preserved. Unfortunately, its chörten has been destroyed to a large extent, probably in search for precious deposits inside. The cave preserves a wonderful ceiling, a Lama portrait and a depiction of the Ṣaḍakṣara Lokeśvara, and it probably dates slightly later than Luri (◊ Tashi Kabum).

  • McCue, Gary. “Tashi Kabum, a cave temple associated with Luri Gompa in Upper Mustang, Nepal.” https://www.asianart.com/articles/tashikabum/index.html (accessed January 3, 2016). 
  • Slusser, Mary Shepherd, and Lila M. Bishop. 1999. Another Luri: A newly disvovered cave Chorten in Mustang, Nepal. Orientations 30, no. 2: 18-27.