the ART of Guge: a western Tibet kingdom

revision18 Mar 2001
Print Version

I have given some thought to the proposition that it might not be in the best interests of Gu-ge art to publish these images on the web. Such argument suggests that any resultant popularity might lead to an influx of visitors whose presence will contribute to a degradation of spirituality; the loss of the regionís sense of isolation; and, in the case of art works to increasing possibilities for theft. There is some validity in all these propositions.
On the other hand, Tholing and Tsaparang are already described in regional guidebooks; the very real difficulties both physical and financial, of travelling to Gu-ge will ensure that visitors are few; increased interest in the Gu-ge art may allow extra funds and effort to be directed towards preservation; and extra visitors may influence the authorities to improve their approach to security.
Finally, publication gives opportunity for a wider audience to sense how these artists of the Himalaya helped enhance the human spirit. In my view the arguments in favour of publication are more potent.

I offer these photographs in homage and respect to the artists of Gu-ge,
those who supported them,
and the philosophy which gave them origin.


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Images from Tholing and Tsaparang

Seated siddha
seated siddha seated siddha
detail  right wrist detail right wrist
detail right hand detail right hand
detail garments detail garments
detail left foot detail left foot
detail knee drapesdetail knee drapes
detail left ankle detail left ankle
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Black warrior
seated siddha Black warrior
detail  face detail face
detail right stirrup detail right stirrup
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Chain-mail warrior
chain-mail warrior chain-mail warrior
detail  horses head detail horses head
detail warrior's head detail warrior's head
chain-mail links chain-mail links found in Tsaparang cave
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Gompa window
monks at window monks at window
detail  monks at window detail monks at window
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un-grouped images 1
jewel in the lotusjewel in the lotus
temple lion temple lion
clouds clouds
people on house ladder people on house ladder
'flower' 'flower'
black handblack hand
apsara with staff apsara with staff
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un-grouped images 2
monk with incense burnermonk with incense burner
Chenrezig Chenrezig
altar support figure altar support figure
temple lion temple lion
hand with wand hand with wand
altar support figuredetail knee drapes
apsara apsara
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Scenes around Tholing
hills north of Tolinghills north of Tholing
approching Toling approaching Tholing
distant view of the Sutlej gorges and the snows of the Indian Himalaya beyond distant view of the Sutlej gorges and the snows of the Indian Himalaya beyond
Toling from the north Tholing from the north
Toling main street Tholing main street
Rinchen Zangpo chortenRinchen Zangpo chorten
Toling river path Tholing river path looking east
Toling river path Tholing river path looking west
Pala style chorten Pala style chorten

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Scenes around Tsaparang
approach to Tsaparangapproach to Tsaparang
the Tsaparang citadel the Tsaparang citadel
stairway to the Tsaparang citadel stairway to the Tsaparang citadel
Tsaparang citadel Tsaparang citadel looking north
Tsaparang looking down Tsaparang looking down
repairing statue handrepairing statue hand (Khorchar gompa)

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Collecting the photos:
The images were collected during a two day visit to Tholing and Tsaparang by John and Diane McKinnon in September 1997. At that time permission to photograph the interiors fluctuated, seemingly dependent upon whim and avarice of the temple guardians.
We had no special equipment and limited time. The quality of the final results are more a reflection of the skill of those original artists than that of the photographer.
Because our note-taking was scanty I am not able to reliably attribute images to a particular temple other than to say that they were all taken in Tholing or Tsaparang.
Where images are details from an original photograph they are grouped together. Otherwise, they are in no particular order.

I welcome comments, criticisms or corrections.

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Last updated: 18 Mar, 2001

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