The forgotten Kingdom of Guge - a Visit to Tholing Monastery

Kloster Tholing Königreich Guge
The forgotten Kingdom of Guge - a visit to Tholing Monastery

China, Tibet. The Tholing monastery from the 9th century is a Buddhist monastery. It was also the religious centre of the old kingdom of Guge. The monastery is famous for its partially preserved murals and has been on the monument list of the People's Republic of China since 1996. If you visit the forgotten kingdom of Guge in western Tibet, you should also visit Tholing Monastery. In my following article you will learn more about the monastery Tholing.

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Kloster Tholing Guge
In front of the entrance to the monastery a sign informs about the history of the place.

Tholing Monastery looks back on a history of about 1000 years. As in many other Tibetan monasteries, it was closed down during the Cultural Revolution in 1966. The monastery suffered heavy damage during this time. Numerous buildings were destroyed, most of the statues were destroyed and the wall paintings were extensively damaged. Since then, however, many buildings have been reconstructed. But the work is still going on. The most important buildings you can visit here at the moment are:

  • the main prayer hall (Dukhang), also called the Red Palace
  • the White Chapel (Lhakhang Karpo)
  • Yeshe Ö's Mandala Chapel (Nampar Lang Lhakhang), also called Golden Temple

Unfortunately, photography inside the temples is not allowed here either. Therefore there are only photos from the outside and descriptions of what I have seen inside

Kloster Tholing Königreich Guge
Stupa in front of the Tholing Monastery in the former Kingdom of Guge

The main Prayer Hall of Tholing

The main prayer hall of the Tholing monastery was built in the 11th century. It dates back to about the same time as the temples in Tsaparang. The wall paintings of the hall suffered heavy damage during the Cultural Revolution. But the preserved works are still very impressive and fascinate by their variety and details. Among other things you can see pictures from the life of Buddha and Rinchen Zangpro. The strong influence of Kashmir and Nepal can be seen in the palm trees and Indian clothes. However, there is no agreement about the age of the murals. The information ranges from the 13th to the 16th century. To the left of the entrance three of the paintings were restored. However, the work was stopped again. In the middle of the prayer hall figures of the past, present and future Buddhas were placed in the 90s. The throne in front of the figures is from the year 2018 and is dedicated to the XIII Dalai Lama.

Gebetstrommeln Kloster Tholing
Prayer drums in front of the main prayer hall of Tholing Monastery

The White Chapel of Tholing

The White Chapel is 500 years old and only about half as old as the main prayer hall. The murals are from the 15th to 16th century. Many were destroyed by water damage or during the Cultural Revolution. They show male gods on one side and female Boddhisatvas on the other. To the right of the entrance a painting shows scenes of an air burial. Opposite the entrance there are also eight restored medical Buddhas. To their left and right are the White and the Green Tara.

Die Weiße Kapelle vom Kloster Tholing Königreich Guge
The White Chapel of Tholing

The Golden Temple of Tholing

The Golden Temple is the holiest place in the entire monastery. It was also the main building of the entire monastery complex. During the Cultural Revolution it was badly damaged, the four lateral chapels, the two upper floors and all statues and paintings were destroyed. It houses the throne of Atisha and the throne of Rinchen Zangpro, the founder of the monastery. The raised floor in front of the thrones is then as now the place for Mandala sacrifices made of rice.

Book Recommendations for Tibet

You want to know where the journey goes? Then I can recommend these books* about Tibet.

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Have you ever been to Western Tibet and visited the monastery of Tholing? How did you like it? Do you have any questions about my article or suggestions? If so, please write me a comment!

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