The monastic complex (chos-'khor) at Alchi contains three temples and two chörten attributable to the earliest phase of the complex; the Main Temple (gTsug-lag-khang), the Three-Storeyed Temple or Sumtseg (gSum-brtsegs), the Mañjushri Temple ('Jam-dpal lHa-khang), the Great Chörten and the Small Chörten. These latter decorated gateway chörten (Kakani Chörten, Ka-ka-ni mchod-rten) are of a type unique to Alchi and closely related monuments.
In addition the tower-like structures flanking the Main Temple belong to an early phase of the monastery as well as its courtyard. Somewhat later additions are the Translator's Temple (Lo-tsa-ba lHa-khang) and the so-called New Temple (lHa-khang So-ma) as well as other chörten.
Traditionally the foundation of Alchi Monastery is attributed to the great translator Rinchen Zangpo (Rin-chen-bzang-po; 9581055). However, the oldest monuments preserved are to be dated to the period from the middle of the 12th century to c. 1225.
Practically no historical background is known for the Alchi temples. While upper Ladakh down to Shey or even Leh was at least temporarily under Guge control, lower Ladakh was probably partly independent. Alchi was part of a small kingdom ruled by members of the Dro ('Bro)-clan, a clan of Central Tibetan origin. This kingdom defined itself as part of Tibet in general and West Tibet (mNga'-ris) in particular. The founders of the two temples were monks of the Dro-clan who were educated at Nyarma (a site of an extensive ruin near Tikse monastery).
The Three-Storeyed Temple or Sumtseg (gSum-brtsegs), can be dated to ca. 12001220 on the basis of a lineage of identified teachers on the entrance wall of the third floor. The founder of the Drigung ('Bri-gung) school, called Drigungpa ('Bri-gung-pa; i.e. 'Jig-rten-mgon-po, 11431217) in the caption accompanying the depiction, is the last person of the lineage.
- Pal, Pratapaditya & Lionel Fournier (1982) A Buddhist Paradise: The Murals of Alchi - Western Himalayas. Hong Kong, Visual Dharma Publ.
- Goepper, Roger (1990) 'Clues for a Dating of the Three-Storeyed Temple (Sumtsek) in Alchi, Ladakh.' Asiatische Studien: Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Asienkunde / Études Asiatiques: Revue de la Société Suisse d'Études Asiatiques 44 (2): 15975.
- Goepper, Roger & Jaroslav Poncar (1996) Alchi. Ladakh's hidden Buddhist sanctuary. The Sumtsek. London, Serindia.
Page last updated: 16.12.2005