en | de

Home | Opening Hours and Directions | Program | Virtual Tour Through the Exhibition | Imprint | WHAV


Very few monasteries with decorations dating from the 10th to 12th centuries CE have survived within the geographical boundaries of the territory that was ruled by the kings of Purang-Guge. The wall paintings and miniatures as well as the ornamental plasterwork and clay sculptures of this period display a common repertoire of forms and iconography.

The Development of Painting in the Western Himalaya

In Tabo, the earliest paintings (late 10th century CE) still show a provincial touch as well as the strong influence of the art of Central Asia, which had been spread by pilgrimage and trade routes.

The so-called Indo-Tibetan style began to appear only at the beginning of the 11th century CE, and the monuments associated with the ruling dynasty of that period began to have a homogeneous appearance. The paintings, which use bright, intensive colours effectively highlighted with gold embellishments and three-dimensional decoration, attempt to portray the heavenly world flooded with light. The ideal body shape of the figures and the portrayal of thrones and the architecture of palaces are modelled after the art of Kashmir. Stylistic similarities to the early sculpture of Kashmir can be seen in the oval faces with pointed hairlines, the softly undulating torsos, and the symmetrical folds or the patchwork patterns of the monks’ clothing.

After the intensely creative period and the bustling artistic activity of the previous century, the art production in the 13th and 14th centuries became considerably less. A painted cloth scroll (thang-ka), presumably from Tabo, portraying the Buddha Amitðbha is a rare example of the artistic output of this period. Pan-Indian iconographic features can be traced back to the 8th century and the art of the Hindukush as well as the earlier art of North India.

Sacred art experienced an renewed upswing only at the beginning of the 15th century CE. This renaissance brought a multitude of high-quality paintings and temple decorations. The iconography and stylistic mannerism are based above all on the Indo-Tibetan art of the 11th century.


One finds painted clay sculptures and ornamental stucco in nearly all the Buddhist monuments of the Western Himalaya. They constitute the most important component of temple decorations. The sculptures are usually found in the main niches of sacred shrines. The polychrome sculptures have undergone numerous changes and repairs during the last centuries and have, for the most part, been repainted several times. Both the clay sculptures from Fondukistan and the larger-than-life clay sculptures from Tabo and Alchi as well as the small alter figures of bronze or wood are objects of reverence in Buddhist rituals and are often decorated with splendid garments and ceremonial scarves.