Category Archives: Art

Art China Hebei Planning Shaanxi Shanxi Yu, Guangling, and Yangyuan

Fundraiser and Video Lectures

So, as most of you probably know, over the last months I’ve been having a fundraiser to get back to China for another mural collecting trip:

This fundraiser has now achieved its target, and I’m flying to Beijing tomorrow, January 1st. So, expect more murals from here on out. To that end, I made the below series of youtube videos introducing the project and the artistic traditions of Yu County. Hope you enjoy!


Art China Gansu Hebei

Objects Belonging to Langdon Warner in the Possession of the Fogg Art Museum

Above Top: Langdon Warner on a camel at Kara-Khoto in 1923. Image from “Langdon Warner Through His Letters”.
Above Middle: Langdon Warner ~1910, or roughly thirty years old. Image from “Langdon Warner Through His Letters”.
Above Bottom: The Tang dynasty Boddhisattva removed by Langdon Warner from Cave 328 at Mogao and carted, wrapped in his under-clothes, all the way back to Xi’an, thence by train to the coast, and from there to America and the Fogg Art Museum.


Apologies for the very long hiatus in updates. I’m back in Boston now briefly, via Berkeley, China, Amdo, Berkeley again, and soon to be Berkeley once more. In the next few posts I’m going to try to shoot up a few of the collections I’ve been able to make over the last six months or so.

Langdon Warner (1881-1955) got his start as an archaeologist and art historian in Asia in 1903, when he was participated as a volunteer at the excavations at Anau in what’s now Turkmenistan, then the Russian Empire. His career did not truly begin, however, until 1906. In this year the Boston MFA and Harvard University decided that they needed expertise in the art of Japan. For this purpose two young men were selected and sent to that country to study the language and the high arts; one of those men was Langdon Warner. From this year until 1952, Langdon Warner made eighteen trips into Asia. Japan and Japanese art was always his passion, but he travelled elsewhere as well: most famously the two Fogg Expeditions to Dunhuang in 1923-25, but also long stays in Beijing, journeys to Longmen, to Yungang, to Ankor Wat, to Korea, as well as a ride north across Mongolia and into Russia during the First World War, where he served as an American liaison with the Czech Legion during their Trans-Siberian anabasis. By the outbreak Second World War, he had retired from adventurous collecting and was teaching at Harvard. (He never became a full professor; so far as I know he never even had a doctorate.) During the war years he taught a course on Japanese language and culture in Washington DC, and for a brief period at the war’s end became one of the “Monuments Men” in Japan and Korea.

He was also my grandfather. His son, Caleb Warner, is 94 years in 2017, and still living now in an Assisted Living Facility in Bedford MA. Caleb Warner’s daughter, Langdon Warner’s grand-daughter, is my mother.

Roughly two years ago, our family was contacted by the Fogg Museum at Harvard. It turned out that when Langdon Warner died, he had left a large number of objects in the possession of the museum, originally lent to them for teaching purposes. Although they had remained in the museum for over sixty years, the ownership still technically resided with LW’s heirs. We of course immediately stated that we would gift the objects to the museum where they already were, but we did ask as our only condition that we could arrange a viewing of the objects for family interest. This happened in January 2017.

Most of the items are minor pieces – a collection of Korean kiln cast-offs, small Chinese bronze objects presumably from the Beijing antique shops, some interesting clay figurines, a Japanese dharmapāla, some rubbings possibly from Xi’an, and sundry other odds and ends. Langdon Warner’s wife, my great-grandmother née Lorraine Roosevelt, also collected and wrote about Asian art; items probably gathered by her included some Korean kiln cast-offs and scraps of fabric perhaps once intended for clothing. I’ve put all the photos given to us by the museum up here, as well as some of my own highlights.

It’s also my strong opinion that if Langdon Warner wasn’t the most illustrious or successful of the Silk Road explorers, he was far and away the best writer. I’ve never seen PDFs of LW’s two “travel books” online, so I’ve stuck up links to my PDF copies here. Click to download, “Long Old Road in China” and “Langdon Warner Through His Letters“. Always my favorite excerpt, describing his entrance into the Mogao Caves of Dunhuang:

Chapter XIV (p 138): The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas

“After all these years and all these miles, and the hours spent examining the reproductions of M. Pelliot’s photographs, there was nothing to do but gasp. Hardly in ten days, during which I never left the caves except for food, could I bring myself to the task of critical study. For the holy men of fourteen centuries ago had left their gods in splendour on those walls. Tens of thousands of them, walking in slow procession, seated calm on flowering lotus blossoms, with hands raised to bless mankind, or wrapt in meditation or deeper still sunk in thoughtless Nirvana. They were the very gods whose existence I had only guessed. Sir Aurel Stein shows one or two in his book, and Professor Pelliot has five volumes of them and another volume still to come. Learned gentlemen, in books costing seventy-three shillings and sixpence net, discuss the ancestry and progeny of the Chinese pantheon and base their findings upon their study of these reproductions.

But in the very presence, such things are not. These dim figures, half faded from the walls in an irreligious age, and lit only by a half-reflected twilight from the winter sun outside, are a company of elder gods who have not left the earth with their noble companions long since fled. They people those high halls in silence so profound and full of meaning that for the first time I understood why I had crossed an ocean and two continents, plodding beside my cart these weary months, to assure myself of their presence. It was not so much active realizing of their surpassing beauty that made me satisfied and dulled my critical sense: it was this reality of the unreal. They were there not as living beings, certainly not as dead ones. I, who had come to attribute dates and glibly to refute the professors and to discover artistic influences, stood in the centre of the chapel with my hands dug deep in my pockets and tried to think. Surely I, an American and no Buddhist, in the year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty four, had been vouchsafed a vision… It grew dark and I strolled back to my room wondering.

It was veritably Chien Fo Tung, the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, for big and little, half-obliterated or almost perfect, there were tens of thousands of figures on those walls. Many of the most superb were so nearly gone that one must stand at a distant and discreet angle to know that they were there at all. They seemed to be retiring gradually from the light of common day. Perhaps they were already gone to the peak of the Sumeru Mountain, whence the storks fly off with pine boughs in their long bills and where there is a gentle rain of lotus petals all the sunless, shadowless day, which stretches nightless to eternity. Often it seemed as if they were indeed gone and had left but shadows and pictures of themselves on the walls. And yet among the shadows and the pictures I came on figures which gave forth a sombre glow and looked through and past my gaze with such ineffable, dispassionate calm that I knew them to be there in the very spirit, a spirit much more themselves than the blood and flesh which made up my body and was the real I. …”

The things I liked from the Fogg collection:

Below: Bronze Belt Buckles:

Below: A TLV mirror. I’ve always been a bit fascinated by these things, but never held one in my hands before that.

Below: Fabric samples, perhaps collected for sewing projects by Lorraine:

Below: One of Lorraine’s Korean celadon pieces:

Below: The torso of the Japanese Dharmapāla:

This below here is actually my favorite set of pieces, and the catalyst of a small but very good adventure, were these wood-blocks. The label on the back reads, “Used to impress designs on clay doorways of farmhouses. West Kansu Province, China, 1925”, and the Chinese on the blocks gives apotropaic characters and recipes.

The odd thing, however, was this block, set with the others, but in a totally different style, with much finer workmanship. The figure didn’t look like any Gansu-nese village iconography I’d ever seen, and I’ve seen more than most people. The block also wasn’t labeled as being from Gansu like the other two.

I brought this to my friend at Berkeley, Ryosuke K. Ueda, who after a quick search online identified the block as representing Akiba Gongben 秋葉権現, the patron deity and fire-prevention spirit of the Akihabara District of Tokyo. Langdon Warner or someone else must have purchased the block in Tokyo and then stuck it together with the two Gansu-nese blocks, to illustrate the common technique of woodblock printing apotropaic charms. Afterwards, the exact provenance of the Japanese block was lost.

Here are the rest of the pictures, as provided by the university. You can view the file concordance they gave us here.

Amdo Art China Gansu Tibet

Tibetan Briefcase Art



The below is a collection of Tibetan book-holders. I took the photos where they were hung and stacked in the entry-way of the main prayer hall of rGan Gya dGon Pa, on the plateau north of Labrang, while bumping around on a fortressologizing trip with my dad this summer. Afterwards I spent a long time looking to buy one in various places. They are hard to find now, and good ones have to be commissioned specially from craftsmen. The best ones here have been individually hand painted on each panel, and the wooden frame enameled with silver. Other than rGan Gya, where it seemed that every monk had one, I have not seen them in common use elsewhere.

These things are called by are different names in different places. In Labrang they are called Shog Bu Ba Li, in Rebgong they are called Lag Shing, and in Lhasa-dialect they are Shing Leb. Tibetan books (dPe Cha) are long, flat, and loose-leafed. The idea is that you bind the book with cloth, press them between these two boards, and bind the whole thing tight with a cord. I think they are an eminently lovely way to carry your books around.




























Amdo Art Tibet

More Tibetan Doors and Windows


A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to spend two nights in a place called gYu Thog Monastery, in ‘Dzam Thang rDzong of south-eastern Amdo. (The place can be found on the maps as 四川壤塘縣魚托寺). The monastery is one of the few bKa’ rGyud sect institutions in eastern Tibet, and houses several hundred monks. The people I met were extremely kind and hospitable to a foreign traveler who arrived both sunburned and soaking wet, and who was unable to walk for most of the next day due to blisters.



Although the area considers itself part of Amdo, the architectural influence of nearby Khams is everywhere obvious. The traditional houses are built usually built of white-painted stone and red-painted timber, in three stories accessed by stairs or ladders. The lowest story is (traditionally) used as a barn for yaks and sheep. The middle story is living spaces and the third story is a cavernous attic often open on one or two sides, used for storage and for drying grain. In the more modern houses, the first story has become a sort of garage for motorcycles and boots, while the second and third stories contain bed rooms and big multi-use living rooms with central cooking stoves and duvets for sleeping.

As is my usual habit, I went around the place one rainy morning with a camera and a stick for dogs, collecting pictures of doors and windows. Traditionally such windows would have been made of a wooden grill with an outer covering of boards to be closed when foul weather threatened – one or two examples of this can be seen below. In the present day (despite the traditional form, none of these houses are particularly old) glass is commonly used. The results are below; I put what I thought were the prettiest examples at full scale.








Finally, just because I don’t think I ever put these up on this blog before (although they’ve been on the sidebar), here is another collection of doors and windows from places around Khams. These were taken over the course of a walking trip in winter and spring 2009. They represent a variety of different regional styles, from all over both northern and southern Khams.



Art China Qinghai Tibet Translation

The Long Valley of Trefoils, or, Some of the Outer Regions of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring

bon rgya dgom pa


'ol mo lung ring stretched FULL

Above upper: The monastery of Hundred Bon (tb. Bon brGya dGon Chen) in a the mountains above Rebgong.
Above middle: Inside the big new pagoda in Bon brGya
Above lower: A map of the Bon holy realm ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring, which hangs in the main prayer hall.

Last November, my friend Jasper Henderson and I made a trip up to Rebgong to attend a ‘Cham dance at Hundred-Bon Monastery (bon brgya dgon chen). While we were there, we took the opportunity to photograph the details of a giant map of the Bon holy land ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring which hangs in the main prayer-hall there (see picture above). This was apposite since at the time I was being bothered by some Ukrainian kid who showed up from this left-fascist group Sut’ Vremeni and in good Nazi-esotericist style seemed convinced that “Dark Bonpo” was the key to their movement’s world domination and that Sergei Kurginyan and the other luminaries at the top where in on this too. Against this background of general Russo-Tibetan weirdness it seemed useful to go and see some Dark Bonpo for ourselves. And since the whole Sut’ Vremeni Bon interest was apparently influenced by the zany late-60s theories of Whatshisface Kuznetsov and Lev Gumilyov about Bon geography being an elaborately disguised map of Sasanian Persia, it seemed worth it to photograph the big ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring diagram too.

(It’s worth stating at the outset here that I’m a skeptic about the whole “Bon texts contain information brought from Central Asia” theory. Among other things the whole Bon holy-land called sTag gZig equals “Tajik” idea, which is quoted as fact in a whole number of sources, seems extremely unproven to me. These Tibetological authors seem blithely content to ignore the complicated history of that ethonym in Central Asia, as well as the fact that sTag gZig already has a perfectly good mythical-toponym meaning in Tibetan [“Tigers and Leopards”]. The rest of the not-obviously-invented geography about this place seems to refer fairly explicitly to Mount Kailash and the regions surrounding it. I’m not saying that some aspects of Bon didn’t come from Central Asia but this seems very unproven to me at present.)

Anyways photographing this map was easier said than done – the map hangs quite high up in the dimly lit hall. The monks brought us two tall stools, and we balanced precariously there. Jasper shone a flashlight on the painting and I, trying to keep my hands steady, was able to photograph some of the lower bits. Then, because this blog is generally about sacred geography, world mountains, and visual lists and itineraries in Asian art, I’ve tried to translate some of the captions here.

Katie Buffetrille published an article in 2009 (“Khyung Mo Monastery [A’mDo] and it’s ‘Map’ of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring”) which briefly describes a nearly identical map which hung another nearby Bon monastery, Khyung Mo dGon Pa in Tri Kha / Guide 貴德. Later on I went to this monastery but wasn’t able to see the map there. In any case her pictures and descriptions demonstrate that the two maps were almost identical. Buffetrille’s map in Khyung Mo monastery was produced in the ’70s or ’80s by a local painter who copied it from an original by one sBra Ser Pandita, who was active in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. At least one other copy of the map exists, located in dGa ‘Mal dGon Pa in Shar Khog (Buffetrille, 323). If there is such a detailed dedication on the Hundred-Bon map I didn’t see it, but it’s unarguably another late 20th century copy of this, no doubt made from one of the neighboring maps.

The dedication on the map (located just beneath the palace of Sham Po in the lower-center) reads as follows:

mchan yig bris pa dge slong bsod nams g.yung drung dang / lha bzo ‘od gsal lha mgon rnam sras sku mched gsum / rgyu ‘byor yon bdag dad ldan so nag dbang phyug gis  / dmangs sgor stong phrag gnyis bcas phul ba’i bsod nams kyi / dge ba’i mthu la brtan nas zhing ‘dir myur du skye bar shog / sarba mngaga lam /

The notes were written by dGe sLong bSod Nams g.Yung Drung / The artists [lit: “god-makers”] were the three brothers, ‘Od gSal, Lha mGon, and rNam Sras / The donor of the wealth [for the painting], the faithful one, Black-Tooth dBang Phyug / made an offering of two thousand yuan / may the power of the meritorious virtue quickly arise at this place / Sarva Mangalam!

As both Katia Buffetrille and Dan Martin point out, there seems to have been a slow process of elaboration of this sacred geography over the centuries. The earliest eleventh or twelfth century Bon geographical descriptions give a fairly sparse list of countries which seem to be derived partly from early Buddhist sources – of the non-Buddhist locations which appear in these lists, one of them is sTag gZig ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring (Martin, 260). Later on these geographies became increasingly elaborate and, to my eye, increasingly fantastical, until at least by the 19th century gigantic maps such as the one above were being produced, containing hundreds of individual place-names. The one below is reproduced in both Snellgrove (plate XXII) and Martin (p. 270) – Dan Martin speculates that it was created based on 12th century geographical texts and some other source, possibly the 14th century gZi brJid (Martin 275). He also points out that it seems to be mainly a gazetteer of places associated with the life of the mythical Bon founder, sTon Pa gShen Rab.

from snellgrove

I don’t think I’m up to a full comparison of all these sources at the moment, which would necessitate a full transcription of the entire map and a long paper in itself. In any case the map in Hundred-Bon and the one supplied by Martin and Snellgrove seems to have one major difference, which is that in their version there are in total six rings of earth and water, while the Hundred-Bon and Khyung Mo versions only have five.

There’s also the below Thang Ka. This is reproduced in Dan Martin (Olmo Lungring, a Holy Place Here and Beyond) and also on the wikipedia page for sTag gZig ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring, which is where I downloaded the image. According to the citation in Martin’s article, this is a 19th century Tibetan production which is currently in the possession of the Rubin Museum in New York, and that’s all the information I’ve been able to get on it.


Speculatively, it could also be pointed out regarding the apparently rather recent production of all of these Bon maps, that there are two fairly obvious and nearby Buddhist inspirations for the large-scale depiction of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring. The first is the big depictions of Shambhala commonly found on the flanking walls of the entrances of large Buddhist monasteries in at least in Amdo and probably elsewhere too. These usually show the circular realm of Shambhala (tb. Sham BHa La) surrounded by mountains and the armies of Raudra Chakrin (tb. Drag Po ‘Khor Lo Can, “The Fierce One of the Wheels”) marching out to defeat the forces of evil at the end of this age. If Buddhists were going to depict their Central Asian holy realm in their monasteries, the Bonpo obviously felt the need to match them.



Above: The holy realm of Shambhala, arranged like an eight-spoked wheel. 


Above: Raudra Chakrin slaying the king of the Mleccha.

The second inspiration for the Bon ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring drawing is probably the great cosmological diagrams which can less commonly be found flanking the same entrances as the Shambhala drawings. These usually show the great axis-mundi Mount Meru, with the concentric rings of mountains, seas, and continents spreading out at its foot. This concentric cosmology is suggested in the Bon map by the nested squares of lands and seas, which increase in sanctity as one travels inward and culminate in the white mountain of Kailash (tb. Gangs Ti Se) at the center.


Above: An cosmological diagram showing Mt. Meru with the heavens extending from its tip, surrounded by rings of mountains and nine continents. Taken from sGo dMar dGon Pa in Rebgong.


Above: Another more contemporary-style image of the Buddhist cosmos from La Mo bDe Chen in gCan Tsha.

Depictions of Mount Meru go back to even before the birth of the Buddha, but the detailed diagrams of Raudra Chakrin’s ride out of Shambhala seem to have been a fairly recent topic in Tibetan monastic art. Speculatively, this may suggest something as to the impetus for the Bonpos to start producing pictures of their own holy land.

Returning to our original Bon map of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring, I’ve tried to translate some of the place names attached to the pictures. Going in a widdershins Bon kora, I’ve started out from the lower-left corner and swung right from there to the central palace in the lower part of the picture. The upper parts, while maybe more interesting, were too high up to photograph easily and so I haven’t been able to reproduce or translate them in detail. East faces down in this map, hence the great palace of Sham Po on the eastern river Na Ra Dza Ra there. Thus west is at the top, north to the right, and south to the left. Excuse my bad Tibetan translation skills please, and correct all mistakes you find!


The Lower Left Corner:

lower left - FULL

lower left charnel ground

dur khrod // mya ngam thang nag sdobs chen khyab pa bsgral ba’i dur khrod // dpal mgon // dur khyi //  dur bya // ma mo yum // dbal bon // sa ‘dul mchod rten // tur me //

Charnel Ground // The Liberating Charnel Ground [called] Black Plain of Suffering, Full of Powerful Ones. // The Glorious Protector // Charnel Dog // Charnel Birds // Female Ma Mo // A Bonpo of Fire // An Earth Subduing Stupa // Charnel Fire /

lower left - bya ri gtsug ldan

g.yung drung gtsug gshen rgyal ba // bya ri gtsug ldan ‘bar ba naks tshal gyi dgon pa /

The Eternal Highest gShen King // The Forest Monastery of the Bird Mountain of Shining Peacocks


lower left - rtag gzigs bya ri

lower left - rtag gzigs bya ri - detail

rtag gzigs bya ri gtsug ldan gyi grub gnas /

Perfected Place of the Bird Mountain of Peacocks in rTag gZigs /

lower left - rang byung mchod rten

rang byung mchod rden dkar po // phyag [ ] mchod pa’i zhing mchog /

A Self-Arising White Stupa // The Pure Realm of Hand [ ] Offerings /

lower left - gser gling

lower left - gser gling - detail 01

gser gling gser rgyud ces pa rgyal po’i khab / gnod sbyin pho mos sgo khyi byas pa’i tshul /

The House of the King who Speaks the Golden Tantra of the Golden Realm / The Place Where Male and Female Yakshas Act as Door-Dogs /

lower left - gser gling - detail 02

gnod sbyin pho /

A Male Yaksha /

lower left - brag seng ge rgyab bsnol

lower left - brag seng ge rgyab bsnol - detail 01

lower left - brag seng ge rgyab bsnol - detail 02

brag seng ge rgyab bsnol /

The Lions of the Cliffs, Opposite to Each Other /

lower left - phya rje rgyal po

phya rje rgyal po’i rgyal sa / [ ] ling ma’i yul // btsun mo /

The Kingdom of the King [called] the Lord of Fate / The Land of the [ ] Ling Ma. // A Pure Woman /

lower left - dga' ldan lha yi yul

lower left - dga' ldan lha yi yul - detail

lower left - dga' ldan lha yi yul - detail 02

dga’ ldan lha yi gling / ston pas lha sa bon ‘khor bskor ba’i gnas yin /

The Realm of the Joyful God / This is the Abode where the Buddhas of the God’s Place Bon Turn the Wheels /

lower left - gsas khang pad ma

gsas khang pad ma ba bkra gling / lha mo su brgya’i pho brang / btsun mo phya za ‘gu li[ ] ma’i sgrub pa sbyang ba’i […]

The Brilliant Realm of the Lotus Temple / The Palace of a Hundred Goddesses / […] of the Practice and Attainment of the Pure Woman of Fate [‘gu li{ } ma?]


The Lower Left Center:

lower center left - FULL

lower center left - bdud ma hrang khagrub pa thob pa stong dang rtsa brgyad bzhugs / shin tu gnyan pa’i gangs yin sgom pa dka’ // bdud ma trang [?] kha chen btul ba’i gnas //

The Dwelling of the One Thousand and Twenty Eight Achieving and Attaining Ones / The Snow is Extremely Fierce, and [there is?] Very Austere Meditation // The Abode of the Taming of the bDud Demon, the Great Trang Kha.

lower center left - charnel ground

sos med khrag mtsho dge stig lam bsgral ba’i dur khrod // sa ‘dul mchod rden // dbal bon khro gtum gdang bkra // dur bya // dur khrod // dur me // bstan pa’i zhing// mkha’ ‘gro // / bdud rgyal stong dur shing // dpal mgon keng chen rag gcod /

The Charnel Ground of Liberation from the Road of Good and Evil, [Called] The Lake of Blood from which there is No Resurrection// Earth Subduing Stupa // A Wrathful and [gdang] Splendid Bon of Fire // Charnel Bird // Charnel Ground // Charnel Fire // The Plane of the Teachings // A Dakini // The Charnel Tree of the Thousand bDud Demon Kings // The Blood-Cutting [?] Glorious Lord, the Great Keng /

lower center left - chu bon ra dza ra la

chu bo na ra dza ra la gru gzings kyis bsgrod pa’i tsul /

The River Na Ra Dza Ra La, the Place Where One Must Travel by Boat /

lower center left - dben gnas shel brag

lower center left - dben gnas shel brag - detail 01

lower center left - dben gnas shel brag - detail 02

dben gnas shel brag gnam skas can /

The Crystal-Cliff Hermitage, which has a Sky Ladder /

lower center left - gsas rje lhos kyi zhing khams

gsas rje hos kyi zhing khams / hos dang ba yi rang gi rgyal sa /

The Realm of the Holy Lord of the Hos / The Royal Land of the Pure Hos /

lower center left - od kyi lha ri

rin chen khrus kyi rdzing bu / dpag bsam shing skyid tsul // ‘od kyi lha ri spo mthon / khams chen po brgyad dang dge bsnyen theg pa gsungs pa’i gnas // a mo li ka’i  rta rgyang grag gcig gis [ ] ba yong /

The Pool where Jewels are Washed / The Happy Realm of the Wish-Granting Tree // The Lofty Summit of the Mountain of the God of Light / The Eight Great Realms and the Realm of the Words of the Vehicle of Those who Approach Virtue / The Horse of A Mo Li Ka which Arrives [ ] over a Distance of One rGyang Grag [~two miles] /

lower center left - phyags gyung trung ba

lower center left - phyags gyung trung ba - detail 01

shar phyogs [?] gyung trung ba gling chen /

The Great Swastika Realm of the Eastern Regions /

lower center left - ri bo sha kya seng ge

ri bo shakya seng ge rtsa ba rgya mtsho gling drug ‘khyil ba’i dbus / mchod rtan bkra shis mang gi gtsos cir yang sprul sku’i mchod rtan brgya dang brgyad / rgyal bu dge ba’i ‘khor lo can la bstan pa rjes su bzhag /

In the Midst of the Six Ocean Realms of the Shakya Lion Mountain Peak / There are Many Auspicious Stupas and Everywhere There are One Hundred and Eight Stupas of Reincarnated Lamas / [?] These Were Placed After the Teachings [by the?] Virtuous Prince who Holds the Wheels /

lower center left - sman la nyams len

sman la nyams len mdzad pa’i dgon pa /

The Monastery of Acting Upon Experience in Medicine /


The Lower Central Palace:

lower center palace - FULL

shar phyogs gsas mkhar sham po lha rtse gnas / 
The Realm of the Holy Peak of Sham Po, in the Fortress of the gSas in the Eastern Regions.

lower center palace - mtha' yi rgyal phran

lower center palace - mtha' yi rgyal phran - detail 01

lower center palace - mtha' yi rgyal phran - detail 02

lower center palace - mtha' yi rgyal phran - detail 03

mtha’ yi rgyal phran nams kyis [ ] rigs kyi rgyal sa nas che rtags [?] yig tshang blangs nas phyir pebs pa’i tsul /

The Place where All the Greatest Feudal States Take The Insignia and Documents of their Greatness from the Kingly Realm of [ ], and then Return /

lower center palace - gyung drung dgu brtsegs

lower center palace - gyung drung dgu brtsegs - detail 01

lower center palace - gyung drung dgu brtsegs - detail 02

g.yung drung dgu brtsegs mthong ba’i shar phyogs na rgyal rigs la skad rigs mi gcig pa sum cu yod / grong khyer ‘bum tso brgyad yod / 

In the Eastern Regions there are Thirty Different Languages of Each Royal Line of the Nine Swastika of the Thousand Tiers / There are Ten Thousand and Eight Cities /

lower central palace - rin chen khrus gyi rdzing bu

rin chen khrus kyi rdzing bu /

The Pool of Washing Jewels /

lower central palace - rin chen khrus gyi rdzing bu - detail 02

lower central palace - rin chen khrus gyi rdzing bu - detail 01

chu bo chen po na ra dza ra la zam pa btsugs pa’i tshul /

The Place Where a Bridge Has Been Erected on the Great River Na Ra Dza Ra /

lower center palace - kun bzang rgyal ba

kun bzang rgyal ba rgya mtsho’i sku /

The Oceanic Body of the All-Good King /


The Dividing Rings:

The central realm of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring is separated off from the outer realms by five rings of mountains and five rings of water. From the innermost to the outermost, these are the First Ring, the Mountains of Gold (ra ba gcig pa gser gyi ri), the Second Ring, Mountains of Silver (ra ba gnyis pa dngul ri), the Third Ring, the Mountains of Conch Shells (ra ba gsum pa dung gi ri), a fourth ring of red mountains which is not labelled in my pictures at least, and the Fifth Ring, the Mountains of Pearl (ra ba lnga pa mu tig gi ri). Each of these is separated by a lake (mtsho) of the same substance. This regions is marked as “Belonging to the King of the Nagas, Takshaka” (klu rgyal ‘jog pos bdag byed). A few pictures:

ringed rivers 01

ringed rivers 02

ringed rivers 03


The Inner Realm:

center sanctum FULL straightened

The inner realm of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring is surrounded by a ring of great palaces and kingly seats. After another ring of water, it becomes a land of stupas, monasteries, and siddhas, rising up in nine tiers to the great world-mountain at the center. A sKor Ra path leading around the mountain can be seen at the base the first tier. Generally speaking though this was all too high up in the dim rafters of the prayer-hall for me to photograph in detail, so I’ve only got a general description.

The mountain is labeled:

g.yung drung dgu brtsegs ri’i rtse mo / srid pa’i gangs ri dkar po / shel dkar gyi mchod rten brtsegs [?] pa’i tshul /

The Female Peak of the Nine Swastika Tiered Mountain / The White Snow Mountain of the Universe / The Land of the Layered Stupa of White Crystal /

From the top it seems that there is a route leading up to a higher paradise, but this was entirely too high to see clearly or photograph.



The ‘Cham


initial procession panorama

As for the ‘Cham itself, it was pretty cool. I’ve attached a few pictures. The order of dances and processions was as follows:

  1. A parade of all of the members of the ‘Cham and monks from the monastery: carrying tall banners and following white chalk marks left on the courtyard floor.
  2. Zhwa Nag brGyad: “Eight Black Hats”
  3. mChod Pai Lha Mo bZhi“Four Offering Goddesses”
  4. Keng Rus bZhi“Four Skeletons”. These came out to bring a heart on a chopping block to the big torma in the center of the ‘Cham. Later on they walked around among the spectators to collect money.
  5. dMu bDud Tang Srid Pa rGyal Mo gNyis“The dMu bDud Demon and the Queen of Existence”
  6. sTag Ri Rong: “The Tiger of Mountains and Valleys” This was by far the most popular god in the ‘cham. The whole monastery went crazy when stag ri rong came out, screaming out the name and going into byin ‘bebs trances.
  7. rMa rGyal Pom Ra: “The King of the Yellow River, Pom Ra”. (Another name for A Mye rMa Chen)
  8. A bSeSo far as I know, this name doesn’t have a meaning.
  9. dMag dPon gNyis“Two War Chiefs”
  10. Shel Khrab Can“The Crystal-Armored One”
  11. Bya Tang Seng Ge gNyis“The Bird and the Lion”
  12. Once again the keng rus “skeletons”
  13. All of the dancers came down together, along with many of the monks: They continued to dance around the courtyard for almost an hour, as many different things took place – the people crowded together to pass under the torma, fireworks were set off, etc., until all the gods and monks were slowly sent back up into the monastery one by one.

019 the mass dance, a bse

gshin rje yab and dmu bdud 02

022 rma chen pom ra tang stag ri rong tang dmu bdudl

Works Cited:

  • Buffetrille, Katia. “Khyung Mo Monastery (A’mDo) and Its ‘Map’ of ‘Ol Mo Lung Ring.” East and West 59.1-4 (2009): 313-26. Web.
  • Martin, Dan.
    • “Olmolungring: A Holy Place Here and Beyond.” Bon, The Magic Word: The Indigenous Religion of Tibet. Ed. Samten G. Karmay and Jeff Watt. New York, NY: Rubin Museum of Art, 2007. 99-123. Print.
    • “‘Ol-Mo-Lung-Ring, the Original Holy Place.” Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan Culture: A Collection of Essays. By Toni Huber. Dharamsala, H.P.: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1999. 258-97. Print.
  • Snellgrove, David L. The Nine Ways of Bon. London: Oxford U, 1967. Print.