Main Temple

The Tabo Main Temple (Tsuklakhang = gTsug lag khang) consists of three structural entities, all of them going back to the foundation of the temple (> Plan of the Tabo Main Temple): an Entry Hall (Gokhang; sGo khang) dedicated to protective deities, an Assembly Hall (Dukhang = 'Du khang) featuring a three-dimensional Vajradhātu mandala, and a Cella (Dritsangkhang = Dri gtsang khang) surrounded by an Ambulatory (Korlam = sKor lam). In front of the entrance to the old structure an additional entry room has been erected in relatively recent times.

As attested by an inscribed depiction on the south wall of the Entry Hall, the Tabo Main Temple was founded by king Yeshe-ö (Ye-shes-’od). An inscription to one side of the Cella, known as the Renovation Inscription (edited and translated in Petech & Luczanits), records that the temple was founded in a Monkey Year and renovated 46 years later by the great-nephew of Yeshe-ö, Changchub-ö (Byang-chub-’od), who is probably the figure represented in the centre above the inscription. As first suggested by Klimburg-Salter, these dates most likely correspond to 996 and 1042 respectively.

Owing to its generally good state of preservation the Tabo Main Temple today constitutes the most important source of knowledge of early western Himalayan art during the Purang-Guge kingdom. The Tabo Main Temple is remarkable for its clay sculptures (◊ Tabo Mandala Sculpture Gallery and Tabo Cella Sculpture Gallery), its narrative art, the painted textiles on the ceiling, the textile and costume depictions in the murals and its 'library', a collection of 40.000 pages of scattered manuscripts of which the majority is older than the formation of the Tibetan Canon (see for example Scherrer-Schaub & Steinkellner).


  • Klimburg-Salter, Deborah E. (1997) Tabo – a Lamp for the Kingdom. Early Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Art in the Western Himalaya. Milan - New York, Skira - Thames and Hudson.


  • Petech, Luciano & Christian Luczanits eds. (1999) Inscriptions from the Tabo Main Temple. Texts and Translations. Serie Orientale Roma, Vol. LXXXIII. Rome, IsIAO.


  • Scherrer-Schaub, Cristina Anna & Ernst Steinkellner (1999) Tabo Studies II. Manuscripts, Texts, Inscriptions, and the Arts. Serie Orientale Roma, Vol. LXXXVII. Rome, IsIAO.
  • Steinkellner, Ernst (2001) Manuscript Fragments, Texts, and Inscriptions in the Temple of Tabo. An Interim Report with Bibliography. In: Wisdom, Compassion, and the Search for Understanding. The Buddhist Studies Legacy of Gadjin M. Nagao, edited by Jonathan A. Silk. Honolulu, University of Hawai'i Press: 315–31.


  • Wandl, Erna (1997) The Representation of Costumes and Textiles. In: Tabo – a Lamp for the Kingdom. Early Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Art in the Western Himalaya, edited by Deborah E. Klimburg-Salter. Milan – New York, Skira – Thames and Hudson: 179–87.
  • Wandl, Erna (1999) Painted Textiles in a Buddhist Temple. Textile History 30 (1): 16–28.
  • Wandl, Erna (1999) Textile depictions from the 10th/11th century in the Tabo Main Temple. In: Tabo Studies II. Manuscripts, Texts, Inscriptions, and the Arts, edited by C.A. Scherrer-Schaub & E. Steinkellner. Serie Orientale Roma, Vol. LXXXVII. Rome, IsIAO: 277–98.