Three Structural Units

The Tabo Main Temple (Tsuklak Khang གཙུག་ལག་ཁང་) is called Penden Tashi Déné (དཔལ་ལྡན་བཀྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་གནས་) in the renovation inscription of 1042 CE. The temple has three structural units, all of them going back to the foundation in the late tenth century. The small Entry Hall in the east is followed by a spacious Assembly Hall and a Cella surrounded by an Ambulatory (see the plan). In front of the entrance to the old structure an additional entry room has been erected in relatively recent times.

The Entry Hall (Gokhang སྒོ་ཁང་) is dedicated to introductory themes. The Assembly Hall (Dukhang འདུ་ཁང་) features a sculptural Vajradhātu mandala assembly, a painted Dharmadhātu mandala assembly intertwined with it, the Buddhas of the ten directions, two narrative cycles in a clockwise arrangement and a large fragmentary donor depiction. The Cella (Dritsangkhang དྲི་གཙང་ཁང་) in the back of the temple contains a three family configuration of sculptures dating to the foundation of the monument. It is surrounded by an Ambulatory (Korlam སྐོར་ལམ་) filled with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Each of these spaces is introduced in greater detail on a separate page and references to specialised literature are found there.

As attested by an inscribed depiction on the south wall of the Entry Hall, the Tabo Main Temple was founded by king Yéshé Ö (ཡེ་ཤེས་འོད་). An inscription to one side of the Cella, known as the Renovation Inscription (edited and translated in Steinkellner & Luczanits 1999), records that the temple was founded in a monkey year and renovated 46 years later by the great-nephew of Yéshé Ö, Jangchup Ö (བྱང་ཆུབ་འོད་), 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 (◊ Cella and ◊ Mandala Sculptures), 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.

Selected Literature
  • Luczanits, Christian. 2020. From Tabo to Alchi: Revisiting Early Western Himalayan Art. Orientations 51, no. 5: 36-47.
  • Harrison, Paul. 2009. Tabo Studies III. A Cataloque of the Manuscript Collection of Tabo Monastery. Volume I: Sūtra Texts (Śer phyin, Phal chen, dKon brtsegs, mDo sde, Myaṅ ‘das). Edited by Cristina Scherrer-Schaub, and Paul Harrison. Serie Orientale Roma. Roma: IsIAO.
  • Scherrer-Schaub, Cristina, and George Bonani. 2008. Establishing a typology of the old Tibetan manuscripts: a multidisciplinary approach. In The Cultural History of Western Tibet. Recent research from the China Tibetology Research Center and the University of Vienna, eds. Deborah Klimburg-Salter, Liang Junyan, Helmut Tauscher, and Zhou Yuan, 299-337. Beijing, Wien: China Tibetology Publishing House, Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien. 
  • Luczanits, Christian. 2004. Buddhist Sculpture in Clay: Early Western Himalayan Art, late 10th to early 13th centuries. Chicago: Serindia. 
  • 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, ed. Jonathan A. Silk, 315-331. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. 
  • Scherrer-Schaub, Cristina Anna, and Ernst Steinkellner. 1999. Tabo Studies II. Manuscripts, Texts, Inscriptions, and the Arts. Serie Orientale Roma. Rome: IsIAO.
  • Petech, Luciano, and Christian Luczanits, eds. 1999. Inscriptions from the Tabo Main Temple. Texts and Translations. Serie Orientale Roma. Rome: IsIAO.
  • Steinkellner, Ernst, and Christian Luczanits. 1999. The renovation inscription of the Tabo gTsug lag khaṅ. New edition and translation. In Inscriptions from the Tabo Main Temple. Texts and Translations, eds. Luciano Petech, and Christian Luczanits, LXXXIII, 9-28. Rome: IsIAO.
  • 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.
  • Steinkellner, Ernst. 1995. Sudhana’s Miraculous Journey in the Temple of Ta pho. The inscriptional text of the Tibetan Gaṇḍavyūhasūtra edited with introductory remarks. Serie Orientale Roma 76. Rome.

The quotation below is from the renovation inscription.