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Monasteries

Dratang Gönpa

Dratang Entrance of Dratang Gönpa
Dratang Monastery was founded in 1081 by Drapa Ngönshe, a tertön living in the Dranang valley. Similarly to Samye monastery it was constructed according to the Buddhist view of the universe, the so called "Mandala". However from the three surrounding walls only part of the outer wall is left. It has three stories before, but now only the first floor has survived. The murals in this monastery are unique in style.
The monastery functioned as a centre for study of the tantra. Dratang Monastery belongs to the Sakyapa Sect.

Dratang Detail of murals
Although now listed as one of the key cultural relics in Tibet, it has been used as a grain store until recently. The main building is in reasonable state. The stucco figures have all been destroyed, but six large painted panels, depicting scenes of the Buddha's teaching remain, as well as a superb carved and painted triple doorway that leads into the main chapel. Later wall paintings of fine quality, in various styles, adorn the walls of the entrance way and the first chapel.

The whole monastery covers an area of 1440 sq m. and is two stories high. The main structures are the assembly hall and the tsangkhang, or inner chapel, which contains the early wall paintings.

Dratang Detail of murals
Dratang monastery is easily reachable from the highway from Lhasa to Samye or Tsetang. Since not all tours do stop here, you should ask your guide for it. I specially recommend Dratang if you are interested in Tibetan art. The murals are exquisite, although a bit worn down. There seem to be plans for restoration.

When Giuseppe Tucci visited this small monastery in the 1940s, he found the original wall paintings and large stucco figures in excellent condition. Clear and distinct influences from the surrounding Buddhist civilisations: Central Asia, India and Nepal, were manifest in both sculpture and painting, making Drathang an excellent source for the study of the development of early Tibetan art.

Viewed from the aspect of change in artistic styles, Vitali thought that the art works in Iwang and Changbu are apparently a mixture of Pala/Central Asian style, but had very strong Central Asian features. The striking features of the artistic works in Drathang Monastery reflect a localization ("Tibetanized") of these styles,

References:
[1] Roberto Vitali. Early temples of Central Tibet. Serindia Publications, 1990.
[2] Victor Chan. Tibet Handbook. Moon Publications, 1994.
[3] Giuseppe Tucci.To Lhasa and beyond. Roma Istituto Poligrafico Dello Stato, 1956
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