Tabo - Gods of Light: The Indo-Tibetan Masterpiece
Peter van Ham and Tsenshap Serkong Rinpoche
Over one thousand years old, the monastery complex of Tabo and its exquisitely preserved works of art provide a wealth of marvellous pictures. The richly illustrated volume reproduces the beauty of these works of art, while the accompanying text presents the most recent research findings. The monastery of Tabo is located in the north ‐ Indian region of the Himalayas. Founded in 996 AD, it is the oldest temple complex in the Tibetan cultural area to have been preserved in its original state. Tabo’s main temple, the Temple of the Enlightened Gods, is a unique gesamtkunstwerk. Sculptures and paintings dating back one thousand years that wer e executed in an incomparably delicate style, probably by Indian artists, together form a sort of horizontal walkable mandala. Special permission was granted to Peter van Ham so that he could take photographs of the temple’s halls, which are not accessible to the public. The volume presents these breath ‐ taking photographs and describes in detail the entire gamut of Tibetan artistic styles. Tabo Monastery, located in the North ‐ Indian Himalayan region of Spiti (Himachal Pradesh) and founded in 996 CE, is the most ancient temple ‐ site of the entire Tibetan cultural realm, which has been preserved unaltered in its original state. Simple adobe buildings erected Hirmer Publ i shers, Nymphenburger Str. 84, D 80636 Munich, www.hirmerpublishers.co.uk on level ground were designated as a university and served as a meeting place of saints and scholars during the so ‐ called “Second Diffusion of Buddhism in Tibet”, initiated by the kings of Western Tibet, the Great Translator Rinchen Sangpo and the Indian master Atisha. From that “Golden Period”, Tabo’s main temple, the “Temple of Enlightened Gods”, in its interior conserves an exceptional comprehensive artwork, a masterpiece of Indo ‐ Tibetan art: An arrangement of a thousand year ‐ old sculptures and paintings, produced presumably by Indian artists in incomparably fine and beautiful style, forms a unique hori zontal mandala, which till today serves as a means for the achievement of highest enlightenment. Furthermore, Tabo offers the rare opportunity to experience and study the entire array of Tibetan art forms and styles, as in its other temples, beautiful and unique masterpieces, especially from the Second Period of West Tibetan art (15th/16th century), but also of later periods, have been preserved, which are also described in detail in this volume. For this book, the Archaeological Survey of India has granted an only rarely given permission to the author and photographer Peter van Ham to document the otherwise forbidde n place. The result is a stunning visual review of outstanding beauty combined with a concise text, which comprises the latest in research on the sanctuary of Tabo, that will appeal to a wide range of readers, be they art historians, tibetologists or trave llers.