The Book

In this beautifully illustrated volume, the story of Himalayan art is illuminated through a selection of significant objects and sites from the Neolithic era to today. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, textiles, architectural structures, and more serve as a guide to the historical traditions, rituals, social practices, and art forms from Tibetan, Indian, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Mongolian, and Chinese regions, emphasizing cross-cultural exchange with Tibet at the center and Buddhism as the thread that connects these diverse cultural regions. Photographs and essays bring each object to life, introducing readers to the diversity and uniqueness of Tibetan, Himalayan, and Inner Asian art and practices, while highlighting the importance of the region in understanding broader Asia. Authored by an international group of scholars from different fields and disciplines, these 108 object essays offer an accessible introduction to this rich yet underrepresented field. This publication is part of the Rubin Museum’s Project Himalayan Art, an initiative to cultivate resources for teaching and learning about Himalayan art and cultures.

To purchase Himalayan Art in 108 Objects, visit the Rubin Museum’s online shop.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.


Himalayan Art and Cross-Cultural Exchange

Karl Debreczeny and Elena Pakhoutova

Ancient (up to 6th Century)

Early Himalayan Rock Art

Alchi Petroglyph Field
John Vincent Bellezza

A Window onto Early Himalayan Artistic and Mortuary Practices

Gold Burial Mask with Engraved Figures
John Vincent Bellezza

The Birth of the Buddha

Mayadevi Giving Birth to Siddhartha
Ulrich von Schroeder

Shrines as the Focal Point of Buddhist Communities

The Svayambhu Chaitya of Kathmandu
Alexander von Rospatt

Residence of the Early Tibetan Kings and Sacred Shrine

Yumbu Lagang Castle
Guntram Hazod

7th–9th Century

Seasonal Travels of the Valley God

Bunga Dya (Bunga Lokeshvara, Karunamaya, Rato Macchendranath)
Ian Alsop

Tibet’s Most Sacred Temple

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa
Amy Heller

The Most Famous Religious Object in Tibet

Jowo Shakyamuni of the Rasa Trulnang Tsuklakhang (Jokhang Temple)
The Most Famous Religious Object in Tibet
Cameron David Warner

The Earliest Grand Buddhist Clay Sculpture in Bhutan and the Bhutanese Tradition of Clay Sculpting

Maitreya Statue at Jampa Lhakhang, Bhutan
Karma Phuntsho, Ariana Maki, and Elena Pakhoutova

The Distinct Artistic Tradition of Kashmir and Its Impact in Tibet

Buddha on the Cosmic Mountain
Christian Luczanits

Intertwined Religious Culture: Buddhism and Hinduism

Bodhisattva Bhaishajyaraja, the Healing King
Luca Maria Olivieri and Anna Filigenzi

Buddhist Painting in Greater Kashmir: An Early Inspiration for Tibet?

Painted Manuscript Cover
Rob Linrothe

Vairochana and the Eight Great Bodhisattvas Represented as the Tibetan Sovereign and His Courtiers

Imperial Carvings of Vairochana
Amy Heller

Tibetan Visual Models on the Silk Road

Bhaishajyaguru, the Buddha of Healing
Amy Heller

Ceremonial Banquet Vessels in Silver and Gold

Silver Jug
Amy Heller

10th–11th Century

Intriguing Relations between India, China, and Tibet

Crowned Buddha
Christian Luczanits

Kashmiri “Loving-Kindness” in Ladakh: A Tall Order?

Rock Caving of Four-Armed Bodhisattva Maitreya
Rob Linrothe

Divine Kingship in Nepal Mandala

Vishnu Riding on Garuda
Kerry Lucinda Brown

Kashmiri Aesthetics at the Royal Monastery in Western Tibet

Stupa at Toling Monastery
Amy Heller

Kashmir’s Visual Legacy in the Western Himalayas

Avalokiteshvara at Khatse
Rob Linrothe

The Iconographic Program of a Mid-Eleventh Century Monument

Goddess Dharmameghabhumi in the Tabo Main Temple
Christian Luczanits

In the Presence of the Buddha

Central Shrine Image of Kwa Baha (Hiranyavarna Mahavihara)
Kerry Lucinda Brown

Embodying the Words of the Buddha

Illuminated Pages of the Prajnaparamita Sutra Manuscript
Elena Pakhoutova and Agnieszka Helman-Wazny

A Marvel of Newar Woodworking

Torana of the Main Shrine at Yetakha Baha
Kashinath Tamot and Ian Alsop

Representing the Sacred Site of the Buddha’s Awakening

Mahabodhi Temple Model
Elena Pakhoutova

Cosmopolitanism in a Local Tibetan Environment

Maitreya and Manjushri Mural at Dratang
Roberto Vitali

On the Origins and History of an Early Tibetan Masterwork

Tara Who Protects from the Eight Great Fears
Jane Casey

Mass Production of Images as a Ritual Practice

Molded Clay Image (Tsatsa) of Amoghapasha
Kunsang Namgyal-Lama

12th Century

The Art of Transgression and Transformation

Chakrasamvara Mandala with Newar Donors
Jinah Kim

The Commemorative Stupas of the Lang/Pakmodrupa Dynasty

Densatil Monastery
Jean-Luc Estournel

Tangut Patrons’ Embrace of Buddhist Sacred Sites and Cosmopolitan Teachings

Cave 3 at Yulin Cave Temples
Elena Pakhoutova and Jia Weiwei

Woodblock Printing and State Protection in the Inclusive Buddhist Culture of the Tanguts

A Pancharaksha Print from Khara-Khoto
Kirill Solonin and Elena Pakhoutova

Presence and Power

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara and the Buddha’s Footprints
Kathryn Selig Brown

Material and Spiritual Abundance in the Kathmandu Valley

Goddess of Prosperity, Vasudhara
Kerry Lucinda Brown

13th Century

Alchi at the Threshold of a New Era in Tibetan Buddhist Art

Monumental Manjushri with Mahasiddha-Adorned Robe
Christian Luczantis

Tibetan Buddhist Icons Produced in Silk

Achala Silk Tapestry
Xie Jisheng

A Masterwork Depicting Tantric Masters of the Sakya Tradition

Jane Casey

Cosmos, Empowerment, and Ritual Regalia

Vajracharya Priest’s Crown
Aurora Graldi

The Political Role of Tibetan Buddhism at the Mongol Court

Mahakala Stone Sculpture
Karl Debreczeny

Newar Artist’s Buddhist Monument for the Mongol Emperor in Beijing

White Stupa, Attributed to Nepalese Artist Anige
Isabelle Charleux

Sculpture Under Mongol Patronage: An Indian Buddhist Deity in a Nepalo-Tibeto-Chinese Form

Relief Carving of a Nine-Deity Ushnishavijaya Composition, Niche 84 at Feilaifeng Cliff
Rob Linrothe

Signs of Authority in the Mongol Empire

Mongol Messenger’s Badge (Paiza or Gerege) in Pakpa Script
Christopher P. Atwood

The Names that Encode Many Aspects of the “Lotus-Born Guru”

Padmasambhava and His Manifestations
Daniel A. Hirschberg and Elena Pakhoutova

14th Century

Commemorative Monument for a Charismatic Teacher

The Chorten Cave of Luri
Christian Luczanits

A Landmark Monument in the Art History of Ladakh

The Temple of Wanla
Nils Martin

Woven Mandalas in the Mongol Imperial Court

Vajrabhairava Mandala
Yong Cho

Mongol Patronage, Nepalese Artists, and Murals as a Public Marketing Strategy for Sacred Books

Mural Painting at Zhalu Monastery
Sarah A. Richardson

Stabilizing Empire through Buddhist Monument, Text, and Image

Juyong Guan Stupa Gate
Karl Debreczeny

A Sculpture from a Himalayan Cultural Contact Zone

Queen Dipamala as the Goddess Prajnaparamita
Ian Alsop

An Example of Court Patronage to Honor a Religious Master

Mandala of Manjuvajra of the Vajravali Set Commissioned in Memory of Lama Dampa
David Jackson and Christian Luczanits

Sacred Art among Hidden Treasures

Dorje Discovered by Dorje Lingpa
Karma Phuntsho

A Ming Dynasty Monastery at the Sino-Tibetan Frontier

Qutan Monastery (Drotsang Dorje Chang)
Aurelia Campbell

15th Century

Imperial Tibetan Buddhist Statues under the Yongle and Xuande Reigns of the Ming Dynasty

Pensive Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Luo Wenhua

The Style of Upper Western Tibet under Gelukpa Patronage

Murals at Toling Dukhang “Ornament of the World”
Roberto Vitali

An Architectural Representation of Complete Tantric Knowledge

Gyantse Kumbum
Shengnan Dong

The Earliest Dated Newar Artist’s Sketchbook

Jivarama’s Sketchbook
Ian Alsop and Elena Pakhoutova

Carrying Out Acts of Service in the Buddhist Community

Nepalese Paubha Commemorating the Death of Pandita Vanaratna
Ryan Damron

Reexamining Khyentse Chenmo and His Painting Tradition

Murals of Gongkar Chode
Tsechang Penba Wangdu

Challenges in Dating Nepalese Stone Sculpture

Standing Buddha Shakyamuni Donated by Lundeva
Ulrich von Schroeder

A Microcosm of the Bon Religion

Bon Deity Trowo Tsochok Khagying
Charles Ramble

16th Century

A Bhutanese Buddhist Master’s Treasure House

Tamshing Temple
Ariana Maki

A Tibetan Liberation Tale Illustrated in Print and Manuscript

Earliest Extant Printed Edition of Milarepa’s Life Story
Andrew Quintman

A Royal Teacher and an Artist

Portrait of Lowo Khenchen Sonam Lhundrub
Jowita Kramer and Christian Luczanits

Agents of Religious and Artistic Dialogue along the Southern Sino-Tibetan Frontier

Dabaojigong Temple
Karl Debreczeny

The Sixteenth-Century Renaissance of Buddhism in Mongolia

Erdeni Juu Monastery
Isabelle Charleux

Rise of the Encampment Painting Tradition

Portrait of the Ninth Karmapa
Karl Debreczeny

The Goddess of Miraculous Power

Siddhi Lakshmi (Purnachandi)
Kerry Lucinda Brown

The History, Literature, and Art of Tibetan Swords

Sword, Scabbard, and Sword Belt
Donald J. La Rocca

17th Century

Taranatha’s Vision of Shakyamuni’s Quest

A Monumental Life of the Buddha Mural
Andrew Quintman and Kurtis R. Schaeffer

Papier-Mâché Sculpture and the Nyingma School at the Periphery

Portrait of Ngadak Puntsok Rigdzin
Christian Luczanits

A Monument of Tibetan Cultural Identity

Potala Palace
Natasha N. Kimmet

A Tibetan Artist’s Interest in Archaic Chinese and Kashmiri Art

Arhats Viewing a Painting of Birds by the Tenth Karmapa
Karl Debreczeny

Medicine, Science, and the Everyday in Tibetan Art

Desi Sanggye Gyatso’s Medical Paintings
Theresia Hofer

Architectural Expression of Monsoonal Phenomena

Golden Fountain of Bhaktapur
Gautama V. Vajracharya

The Mongolian Artist Zanabazar and the Mongol Devotion to the Future Buddha Maitreya

Uranchimeg Tsultemin

Bhutan’s Most Acclaimed Religious Sanctuary

Taksang, the Tiger’s Lair
John A. Ardussi

Ritual Symbolism and Artistic Aspects of Three-Dimensional Mandalas in Tantric Tibetan Buddhism

The Kalachakra Mandala in the Potala Palace
Michael Henss with contributions from Pema Namdol Thaye

Wrathful Tantric Imagery at the Seat of the Tibetan State Oracle

Nechung Monastery Murals
Christopher Bell

Accumulating Merit Every Day

Prayer Wheel
Elena Pakhoutova

18th Century

Illustrating the Dzogchen Teachings through Murals

Lukhang Murals
Jakob Winkler

Abounding Visions of Eminent Lives

Nartang Woodblock Prints and Their Painted Copies: Previous Lives of the Panchen Lamas
Nancy G. Lin

The Statuary of Dolonnuur, Inner Mongolia, and Its Impact across the Tibetan Buddhist World

Isabelle Charleux

Great Tibetan Patron and Designer of Buddhist Art in Kham

Portrait of Situ Panchen
David Jackson and Karl Debreczeny

Tibetan Buddhism at the Qing Court

The Qianlong Emperor as Manjushri-Chakravartin
Wen-Shing Chou

Icons Marking the Communal Performance of Buddhist Rituals

Plaque Commemorating the Bhimaratha Old Age Ritual
Alexander von Rospatt

Tibetan Divination

The White Beryl Illuminated Manuscript
Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim

Cultural Translation of a Tantric Visualization Practice

The All-Knowing Buddha Vairochana Visualization Album
Elena Pakhoutova and Karl Debreczeny

Devotion in Motion, Featuring a National Treasure of Bhutan

Portable Shrine (Tashi Gomang)
Thierry Mathou

19th Century

The Multifaceted Power of Ornament

Tayo-bizakani Ritual Necklace with Naga, Peacock, and Dragon Motifs
Katherine Anne Paul

Vessels as Containers of Potential

Katherine Anne Paul

Transcultural Visions of a Buddhist Mountain

Panoramic Map of Mount Wutai
Wen-shing Chou

The Mountain Palace of a Worldly Divinity

Mountain God Kula Kari
Charles Ramble

The Knell of Impermanence

Double-Sided Skull Drum
David M. DiValerio

Reenacting Foundational Stories as Communal Performance

Ritual Dance Mask of Guru Dorje Drolo
Françoise Pommaret

Appliqué Artistic Tradition and the War God Begtse’s Significance in Mongolia

Monumental Appliqué of Begtse
Uranchimeg Tsultemin

20th–21st Century

Mapping Yekhe Khüriye’s Cityscape as the “Capital City”

Mongolian Map of Capital Yekhe Khüriye
Uranchimeg Tsultemin

A Visual Explanation of Buddhist Cosmology

Wheel of Existence
Eric Huntington

Lenses of Modernity: Photography in Tibet and the Himalayas

Photograph of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama
Riga Shakya

Recognizing Rebkong’s Regional Painting Contributions

Shambhala Kings Mural
Rob Linrothe

A Mundane Craft Elevated for a Commemorative Parade

Saddle Carpet for the Yabzhi Punkhang Ceremonial Cavalry
Alice Travers

A Progressive Tibetan Aristocrat’s Traditional Equestrian Equipment

Saddle Made for Yuthok Tashi Dhondup
Donald J. La Rocca and Alice Travers

Tibet’s First Modern Artist

Gendun Chopel’s Woman Applying Kohl
Donald S. Lopez Jr.

Precious Fabrics in the Buddhist Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan: Symbols of Identity, Prestige, and Prosperity

Bhutanese Men’s Garment (Gho)
Karin Altmann

The Mega-Sized Guru that Presides over the Hidden Land

Monumental Statue of Guru Rinpoche
Kalzang Dorjee Bhutia and Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa

Ritual Offerings Connecting Humans and Deities

Paul Kocot Nietupski

Sky Symbols of Divine and Cosmic Forces

Thread Crosses
Charles Ramble

Portable Sacred Items for Pragmatic and Transcendent Goals

Amulet Box (Gau) with Its Contents
James Gentry

Tibetan Artists’ Contemporary Practices

Ice Buddha
Yangla Gesang, Yuyuan (Victoria) Liu, and Elena Pakhoutova