The area defined as the Western Himalayas currently comprises parts of China (Tibet Autonomous Region / Ngari), Northern India (Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir), Pakistan (Baltistan) and Northwest Nepal (Dolpo and Mustang). This extended region has witnessed different waves of cultural confrontation and change throughout history. Political dominance has shifted from one region to another, but economic interdependence and ethnic and religious relationships have, over the centuries, contributed to an ever-changing cultural dialectic. With the Second Diffusion of Buddhism in Tibet in the late 10th and 11th century, political power shifted toward the western borders of the Tibetan cultural world, with the capital first being located in Purang and then in Tholing and Tsaparang. Although this kingdom lasted only a 100 years at the height of its powers, a fusion of Tibetan, North Indian (Greater Kashmir), Chinese Central-Asian and local elements created a distinctive culture during that time, the impact of which was felt beyond the kingdom’s borders for many centuries.
The third volume of the series entitled Buddhist Architecture of the Western Himalayas presents the monuments of the monasteries in Tholing, Nyarma and Tabo. These three monasteries were founded from the turn of the 10th to the 11th century and are a decisive testimony to the early development of the Kingdom of Guge.
While only an impressive field of ruins reminds visitors of Nyarma’s former monastery complex, and some monuments in Tholing broke down during the Cultural Revolution, Tabo is the only one of these three monasteries to have been used without interruption to this day. Since the availability of textual or pictorial sources of information about the architecture in this context is generally scarce, the buildings themselves serve as the most reliable sources of information. Accordingly, field research is essential in that it forms the basis for documentation, analysis and sustainable restoration of the monastery complexes.