Rare 15th–16th Century Murals and Sculptures Found in Sichuan Province Shed New Light on Tibetan Art
In March 2017, Buddhistdoor Global interviewed Professor Luo Wenhua, a research fellow at the Palace Museum in Beijing and director of the Research Center for Tibetan Buddhist Heritage.* In the interview, Prof. Luo introduced their project of digitizing artifacts and wall paintings in Tibetan Buddhist regions of China, which started in 2013. In August 2017, just a few months after the interview, Prof. Luo and his team made an important discovery at Badha Monastery (嘛达寺) (32°52.256N, 097°23.462E) in Serxu County, Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in China’s Sichuan Province. In a small hall attached to the tulku’s residence (gungbar labrang), which had been closed off and forgotten after the Cultural Revolution, Prof. Luo and his team uncovered various wall paintings and clay sculptures. Owing to their relatively good condition and unique artistic style, these artifacts are considered rare examples of Tibetan Buddhist art. This article is intended as the first English-language report on the discovery.
Badha Monastery is situated on the east bank of the Jinsha River, a major tributary of the Yangtze River, 3,569 meters above sea level. It was first established in 1269 by the Sakya school, and then transformed into a Gelug monastery in 1440. Serxu County is strategically located on the ancient Tang-Tubo Road** and the Silk Road. To the west, it borders Yulshul County and Chindo County in Yulshul Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. To the north, it adjoins Madoi County in Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. To the east, it meets Darlag County in the same prefecture. Southwest of Badha Monastery there lies the city of Qamdo in Tibet. Today, three tulku lineage systems have been preserved in Badha Monastery, namely Gungbar Che Tshang Rinpoche (大贡巴), Gungbar Chung Tshang Rinpoche (小贡巴), and Gagla Rinpoche (嘎拉). About 140 monks reside in the monastery.
Wall painting of Ratnasambhava, Badha Monastery. Image courtesy of Prof. Luo Wenhua