Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Style: Khyenri Main Page

Khyenri Main Page | Dzongpa Tradition Main Page | Gongkar Chode Monastery Main Page | Tibet Main Page | Terminology & Classification of Style Names

A central Tibetan artistic style originating with the painter Khyentse Chenmo of Gongkar Chode Monastery (15th century). The Khyenri painting style is most closely associated with and influenced by the murals of Gyantse Kumbum and Monastery. There are two distinct subjects of Khyenri painting, (1) peaceful deities and teachers and (2) wrathful deities. Khyenri paintings are known for their bright palette, attention to small detail, portrait like faces and almost perfect circles of light or flame surrounding the deities. Transparent halos are often found with the various Khyenri mahasiddha and arhat paintings sets.

Two famous monasteries are known for having intact Khyenri style mural paintings: Gongkar Chode founded by Dzongpa Kunga Namgyal (1432–1496) and Tagten Puntsog Ling founded by Jonang Taranata (1575–1634). Nyentog Monastery in Rebkong, Amdo, has a temple with murals in a unique style claimed by the artist (late 17th century) to be in a mixed Menri and Khyenri style.

The Khyenri painting style was not limited to one particular religious tradition. It was employed as scroll paintings and murals, most commonly but not exclusively, by the Dzongpa, Sakya, Jonang, Karma Kagyu and Gelug Traditions.

Khyenri never really died out as a painting tradition but rather transformed and adapted to new times and artistic and aesthetic tastes. The early Karma Gardri paintings, 16th and 17th centuries, often employed a Khyenri style for the lineage teachers, mahasiddhas and deities and reserved the Karma Gardri style for the landscape background and composition layout. A late 17th century artist of Nyentog Monastery used a combination of Menri and Khyenri. The Lhatog style paintings of Cho Tashi, circa 1700, are also claimed to be in a mixed New Menri, Khyenri and Kham-dri style. De'u Mar Geshe also maintained elements of Khyenri as evidenced from his known surviving works.

The greatest impact of the Khyenri style can be seen with the paintings of Palpung Monastery and the unique artistic style developed by Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne (1700-1774). The original Khyenri style for painting semi-peaceful and wrathful deities is the strongest due to the influence and support of Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne after he visited Gongkar Chode monastery during one of his trips to Central Tibet. It should be noted that the Palpung style of painting in the present 20th and 21st centuries is generally called Karma Gardri and collectively cataloged under that umbrella along with early and late Karma Gardri style paintings despite being distinctly different in drawing, colour palette, and composition.

Subjects & Topics - Locations:
- Gongkar Chode Monastery Murals (U)
- Tagten Puntsog Ling Monastery Murals (Tsang)
- Nyentog Monastery Murals (Amdo)
- Others...

Painting & Sculpture Types & Sets:
- Arhat Painting Sets (Miscellaneous)
- Mahasiddha Painting Set (Sera)
- Margapala/Lamdre Lineage Sculpture Set
- Peaceful & Semi Peaceful Deities (Miscellaneous)
- Teachers & Siddhas (Miscellaneous)
- Wrathful Deities (Miscellaneous)
- Others...

Early & Later Painting Styles Incorporating the Khyenri Style:
- Karma Gardri Painting Style (Early)
- Karma Gardri Painting Style (Late)
- Lhatog Style Painting (Khampa Gar)
- Palpung Monastery Style Painting
- Others...

Jeff Watt 5-2000 [updated 1-2016]