Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Style: Gyantse Scroll Paintings

Gyantse Main Page | Terminology & Classification of Style Names

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (belows)
- Early Style
- Middle Style
- Late Style
- Murals
- Stupa
- Main Temple
- Dzong (Fortress)
- Tsaparang Murals
- Large Format
- Initiation Cards (MET)
- Medicine Buddha Initiation Cards
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

The town and area of Gyantse is most well known for the Palkor Chode Monastery and the large highly decorated stupa alongside. On the hilltop above is the Dzong (fortress) with many beautiful murals and paintings of mandalas.

Individual paintings in a Gyantse style are relatively rare. Gyantse is most famous for the rich and highly colourful murals which fill the main temple and the many stupa chambers. The fortress on top of the adjacent hill is likely the earliest structure with many mural paintings in a pronounced Nepalese (Newar) painting style. The mural paintings of Palkor Chode and stupa are more relaxed, colourful and expressive. The middle and late period Gyantse style scroll paintings follow after the Palkor Chode and stupa murals. There are a number of early period Gyantse style paintings with several being dated within a few years of commission. Those paintings, dating from the mid 14th to the early 15th century, are very important in the study of the identity and legacy of the artist Chi'u Gangpa and the Chi'u Gang painting style. The earliest known reference to Chi'u style is mentioned in a biography of the 10th Karmapa Choying Dorje.

The 20th century Tibetan scholar Shakabpa suggests that Gyantse art is based on the art style of an artist named Chi'u. He further suggests that Chi'u lived in the 13th century but later contradicts himself by saying that the artist also painted a mural in the 15th century Palkor Chode Monastery.

Mentions of Chi'u in Early Literature:
- Earlier mentions in literature (currently unknown)
- Gongkar Dorje Denpa (1432-1496): Lhazo Chi'u Genyen
- Karmapa Choying Dorje (1655): painted in the style of Chi'u as gifts for the 6th Tai Situpa
- Nenang Pawo Trinle Gyatso (17th century): mention is made in Choying Dorje catalogue of artistic creations
- Fifth Dalai Lama (17th century): Chi'u rimo
- Desi Sanggye Gyatso (17th century): Trulku Chi'u
- De'u Mar Geshe (17/18th century): brief history of Chi'u and Chi'u painting style description
- Longdol Lama (18th century): mentions that Chi'u was born in Yarlung
- Situ Panchen (18th century): Chi'u Gangpa
- Jamgon Kongtrul (19th century): brief history of Chi'u and Chi'u painting style description
- Shakabpa (20th century): brief history of Chi'u, painting style description and born in Lato

These are the current and commonly known references to Chi'u in literature. It is very likely that there are many more to be found.

Jeff Watt 5-2014 [updated 8-2017, 10-2018]