Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Offering Paintings (Kangdze) Page

Offerings Main Page | Ritual Objects

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- 'Kangdze' Explanation (below)
- Deity Attributes (coloured ground, black ground)
- Deity Attributes & 'Torma'
- Deity Attribute & Mount Sumeru
- Multiple Deities (single composition)
- Sets of Paintings: Black Ground Set, Wellcome Trust, Yonghegong
- Masterworks
- Confusions: (see below)
- Others...

- Video: A Question About Wrathful Offering Paintings

'Kangdze' (Tibetan: Kang dze) are a special type of offering painting or textile where the attributes of one or more specific deities are arranged in a composition. The attributes most often represented are those of a wrathful protector deity such as Mahakala, Shri Devi, or the vast array of worldly gods and minor protector deities. There are no deity figures in the composition, only the attire, hand attributes, and related objects of the deity such as animal companions.

These offering paintings are generally displayed in a protector chapel and commonly found as murals in the 'gonkang' temple. Here the term 'attribute' generally means the objects held in the hands of the deity, the clothing, crown, jewelry, decorations, animal mount, along with special secondary animals or birds. The compositions are often, but not always, painted against a black ground, or black background.

Each composition comprises the attributes for a single deity but there are also landscape format paintings, that are very wide, depicting the attributes of many deities. These long format compositions are common in the Gelug Tradition and especially with Mongolian works of art.

The earliest known examples of 'kangdze' compositions are murals painted on the walls of protector chapels. After the 17th century, and the proliferation of worldly protector deity cults, the popularity of 'kangdze' scroll painting compositions grew and transformed. With later examples from the 18th and 19th centuries sets of 'kangdze' paintings developed along with the visual addition of placing the special ritual offering cake 'torma' into the composition.

A mistaken Western academic notion common in the 20th century is that 'kangdze' wrathful attribute paintings are depicting the outline of an invisible deity that must be actualized and seen through the power of the practitioners devotion and meditation skill. However, these compositions, scroll work or mural, only represent the favoured objects of those protector deities and are created to decorate the wrathful protector shrine rooms in Buddhist temples. While common in Tibet as murals, the vast majority of these scroll works are of Mongolian origin from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Single Deity Attribute Offering Paintings:
- Begtse Chen: HAR #77178, 99184
- Dorje Dragmo Gyal: 99191
- Dorje Kongtsun Demo: 99193
- Dorje Legpa: 99192
- Mahakala (General): 662, 92016
- Mahakala, Chaturmukha: 77169, 81833
- Mahakala, Panjarnata: 90550, 99181
- Mahakala, Shadbhuja: 498, 1030, 99182
- Nechung Chokyong: 81833
- Pal Lhamo: 99189
- Pehar, Gyalpo: 99188
- Putra Mising Nga (Panjarnata): 99186
- Shri Devi, Magzor Gyalmo: (All), 639, 73825, 99185, 3313868
- Tshangpa: 99179
- Vaishravana: 99187
- Vajrabhairava: 99180
- Yama Dharmaraja: 99183
- Others...

Jeff Watt 4-2001 [updated 12-2016, 8-2017, 3-2019]