Himalayan Art Resources

Buddhist Deity: Dorje Shugden Art History

Dorje Shugden Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Art History Topics
- Masterworks
- Painting
- Black Ground Paintings
- Sculpture
- Regions
- Late Period: 18th to present
- Dorje Shugden Outline Page
- Incarnation Lineage Murals
- Trode Khangsar Temple, Barkhor, Lhasa
- Chojin Lama Temple
- Others...

Early Examples of Painting & Sculpture:

Sakya depictions of Dorje Shugden Tanag in paintings can be dated to circa 1800 (see examples). Although so far no sculpture have appeared nor are there any paintings with Shugden Tanag as the principal central figure. In all there are approximately a half dozen Sakya paintings known that have Shugden Tanag as a minor figure in the composition, a number of these are from the first half of the 20th century - research is ongoing.

Currently, the two earliest known depictions of the Gelug iconography of Dorje Shugden are the metal sculpture in Ulan Bator and a painting in the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago. The sculpture, whether it is the original or not, was created in the early years of the 1900s to decorate the Chojin Lama Temple in Ulan Bator, Mongolia - where it can be found today. The painting, in the collection of the Field Museum of Chicago (#54349), was collected in Eastern Tibet or China by Field Museum anthropologist Berthold Laufer between 1908 and 1909. What is curious is a lack of any Dorje Shugden image depicted among the protectors in the many early examples of Gelug Refuge Field Paintings - Refuge Field paintings being a Gelugpa invention of the 17th and 18th century. It has been said that when Pabongka Dechen Nyingpo re-formulated the Gelug Refuge Field in the early half of the 20th century he included a depiction of Dorje Shugden. So far no painting example of this has been located. The HAR website has over 85 Gelug examples of these Refuge Field paintings from collections throughout the world - research is on going. (See a small selection of source texts).

Mindrolling Branch Monastery:
Possibly the earliest reference to Dorje Shugden in the English language comes from Laurence A. Waddell in the 1894 publication of Lamaism in Sikhim in the Gazetteer of Sikhim. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Press (1894). Waddell is describing the shrine of a Nyingma Monastery, Pema Yangtse, in Sikhim - a branch of Mindrolling. It is interesting to note that Pabongkha Dechen Nyingpo would have been sixteen years old at the time of the English publication.

"Thus, at Pemiongchi is the Gyalpo Shuk-den with a brown face and seated on a white elephant. He was formerly the learned lama Panchhen Sod-nams graks-pa, who being falsely charged with licentious living and deposed, his spirit on his death took this actively malignant form and wreaks his wrath on all who do not worship him - inflicting disease and accident." (Page 261).

Database Search: All Images

Jeff Watt 12-2010 [updated 2-2016, 4-2017, 12-2019]

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).