Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Tradition: Khyenri Art History

Khyenri Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description
--- Definition
--- Characteristics
--- Examples
- Khyentse Chenmo
- Masterworks
- Khyenri Style
- Khyenri Tradition
- Four Styles of Iconographic Subjects
- Mural Site Locations
- Terminology & Classification of Traditions & Style Names
- Bibliography
- Confusions
- Others...

A central Tibetan artistic style originating with the painter Khyentse Chenmo of Gongkar Chode Monastery (15th century). The Khyenri painting tradition 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 and tradition 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, Garu Pandita (late 17th century), to be in a mixed Menri and Khyenri tradition.

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

Khyenri never died out as a painting tradition, as some scholars and historians have suggested, but rather transformed and adapted to new times and artistic and aesthetic tastes. The early Karma Gar-ri paintings, 16th and 17th centuries, often employed a Khyenri traditional style for the lineage teachers, mahasiddhas and deities. A late 17th century artist of Nyentog Monastery, Garu Pandita, 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-ri style. De'u Mar Geshe also maintained elements of Khyenri as evidenced from his known surviving works.

Early & Later Painting Traditions Incorporating the Khyenri Tradition & Style:
- Karma Gar-ri Painting Tradition (Early)
- Karma Gar-ri Painting Tradition (Late)
- Lhatog Tradition Painting (Khampa Gar)
- Deumar Geshe Style
- Palpung Monastery Tradition Painting

The greatest impact of the Khyenri tradition can be seen with the paintings of Palpung Monastery and the unique artistic style developed by Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne (1700-1774). The Khyenri tradition can be seen in paintings of the semi-peaceful and wrathful deities. Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne visited Gongkar Chode monastery during one of his early trips to Central Tibet. It should be noted that the Palpung monastery painting styles are named under the broader category of Karma Gar-ri Tradition Painting.

Khyenri Background (Landscape) Styles: most, if not all, principal painting styles have four sub-styles dependent on the principal subject being represented in the composition.
- Teacher Figures
- Peaceful Deity Figure
- Wrathful Deity Figure
- Mandala

Jeff Watt 5-2000 [updated 1-2016, 5-2017, 4-2020]