Himalayan Art Resources

Incarnation Lineage: Gyalwa Karmapa Main Page

Karmapa Page | Karma Kagyu Main Page

Subjects & Topics:
- Gyalwa Karmapa Description (below)
- Masterworks
- Karmapa Outline Page
- Gyalwa Karmapa (Early Paintings)
- Karmapa (Unidentified Figures)
- Karmapa Guruyoga
- Karmapa Life Stories Painting Set
- Lineage Painting Sets
- Karma Kagyu Hats
- Black Hats & Blue Hats
- Karmapa Sculpture
- Confusions
- Others...

Incarnation Lineage:
1st Gyalwa Karmapa, Dusum Kyenpa (1110-1193) Biographical details
2nd Gyalwa Karmapa, Karma Pakshi (1204-1283) Biographical details
3rd Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) Biographical details
4th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rolpai Dorje (1340-1383) Biographical details
5th Gyalwa Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa (1384-1415) Biographical details
6th Gyalwa Karmapa, Tongwa Donden (1416-1453) Biographical details
7th Gyalwa Karmapa, Chodrag Gyatso (1454-1506) Biographical details
8th Gyalwa Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (1507-1554) Biographical details
9th Gyalwa Karmapa, Wangchug Dorje (1556-1602/03) Biographical details
10th Gyalwa Karmapa, Choying Dorje (1604-1674) Biographical details
11th Gyalwa Karmapa, Yeshe Dorje (1675-1702) Biographical details
12th Gyalwa Karmapa, Jangchub Dorje (1703-1732) Biographical details
13th Gyalwa Karmapa, Dudul Dorje (1733/34-1797/98) Biographical details
14th Gyalwa Karmapa, Tegchog Dorje (1799-1869) Biographical details
15th Gyalwa Karmapa, Kakyab Dorje (1870/71-1921/22) Biographical details
16th Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpai Dorje (1924-1981) Biographical details

The Karmapas are a line of successive teachers acknowledged by some scholars as the first lineage of reincarnating lamas in Tibetan Buddhism. The main seat of the Karmapa is Tsurpu Monastery, north-west of Lhasa, and the specific tradition is known as the Kamtsang Kagyu (Karma Kagyu). Rangjung Dorje (3rd) is said to have recognised himself as the rebirth of Dusum Kyenpa and posthumously named Dusum Kyenpa and Karma Pakshi as the 1st and 2nd Karmapas.

According to the history/hagiographies of the Karma Kagyu tradition the fifth Karmapa Dezhin Shegpa (1384-1415) was presented a gift of a black hat by the Chinese emperor Yongle. However, according to some Mongolian history the first black hat was a gift of Mongke Khan to the 2nd Karmapa, Karma Pakshi. There is also some evidence that the Tangut are responsible for popularizing the black hat. Early 13th and 14th century paintings of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Karmapas clearly depict them wearing a black hat which makes the Yongle emperor story mostly myth. (See examples).

A black hat has become the principal identifying characteristic and iconographic attribute in the depictions of the Karmapa incarnation lineage.

Jeff Watt 11-1999 [updated 3-2005, 2-2017, 7-2018]