Himalayan Art Resources

Teacher: Tsongkapa Life Story Main Page

Tsongkapa Main Page

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Miscellaneous Sets (below)
- Single Composition
- Painting Sets (15 Compositions)
- Painting #4 (Jamyang Shepa)
- Painting #14 (Jamyang Shepa)
- Masterworks
- Confusions
- Others...

- Tsongkapa Life Story Painting Sets
- King of Dharma, The Illustrated Life of Je Tsongkapa (Book Review)

Study Topics:
- Single Composition
- Multiple Compositions
- Symmetrical
- Asymmetrical
- Textual Sources
--- Jamyang Shepa Composition
--- Unique Compositions

The standard set of paintings depicting the life story of Je Tsongkapa, designed in the early 18th century by Jamyang Shepa (1648-1721/1722), has fifteen individual compositions. There are several iconographic systems based on explanatory texts laying out the life of Tsongkapa chronologically accompanied by number references. Short inscriptions and the sequential number are often found with each painting following the narrative vignette.

There are two main compositional formats for the sets of paintings. The first format [1] is symmetrical with Tsongkapa depicted at the center of each composition. The second format [2] is asymmetrical with Tsongkapa appearing at the right or left side of the composition. The majority of compositions follow the symmetrical format. This format is also based on the Jamyang Shepa textual explanation. In the 18th century a set of wood blocks were carved making it possible to create large numbers of block print images on paper, cloth or silk.

For an earlier life story painting in a single composition see HAR #410. The images below are from miscellaneous incomplete sets.

Jeff Watt 5-2002 [updated 8-2017]


King of Dharma, The Illustrated Life of Je Tsongkapa, Teacher of the First Dalai Lama. Michael Roach & Christie McNally. Asian Classics Input Project. Howell, NJ, 2008.

(The images below are only a selection of examples taken from the links above along with miscellaneous compositions from unknown sets).