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Milarepa on Mount Kailash

Vibrantly colored mythical scene depicting people, animals, and dragons in front of mountains.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Vibrantly colored mythical scene depicting people, animals, and dragons in front of mountains.


c. 1500



About this artwork

Milarepa (1040–1123) was a beloved Tibetan singer-poet, mystic, teacher, and saint whose name means “cotton-clad,” is usually shown clothed in thin white cotton and cupping a hand to his ear—a gesture typical of singers in India and the Himalayas—to enhance his hearing while blocking out extraneous noise. In this thangka, a painted cloth that can be rolled up for portability, Milarepa sits in a cave on Mount Kailash, which is sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus. In front of him, Lake Manasarovar (Marpam) flows by in wavy blue and green bands. Milarepa is flanked by his disciples, and his teacher, Marpa, appears in a medal-lion above him. The dazzling snow-covered peaks frame each of the central figures, and below them multicolored foothills appear as prismatic spikes refracting the sun’s rays like jewels. Along the perimeter of the thangka, the five sisters of long life ride their mounts, accompanying Milarepa wherever he preaches his doctrine. The sacred peaks and lakes of the Himalayas have inspired numerous works of art—Milarepa, for example, wrote one hundred thousand songs about them. The other side of this textile contains a long inscription in Tibetan, demonstrating that this is one of the earliest representations of Milarepa.


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Arts of Asia


Milarepa on Mount Kailash


Tibet (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Pigment and gold on cotton


45.5 × 30 cm (17 7/8 × 11 13/16 in.)

Credit Line

Asian Purchase Campaign Endowment and Robert Ross Fund

Reference Number


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