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Painted Banner (Thangka) of Bon Deity Tonpa Shenrap

A work made of opaque watercolor with gold on cotton.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of opaque watercolor with gold on cotton.


16th century


Western Tibet, Guge

About this artwork

At the center of the thangka, Tonpa Shenrap, the founder of Bon, a pre-Buddhist religion of the Himalayas (prior to the 8th century), presides on an elaborate throne. He is flanked by two attendants and surrounded by a retinue of 250 enlightened beings. He forms a group with the Four Transcendent Lords, and together they are known as the 1,000 enlightened ones. Along the bottom register the donors of the painting preside at the left, while Bon priests – distinguishable by their hats – preside at right. Although the artistic tradition closely follows Buddhist visual culture, as is evident in the composition and iconography, there are distinguishing features. These include Tonpa Shenrap’s intricate crown, and details of his throne such as the dragon entwined columns, and the blue eagle (khyung) a lesser Bon deity, at the apex.

The Guge style of painting, named after the Guge kingdom in the Western Himalayas (11th -17th century), is evident in the way the subsidiary figures are arranged in both horizontal and vertical alignment. Another feature is the large scrolls framing the top of the throne.


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Arts of Asia


Painted Banner (Thangka) of Bon Deity Tonpa Shenrap




Opaque watercolor with gold on cotton


117.2 × 92.1 × 6.1 cm (46 1/8 × 34 5/8 × 2 3/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Marilynn B. Alsdorf

Reference Number


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