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The tradition of Pema Lingpa and the rediscovery of an iconography

@Melodie Bonnat

@Melodie Bonnat

by Namgyal Henry, Tibetologist, and Mélodie Bonnat, Curator and restorer of paintings.

Pema Lingpa (1450-1521) was a discoverer of spiritual treasures whose tradition spread to Bhutan and Tibet. Ngakpas from the cloud valley studied it and taught it back from their 17th century Tibetan trip. Since then, it has become the main tradition of the region. Monks and Ngakpas perform daily rituals in Tsug Lhakhang and honor spiritual requests throughout the valley and beyond. They also meet on particular days of the Buddhist calendar to perform rituals collectively. The guardian of the Tsuglakahng practices daily rituals and honors spiritual requests throughout the valley and beyond.

In the early 1840s, the monastery was attacked by Sikh forces who set it on fire. Since then, the murals are covered with a thick layer of black soot. The aim of the painting restoration project is to remove black soot and reveal the original colors and the iconography of the paintings. Since 2013, a team of experienced restorers has been trying to accomplish this delicate work of conservation-restoration and to rediscover the murals.

The technological analysis of the paintings revealed the preciousness of the materials used by the painters and the iconography, as the cleaning goes on, brings important information to better understand the religious history of the region. This presentation will address the historical aspects of the Pema Lingpa tradition, then the technical issues of the restoration project and the first results already obtained.