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Filsnoël, Monique (2023) Ogyen Choling in Bhutan: an Interpretation of the Temple and its Art. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis contains a detailed interpretation of the significance and the importance of the religious site at Ogyen Choling (o rgyan chos gling) - which was the seat, in central Bhutan, of the treasure revealer (gter ston) of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Dorje Lingpa (rdo rje gling pa: 1346-1405). It is perched on a hill in the Himalaya at a height of three thousand meters above sea level. In the fourteenth century, in the Tang (stang) valley of Bumthang, the Tibetan philosopher Longchen Rabjam (klong chen ra byams: 1308-1364) had already established a meditation site on a hill there and gave it its name Ogyen Choling. Later on, Dorje Lingpa (rdo rje gling pa: 1346-1405) settled at that location where his descendants are still living. The religious noble family (chos rje) of Ogyen Choling who also count in their lineage the Bhutanese treasure revealer Pema Lingpa (pad ma gling pa: 1450-1521) became politically influential in the 1850s when the head of the family was the Trongsar pönlop, the de facto governor of Bhutan. The buildings on the estate were rebuilt after the Assam earthquake which struck this Himalayan region in 1897 and the temple (gtsug lag khang) was reconstructed and consecrated in 1902. The estate is very much inscribed into the sacred landscape of the Tang valley and is built in the traditional Bhutanese style of architecture while showing motifs signaling the historical link of Bhutan with the ancient Empire of Tibet. The temple iconography features, in large part, the tantric master Padmasambhava and the Nyingma treasure (gter ma) tradition. It also highlights the transmission and legitimation of this tradition and the teaching lineage of Dorje Lingpa. Additionally, through the representation of the Deities of Long Life (tshe lha) and the goddess Tārā (sgrol ma), attention is brought to the worldly concerns of the women of the family in charge of the present and future life of their household. The crowning of Bhutan’s first king, in 1907, transformed the country’s political environment, and the societal changes brought about by the agrarian reforms of the third king in the 1950s put an end to the old order. The noble families chöje were constrained into a different way of life. Under the new circumstances the chöje in Ogyen Choling succeeded in reinventing their lifestyle and preserving their heritage, eager to transmit its tradition to the generations to come. This thesis is the result of extensive research carried out in respect of the temple and its two shrines inside: the Jowo Lhakhang and the Drölma Lhakhang, on the estate. The research also takes into account the context, geographical, social and historical, within which the sacred operates in the present day as well as how it operated in the past.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Christian Luczanits, Ulrich Pagel and Shane McCausland
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 May 2023 16:38

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