Patriarch of Ngor Monastery



Patriarch of Ngor Monastery




early 17th Century


Tibet, China, Asia


Watercolor on silk
69 3/4 x 51 7/8 in. (177.2 x 131.8 cm)

Object Number



This exquisite thangka painting is of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. The painting is in the Old Mendri style, a tradition born from the marriage of the Indo-Tibetan (Pala) art styles with those of the Mongolian and Chinese. This occurred when the high lamas of the Sakya School became Imperial Tutors to the Mongol rulers of China. The first Sakya lama to serve in this capacity was Sakya Pakpa (1235-1280), who became Imperial Preceptor to Emperor Kublai Khan in 1260 AD, and in that same year was appointed as the spiritual and temporal head of Tibet. He is depicted in the left column of lamas, seventh from the bottom. This is the first lama to receive exposure in the West, for he was living in Beijing during the visit of Marco Polo to China, and is mentioned in Polo's Journals.

The painting is from Ngor Monastery, one of the three greatest Sakyapa institutions in Tibet. It was established by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (1382-1457) in 1429; he is depicted above and to the viewer's right of the central figure. The painting depicts the great patriarch of Ngor at the time of the painting's creation. To symbolize his role as spiritual preceptor, the lama holds wish-fulfilling jewels in his hands.

The lamas depicted along the top of the painting represent the Indian sources of the Sakya lineages of Ngor Monastery. Beginning from the left are the principal tantric masters, the most important of the eighty-four master yogis from whom the unique Sakya tantric transmission known as Lam Dre is descended. To their right are the dakini Dakmema and Buddha in his tantric form of Dorjechang. The lamas to the right of these are the Indian sutrayana masters.

The early lineage of Sakya masters is depicted in the column at the left. The column at the right depicts the lineage masters who are important to the unique transmissions of Ngor Monastery. The divinities at the central bottom of the painting depict the principal Dharma protectors who guard the sanctity of Ngor Monastery and its practitioners.

Credit Line

The Ester R. Portnow Collection of Asian Art, a gift of the Nathan Rubin - Ida Ladd Family Foundation


MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2004 - February 18, 2012
MCCM Newsletter, September - November 2000|
Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 122.


© Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University. Photo by Bruce M. White, 2004.
This image is provided by the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University, who retains all rights in it. This image is made available for limited non-commercial, educational, and personal use only, or for fair use as defined by United States law. For all other uses, please contact the Michael C. Carlos Museum Office of Collections Services at +1(404) 727-4282 or Users must cite the author and source of the image as they would material from any printed work, but not in any way that implies endorsement of the user or the user's use of the image. Users may not remove any copyright, trademark, or other proprietary notices, including without limitation attribution information, credits, and copyright notices that have been placed on or near the image by the Museum. The Museum assumes no responsibility for royalties or fees claimed by the artist or third parties. The User agrees to indemnify and hold harmless Emory University, its Michael C. Carlos Museum, its agents, employees, faculty members, students and trustees from and against any and all claims, losses, actions, damages, expenses, and all other liabilities, including but not limited to attorney’s fees, directly or indirectly arising out of or resulting from its use of photographic images for which permission is granted hereunder.

On View



“Patriarch of Ngor Monastery,” Michael C. Carlos Museum Collections Online, accessed September 18, 2020,

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