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Marpa's tower from a distance
Marpa's tower from a distance

Shalu Association had the opportunity in October 1996 to inspect the site of Sekhar Guthok, "nine-storey son's house", the legendary tower Marpa ordered Milarepa (1040-1123) to build for his son. The site is situated in Lhodrak district, north of the Bhutanese border. The tower is said to have nine floors but in fact has only seven, each three to four meters high. Three of the floors still contain finely-executed wall-paintings. Covering most of the wall- surface of the central chamber on the third floor are highly original wall-paintings dating back to the late twelth - early thirteenth century depicting Tilopa, Marpa, Naropa, and Milarepa (possibly the earliest representation of the saint), the five Buddhas, and the five Tathagatas. The paintings are still in relatively good condition but suffering from water infiltration due to the lack of a proper roof (the former pagoda-style gold-gilded roof was sold during the cultural revolution to buy a television).

Marpa's Tower
Marpa's tower

The main aim of this project is the restoration of the tower's roof (respecting as much as possible the style and dimensions of the previous roof) in order to protect these invaluable wall-paintings from further deterioration, and ultimately the restoration of the wall-paintings themselves.

This will require:

  • close inspection and analysis of the wall-paintings by an expert in order to determine what precautions must be taken against any further damage the building of a new roof might occasion (for instance, salt crystalisation on the wall-surface as a result of the sudden drying of the walls).
  • replacement of the inner wooden structures where they have been damaged by insects or humidity.
Monks at Sekhar Guthok
Monks at Sekhar Guthok

Estimated budget for roof restoration: 16,427 US$

(I'm still waiting for Heather to translate from Tibetan the detailed budget for the roof provided by our Tibetan partners. I would try to do it myself, but unfortunately its written in that impossible cursive handwriting and I simply can't read it !)

13th c. murals at Sekhar Guthok
13th c. murals at Sekhar Guthok
The restoration of Marpa's temple and tower --situated on a mountain overlooking Sekhar Guthok-- was undertaken four years ago by Nyima, a lama and amchi from Kham (far left). The work has been well executed and is almost completed. We hope to benefit from his help guidance, and to work with the same team of dedicated craftsmen. (The passage in Italic above should go under the picture of the lama and monks which I sent along with the disquette)
Mural of Marpa
Mural of Marpa

Shalu association is a non-profit organisation for the restoration and preservation of monuments in Tibet. The organisation is currently working in collaboration with the Cultural Department of the T.A.R. on various sites throughout Central Tibet. The choice of these sites was guided by their historical and artistic importance, as well as the urgent need for protection and preservation. Each project is discussed with the local responsible officials and monks, and local craftsmen are hired to do the work.

Projects underway:

Murals; Milarepa on right
Murals; Milarepa on right
  • Drathang Monastery, founded 1081 (Lhoka prefecture)
  • Gongkar Chode, founded 16th century (Lhoka prefecture)
  • Rithang Monastery, founded 12th century (Lhoka prefecture)
  • Namseling Manor, ca. 14th century (Lhoka prefecture)
  • Shalu Monastery, founded 1040 (Shigatse prefecture)
  • Yemar Monastery, ca. 11th century (Shigatse prefecture)

Projects in preparation:

  • Sekhar Guthok (Lhodrak prefecture) see report above
  • a workshop to train Tibetan artists in wall-painting restoration

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