|Research Project on the Sculptural Art of Densatil|
Little remains of the artistic wealth of Densatil except a number of sculptural fragments which were probably part of the tashigomang structures. Tibetan textual sources give detailed accounts of the various relics and artistic objects which once filled the three storeys of the main building. When the monastery was still intact, the noted Italian scholar Mr. Giuseppe Tucci visited it in 1948 and left a vivid and enthusiastic report of his stay:
“In the central temple’s open porch rose huge chortens holding the remains of the abbots and princes of that lineage, whose two branches held the secular and spiritual throne through many generations. They were huge gilt-bronze monuments carried out by Nepalese craftsmen perhaps with the help of the very skilled local workmen: the Tsetang princes must have gathered the pick of the available architects, and sculptors and their successors did their level best to achieve the same standard. Here could be seen the fixity of an art that went through the centuries without undergoing any sizeable change, but for the less accurate finish and the greater harping on minor details of the more recent time. Those chortens were rightly termed‚ Kumbums, i.e. ‘the hundred thousand statues‘, as the architectural lines of those buildings were smothered with a wealth of carvings and reliefs that knew no limits. The whole Olympus of Mahayana seemed to have assembled on those monuments. As I cast the light of my torch on the chortens, the several figures sprang into life, glittering with gold outlined and set off by darker hues and deep shadows. On each of the four sides of the plinth, the shapes of the protectors of the cardinal points were carved, to mark out the sacred area and ward off the evil powers. Their hard, rugged images, like of mail-clad warriors, sharply contrasted with the buoyancy of some female deities gambolling festoon-like around the upper part of the oldest chortens. A huge gilt Buddha smiled impassively against the middle of the wall. As I could make out from the inscription on the plinth, the statue was commissioned by King Changchub Gyantsen (Byang c’ub rgyal mts’an). The inscription also carried the names of the artists and purported that the statue had been carved according to the models of Nepalese art. On the Buddha’s either side were statues of Champa and Chenrezig. On the several altars facing the chortens were heaped statues of the most different size and ages. Some were Indian, but most of them were Nepalese.
The guide then led us into a hut inside the temple, where Drongon Phag motru (‘Gro mgon p’ag mo gru) spent some time in meditation. The whole huge temple developed later on around that lonely hut. An incarnate was now sitting motionlessly and meditating in it. That naked, narrow, dim place breathed mystery and devotion. There you could sit out of reach of Worldly distractions, on a small, secluded surface where throughout the centuries pious souls had experienced the ultimate merging in God while still living in this world. ... In a neighbouring temple I could see two more chortens containing the mortal remains of Drongon Pagmotru.”
Tucci, Giuseppe 1956. To Lhasa and beyond. Diary of the Expedition to Tibet in the Year MCMXLVIII. Roma: Ist. Poligr. dello Stato, p.127f.
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