Kunga Nyingpo
15th century
Copper alloy with painted details
30 cm (12 in)

Homage to the Holy – Portraits of Tibet’s Spiritual Teacher, London (6 - 28 November 2003)


Homage to the Holy – Portraits of Tibet’s Spiritual Teachers (London: Rossi & Rossi, 2003), pl. 12



Salutation to the great Sakya Kunga Nyingpo

Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), identified by an inscription on the upper surface of the lotus seat, was the third abbot of Sakya Monastery founded in 1073 by his father Khan Konchok Gyalpo (1034-1102).

The lama is dressed in a wide-sleeved robe bound at the waist beneath a voluminous cloak, the lay attire associated with the early Sakya masters from the local ruling Khon family. The celebrated 15th century painting of Kunga Nyingpo collected at Ngor monastery by Giuseppe Tucci represents the abbot in a similar cloak and habit. Both portraits show the lama with a bald pate and wisps of white hair, beard and moustache. It would seem that these and other such representations of Kunga Nyingpo reproduce physical characteristics known from a contemporary portrait of the master. This expressive portrait statue, made over two hundred years after the master's death, commemorates the importance of lineage in Tibetan Buddhism.