Back to Overview


Crystal Mountain Tsakhang

Landscape around the Tsakhang Gompa. Auer 2018
The Tsakhang Gompa near Shey. Auer 2018
Tsakhang Gompa near Shey. Auer 2018

The Tsakhang Gompa

Coordinates: 29°22’1.38” N, 82°57’18.42” E, elevation 4458 metres.

The Tsakhang Gompa (btsag khang dgon,“the house of red ochre”) is located about three kilometres northwest of Shey in the vicinity of the Crystal Mountain. Founded as a cave hermitage by Nyima Gyaltsen for solitary retreat in the late 16th century, it later turned into a place of religious activities and meditation practice. Together with the Shey Sumdo Monastery, also known as Crystal Monastery, which was founded in the 17th century, both buildings show the development of later temple typologies in Dolpo.
The complex is impressively situated and widely visible on the high-lying terraces in front of a steeply rising rock face on the northern side. The ensemble consists of a cave with a sacred spring, next to a three-storey, whitewashed residential building on the west side and – slightly higher located on the east side – the multi-storey, redwashed gompa. Both structures were built directly on the rock face with an open view over the valley towards the south. Some small chörten can be found next to the cave, along the access path and on the rocky edges.
As we could note during our visit in the fall of 2022, extensive reconstruction and renovation work was taking place on the buildings. For example, the residence has been structurally altered as part of the work, and several small buildings have been constructed between the residence and the gompa (see 2018 and 2022 photos). Structural alterations are also planned for the gompa. Unfortunately, no detailed survey of the buildings has been possible so far.

References: Kind, Marietta. The Bon Landscape of Dolpo: Pilgrimages, Monasteries, Biographies and the Emergence of Bon. Berlin: Peter Lang 2012: 231-233. Mathes, Klaus Dieter. The Sacred Crystal Mountain in Dolpo: Beliefs and Pure Visions of Himalaya Pilgrims and Yogis. In: Journal of the Nepal Research Centre, ed. By A. Wezler, Vol XI 1999: 61-84.

More from