“The Crown Jewel of our Realm:” The Forgotten Story of Künzang Chöling, a Tibetan Buddhist Nunnery in Nepal

Lecture | September 7 | 5-6:30 p.m. | Wheeler Hall, Maude Fife Room, 315

 Charles Ramble, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris

 Center for Buddhist Studies

In Nepal’s Mustang District, on the right bank of the Kali Gandaki river facing the large settlement of Tshug, is a low hill known as Gompa Gang, the “convent ridge”. Standing on the ridge are the ruins of a Buddhist site, Künzang Chöling, whose dilapidated condition belies the fact that it features the finest example of Nyingmapa mural art outside Tibet. Until recently, nothing else was known about the building beyond the fact that it had once been a nunnery. This situation has now changed significantly with the discovery of the archives of the convent and the autobiography of its founder. Thanks to these materials we are able to reconstruct a substantial part of the life of Künzang Chöling, from its foundation in the 1680s to the dissolution of the religious sorority in the early twentieth century. This presentation will examine the circumstances in which the nunnery was founded, the regulations and management of its community, its integration with the local laity, and its relationship with certain lamas whose ambitions were ultimately responsible for its disintegration.

Charles Ramble is Directeur d’études (Professor of Tibetan History and Philology) at the École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, and a member of East Asian Civilisations Research Centre (Paris, France).

 buddhiststudies@berkeley.edu, 510-643-5104