In present-day Nepal, Lo Monthang is a backwater, a comparativly
very small and insignificant town, yet it is the home of two magnificent
gompas, Thubchen and Jampa, located barely a hundred yards apart
and dating to the fifteenth century. The effect may be compared
to that of a French or Italian provincial town with not one but
two medieval cathedrals. In March, 1996, Thubchen and Jampa were
listed in the World Monuments Fund's first annual Watch List of
100 Most Endangered Sites, representing the world's cultural heritage.
In eastern Mustang, the isolated cave gompa of Luri, probably of
even earlier date, is also decorated with important paintings. There
are other important sites in Mustang as well, including the gompas
of Tsarang and Lo Gekar.
Mustang paintings are of inestimable value and significance; among
the world's finest Buddhist wall paintings, they are rare surviving
exemplars of the classical period of Tibetan Buddhist art. Following
the Chinese invasion of Tibet, and during the subsequent Cultural
Revolution, Tibet's culture was subjected to massive and brutal
assault. The destruction of temples and monasteries was wholesale;
from one end of Tibet's vast expanse to the other, sacred statues
were smashed, murals defaced or obliterated, and entire monasteries
razed, in a deliberate attempt to destroy an entire culture. Fortunately,
the Tibetan cultural world and its sphere of influence extends beyond
the borders of Tibet, into Bhutan and Sikkim, bordering regions
of Nepal and India, and Mongolia. Although it is now part of Nepal,
Mustang was formerly a small, independent Tibetan kingdom; it appears
on the map as a thumb-shaped protrusion, breaking through the Himalayan
wall into Tibet.
In this text, instead of diacritic (accent) marks to indicate the
pronunciation of the palatal Sanskrit sibilant "s," we
use the digraph "sh": e.g., Shakyamuni, Shiva, etc.
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