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Guru Padmasambhava, the master of Tantric Buddhism, also known as the second Buddha who introduced Buddhism in Bhutan in the 8th century, prophesied that there will be five Terton (treasure discoverer) kings and one hundred great Tertons, who would later discover treasures hidden by Guru Padmasambhava. Terton Pema Lingpa, born in the mid 15th century (1450-1521) in Chel Baridrang ofTang valley under Bumthang district in Bhutan is one of the five Terton kings.
Pema Lingpa acquired great knowledge and miraculous powers, and as prophesied by Guru Padmasambhava, he revealed many treasures benefiting the Dharma far and wide in Bhutan. Terton Pema Lingpa was well known for instituting several religious dances, and for his skills in various crafts, such as metal works and wooden carved block for printing scriptures, which are found in several monasteries in Bhutan.
There are many sites including monasteries, temples and pilgrimage sites associated with Terton Pema Lingpa, which continue to sustain the Peling tradition in Bhutan. These sites are the center for religious services for the local communities and the education center for the young monks in Bhutan.
Out of these sites, Tamzhing monastery under Bumthang district is the principle seat of Pema Lingpa. Tamzhing monastery was built in 1501 by Pema Lingpa. This temple is well known for most unique mural paintings. This temple also has unique statues and several other important cultural properties, which are of high importance to the history of Bhutan and the Peling traditions. Pema Lingpa died at the age of seventy-two in 1521 at Tamzhing monastery.
The monastery continued to be looked after by the descendants of Pema Lingpa, and from 1960s onwards some of the monks from Lhalung in Tibet, who followed the Peling tradition, established their learning center at Tamzhing. Even to this day, Tamzhing monastery continues to be the main seat of Pema Lingpa and the monks residing in this monastery continue to perform religious services for the well being of the local communities and the country.
Tamzhing is the original home of unique sacred dances that are celebrated during traditional Tshechu (festivals) throughout Bhutan. Religious dances are the living tradition by which Pema Lingpa sought to teach Buddhism in Bhutan. Furthermore, these dances continue to remain as his legacy among the monks and local communities residing at Tamzhing monastery.
Tamzhing monastery is directly connected with Terton Pema Lingpa, the great ‘Treasure Revealer' of the Bhutan, who is an important historic figure in Bhutan. The monastery is the main seat of Pema Lingpa and exceptional evidence to the living Peling tradition teaching in Bhutan.
Tamzhing monastery is also the site from where the sacred dances of Peling traditions originated. Since these dances are strongly associated to the living cultural tradition of Bhutan, it is a very important site to Bhutan in the context of tangible as well as intangible heritage.
Tamzhing monastery represents an outstanding example of a unique type of architectural style in Bhutan. It was established in place where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) had meditated and sanctified which it signify the landscape stages of Tamzhing monastery. They are highly significant to Bhutan as well as to the humanity at large as they represent legacy of an important tradition of Buddhism, which is still continued providing religious services for the people of Bhutan as well as Buddhists from all parts of the world.
For many centuries, Tamzhing monastery has been well preserved and protected by the local community and his descendent. The monstery continues to house several records with regard the construction of the temple and institution of the religious sacred dances. The biography of Pema Lingpanarrates the construction of temple including the fabrication of wooden kachen (pillar) and of the iron chain suit, which can be still seen inside this monastery. From the perspectives of form and design, materials and substance, location and setting, use and function, as well as spirit and feeling, the monastery has high authenticity value. The monastery continues to retain the original design and fabric, including the ancient exquisite mural paintings as mentioned in the biography.
Tamzhing monastery is one of the unique temples constructed by Pema Lingpa in Bhutan. Despite his travels to Tibet and within Bhutan to reveal several treasures, the other temples such as Kunzangdrak in Bumthang are very different from Tamzhing monastery. This monastery is of high importance considering that it has been elaborately mentioned in his biography as compared to any other temples built by him during his period.