Inscription pillar at Samye monastery

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2001. (Print)

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Key Information


Hugh E. Richardson


Hugh Richardson

Date of Photo



Tsangpo Valley Region > Samye

Accession number


Image Dimensions

60 x 90 mm

The inscription pillar (rdo rings) at Samye monastery. It is standing up against the east wall of the great temple. The inscription is the earliest document relating to Buddhism in Tibet. It appears to be splattered with white paint at the top.

Further Information

Photographic Process

Print silver

Date Acquired

Donated August 2001

Donated by

The executors of the estate of Hugh E. Richardson


Richardson's 1949 tour of the Yarlung and Chyongye valleys

Other Information

Notes on print/mount - 'Bsam yas' is written on the reverse of print in pencil and 'Velox' in an oval is stamped in black.

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Notes on Blue negative album index - No. 37. 'do'.

Manual Catalogues -

Manual Catalogues - Richardson's handlist: 'Blue Album. [Nos.] 37, 39. 'do' [Inscribed pillar at Bsam-yas c. 782'].

Other Information - Background: Richardson visited Samye in 1949 and describes the site in High Peaks, Pure Earth , London, Serindia Publications, 1998, p. 315-6. "About twenty-six miles downstream [of Gong-dkar Rdzong] on the north bank [of the Tsangpo] is Bsam-yas (1949), "Beyond Imagining", the oldest, most famous, most beautiful and most numinous of Tibetan monasteries. Founded in 779 by Padmasambhava and the Indian pundit Santaraksita under the patronage of the King Khri Srong-lde-brtsan, it was conceived as the realization of an ideal universe in the form of a mandala. The spacious precinct is surrounded by a high wall representing the ocean, with a differently shaped temple at each of the cardinal points for continents and smaller island temples on either side. Some way inside the wall are four large mchod-rten , each in the colour appropriate to its geogaphical position - red at the south-west, black at the north-west, blue at the north-east, and white at the south-east. At the centre, enclosed in a high wall piercwed by doors on the east, south, north and west, stands, foursquare, the great dbu-rtse or gtsug-lag-khang , the symbol of Mount Me-ru, the centre of the universe. ..."

Other Information - History: Richardson describes this pillar and translates the inscription in
A Corpus of Early Tibetan Inscriptions, Royal Asiatic Society, James G. Forlong Series, No. XXIX, Hertford: Stephen Austin & Sons Ltd, 1985, pp. 26-31. "The inscription is on a pillar of hard reddish stone standing on a worn lotus-shaped base of some softer light-coloured stone against the east wall of the great temple of Bsam-yas a little to the south of the main entrance. It is remarkably well preserved and the lettering ... is undamaged. ...".

Technical Information - This photograph was taken using a Zeiss Super Ikonta camera which could take images of 6x9 cm. This was the largest negative exposure size that Richardson could take advantage of with the two cameras that he owned (the other being a Reflex Korelle, which 6x6 cm images). This size produced contact prints of sufficient size that they could be used as prints without further enlargement. However, it was only possible to take 8 images per role with this size of image. By the late 1940s, generally Richardson seems to have used this size image less and less and the choice on this tour probably reflects the significance of the site and the fact that Richardson wanted to take readable photographs of the inscription pillar there, as previously he had relied upon copies made available to him by Sir Charles Bell [
A Corpus of Early Tibetan Inscriptions , Royal Asiatic Society, James G. Forlong Series, No. XXIX, Hertford: Stephen Austin & Sons Ltd, 1985, p.26] [MS 17/12/2005]

Other Information - Dates

Other Information - Dates: Richardson states that he photographed the Samye inscription pillar in 1949 [ A Corpus of Early Tibetan Inscriptions , Royal Asiatic Society, James G. Forlong Series, No. XXIX, Hertford: Stephen Austin & Sons Ltd, 1985, p.26] [MS 17/12/2005]

For Citation use:
The Tibet Album. "Inscription pillar at Samye monastery" 05 Dec. 2006. The Pitt Rivers Museum. <>.

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