Lost Treasures of Tibet

Lost Treasures of TibetBefore Leonardo da Vinci painted The Last Supper, Tibetan craftsmen were creating stunning artistry of their deities in the remote Himalayan kingdom of Mustang. In Lost Treasures of Tibet, NOVA goes behind the scenes with the first conservation team from the West, as it undertakes the painstaking restoration of these ancient masterpieces and the beautiful monasteries that house them.

Located in present-day Nepal, Mustang contains some of the last remaining relics of an almost vanished world of ancient Buddhist culture. Across the border in Tibet, Chinese occupiers have destroyed thousands of monasteries since taking control of the country in 1950. Therefore, the survival of Mustang's monasteries or gompas is more important than ever. But preservation is extremely difficult because of the centuries of neglect, weather, and earthquakes that have brought many buildings to the brink of collapse. Inside, their exquisite murals are in a near-ruined state.

In the course of their restoration work, conservators from the West come face-to-face with a thorny problem of culture clash: local people want missing sections of the murals completed. Westerners are aghast at the idea, but their hosts are equally shocked at the thought of worshiping unfinished deities.

The program follows the struggle of an international team headed by British conservationist John Sanday to restore the greatest gompa of all—Thubchen, the royal monastery in Mustang's capital of Lo Monthang. The first order of business is fixing Thubchen's roof—no small feat since 200 tons of dirt have been piled on its flat surface over the centuries to seal out leaks. To bear that much weight, the hidden ceiling beams must be more than two feet thick, an apparent impossibility considering that Mustang is virtually treeless. Sanday solves this riddle when his team excavates down to the beams and discovers an elaborate jigsaw puzzle of construction that uses interlocking small timbers to create a lightweight, load-bearing structure.

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Ratings: 8.51/10 from 37 users.

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13 Comments / User Reviews

  1. tennie

    omg so many great arts and artifacts!!^.^

  2. marie

    These are incredible works of art. I've been in Tibet and I've seen first hand what the Chinese did to the Tibetan monasteries and Tibetan arts with their idiotic cultural revolution. They are still killing what is left of Tibet by encouraging Han Chinese to settle in Tibet while the Tibetans are treated like they do not exist.

  3. Leon

    It's interesting to see, in the many comments and reflections on Buddhist thought in this documentary, how Western language and notions pretty much fail to communicate anything near an accurate picture. Like trying to eat soup with a fork.


    This was a great piece,and im happy t hear artest from another place respected this type of work that needed to be done and also respected the grounds it was done on.

  5. nepali

    buddha was not born in northern india...at least u guys should have investigated that before making this documentry...its a shame on u guys

  6. daniel

    hmmmmm lets look at iraq and what happend to the mosque and islamic culture

  7. Biranjan

    seriously flawed documentary

  8. robin propst

    öh isent he were is his then born ???

  9. Jo Sauce

    Shakyamuni was born as a royal prince in 624 BC in a place called Lumbini, in what is now Nepal.

  10. VJ

    The Indian Sub Continent as a whole comprising of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar and to a great extent Tibet was the birth place of Civilization. It is what the United States represents today - A melting pot for cultures and civilizations.

  11. VJ

    Siddhartha Gautama as a human might have been born in Lumbini where as Lord Buddha as a divine being rose at Bodh Gaya. Stop de marking religions on the basis of geographical borders.....Moron do a bit of reading before you comment......the film makers made this documentary to highlight the art & culture in the region not to incite you ignorant fools to comment on this forum.......Try Reading the Title of the Documentary first.......Nepali my asss.....

  12. David Shawn Hunton

    Lovely documentary about restoring a seco buddha paintings in a huge deteriorating temple. Italian fresco expert advises the locals and helps in restoration, guiding the work. Another expert, an architect, leads the structural shoring up, done with what we in the Southwest u.s. know as adobe. Glad to have spent the time to watch this.

  13. landofsun

    O !this a** hole seems to be intelligent, as for your knowledge mustang is not a kingdom its a part of nepal and when nepal was unified the king was taken out of thrown .....again Siddhartha Gautam ( Buddha )was born in NEpal .... it doesn't matter how much you fucking Indians try to dis inform the world.

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