Hinduism and Buddhism fundamentally shape the cultures of the Himalayas, integrating indigenous elements with those imported directly from India. This period is characterized by the active patronage of Buddhism in Tibet under Khri-srong-Ide-bstan (r. ca. 750–97) and contact of Tibetan artists with Buddhist painting traditions in Central Asia (including Khotan and Dunhuang). Buddhism is firmly established in the mid-ninth century in what is now Bhutan, under Tibetan influence. During the ninth century, Buddhism is persecuted in Tibet, but flourishes under state patronage from the eleventh century. Nepal is ruled by the Licchavi family, heralding the profound influence of Indian culture. Hinduism and Buddhism are patronized as Licchavi power wanes around 750, followed by a period of transition about which little is known.
The Monpa, a fierce mountain tribe, are thought by some scholars to inhabit the Lho Mon or Monyul state in the southern lowlands of Bhutan.
The first Nepali state, ruled by the Licchavi family, marks a golden age of the culture. Close ties are maintained with the Guptas in India, whose aesthetics and literary language are reflected in Nepali art. Buddhism and Hinduism flourish in this period.
The tribal chief Namri Songzen first attempts to unify Tibet.
The Kathmandu valley/Nepal is known as an exporter of fine copper. A Chinese visitor mentions impressive metalwork but examples are no longer extant.
Songzen Gampo, Namri Songzen’s son, unifies Tibet under the Yarlung dynasty, beginning a period of expansion into China and Central Asia. He conquers Nepal to the west, Kamarupa to the south, and various tribes along China’s border, and establishes a capital at Lhasa. His marriages to a Nepali princess, fleeing a coup d’etat in 625, and a Tang princess to cement ties to China, seem to have fostered his adoption of Buddhism as a national religion. Songzen Gampo also marries three high-ranking Tibetan women to further consolidate his empire.
Songzen Gampo orders the construction of two Buddhist temples in Bhutan, introducing Buddhism to the country.
The city of Kathmandu is founded.
Khri-srong-Ide-bstan’s reign is characterized by the active patronage of Buddhism and contact of Tibetan artists with Central Asian painting traditions, particularly at Khotan and Dunhuang.
Famous Indian mystics such as Santarakshita and Padmasambhava visit Tibet.
Tibetan armies seize the Chinese capital at Chang’an. During this period of Tibetan power, Tang China pays tribute to Tibet.
The first Buddhist monastery in Tibet is founded at Samye.
A peace treaty with Tang China marks the high point of the Tibetan empire’s power.
With the assassination of ruler Langdarma, the Tibetan empire begins to fragment, the royal dynasty collapses, and Buddhism declines.
Nepal is ruled by several aristocratic families during the Thakuri or Transitional period.
Buddhism begins a resurgence in central Tibet, and Tibetans journey to India and Nepal in search of texts and teachings.
“Himalayan Region, 500–1000 A.D.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/ht/?period=06®ion=ssh (October 2001)