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Tanka collection

Call Number: Tibet MSS 62

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of 77 tankas, chiefly Tibetan, but also Nepalese, Bhutanese, Indian and Chinese, which bear religious images, circa 1600-circa 1950. Some tankas also bear inscriptions on their versos.

Divinities represented in the collection include Akṣobhya, Amitābha, Amitāyus, Avalokiteśvara, Bardo Thodol deities, Bhaiṣajyaguru, Dorje Shugden, Garwai Nagpo Damchen, Hayagrīva, Mahākāla, Palden Lhamo, Prajñāpāramitā, Rāhula, Sitātapatrā, Tārā, Vajrabhairava, Vajrapāṇi, Vajrasattva, Vajrayoginī, Vasudhārā, and Viśrāvaṇa.

Buddhist practitioners with portraits in the collection include Gautama Buddha, his arhats (disciples), Kloṅ-chen-pa Dri-med-'od-zer, Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen, Mi-la-ras-pa, Ṅag-dbaṅ-blo-bzaṅ-rgya-mtsho, Padma Sambhava, Tsoṅ-kha-pa Blo-bzaṅ-grags-pa, and Yungtön Dorjepel, as well as unidentified Karmapa abbots and an unidentified Sa-skya-pa lama.

Portrayals of inanimate objects and locations include srid-pa-ho (astrological divination charts), a srid-pa'i-'khor-lo (wheel of life), rgyan-tshogs (offerings), a stupa and a mandala.

Identified artists in the collection consist of Tsewang Norbu, an artist active in Darjeeling, India, circa 1865, as well as Rin-zin (or Rig-zin), a artist active in Sikkim, India, circa 1950.


  • [circa 1600]-[circa 1950]

Language of Materials

In Tibetan and Sanskrit.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Tanka Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from various sources. For further information consult entries for individual tankas in the guide to the collection.


Organized into two series: I. Identified Creators, circa 1865-circa 1950. II. Identified Subjects, circa 1600-circa 1950.


6.3 Linear Feet (77 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection consists of tankas, which are Buddhist scrolls or fabric temple banners, chiefly Tibetan, but also Nepalese, Bhutanese, Indian and Chinese, which bear religious images, circa 1600-circa 1950. Some tankas also bear inscriptions on their versos.


Tankas, also known as thangkas, are hanging scrolls or fabric temple banners that consist of a painted picture panels (called mélong in Tibetan, which means 'mirror'), usually depicting buddhas, mandalas, or great practitioners, which are sewn into or bordered by a textile mountings. Tankas are intended to serve as records of, and guides for, contemplative experiences and visualizations.

Processing Information

All of the deity names are expressed in accordance with the Library of Congress Authority File.

Descriptions of individual items derive chiefly from catalog cards created by Wesley E. Needham (Yale 1954 Hon. M.A.H.) at the time of acquisition, as well as from a survey of the material completed by Paul A. Draghi in June 1994.

Guide to the Tanka Collection
by Matthew Daniel Mason
July 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.