Fortress Monasteries of the Himalayas,
Tibet, Ladakh, Nepal and Bhutan

written by Peter Harrisontt
illustrated by Peter Dennis

This book is number 104 in Osprey’s ‘Fortress’ series.

The author describes the history of how Buddhism has been influential in the culture and architecture of approximately 3000 fortified monasteries, the likes of which are not to be found elsewhere in the world. These massive monasteries are breathtaking as they dominate the landscape. In these 64 pages he makes every attempt to understand why and how distinct architectural designs developed in the Himalayas from the 7th century AD onwards. The mountain kingdoms of the Himalayas stretch from China, the Tibetan Autonomous Region, through Bhutan and Nepal to northern India.

Through illustrations, full-color and black and white photographs, plans and period sketches the author recreates these impressive structures, the details of which are spectacular.

The book contains a brief Introduction, Chronology from c.AD 640 through 1967-77; Tibetan Culture and its Distinctive Architecture which covers the development of the Tibetan Cultural Region and a brief outline of their distinctive architecture; The Causes and Nature of Warfare in the Tibetan Cultural Region – here the author looks at the religious conflicts, civil wars and invasions, the raising of standing forces and militias, their equipment and training methods; Himalayan Fortifications – generic approaches and the principles of defense.

The largest section is The Fortified Monasteries of Tibet, it covers the following: The background; The architectural features of the fortress monasteries, exemplified by the southern monastery at Sakya; Chokorgyel Monastery: the Triune, ‘three in one’, gompa; Dechen dzong; Gyantse – dzongs, monasteries and the British; The Potala: the holy palace in the snow land.

The next is The Fortress Monasteries and Monastic Palace Fortresses of Ladakh. This section covers: The Namgyal Dynasty; The fortress monasteries of the 17th century; The defensive system in the Ladakhi Indus Valley; and The hidden valleys of Zanskar, Lahaul and Spiti. In the section Nepal, the author discusses the hidden Kingdom of Mustang and the fortified town of Lo Manthang; and the other monasteries of Mustang.

In The Dzongs of Bhutan, The Shabdrung and the heavenly abodes of the tantric divinities, plus the characteristics of Bhutanese dzongs are discussed. In the Aftermath the author looks at Destruction, neglect and changing circumstances; Tibet; Ladakh and the ‘hidden valleys’; Mustang, Nepal; Bhutan. The last section is on The Sites Today, a look at Tibet, Ladakh, Mustang and The fortress monasteries of Bhutan.

Paperback: $18.95 US; $22.00 CAN