Tibetan Renaissance Seminar > Participants > Carrie Frederick Frost


Mugulung (myu gu lung) is a branch valley running east-west within the Mangkhar Valley (mang dkhar) in the Tsang (gtsang ) region of Tibet. Mugulung is just south of Lhatse. The Mangkhar area was likely an administrative center in imperial times, due to Lhatse’s position on both east-west and north-south trade routes.

Mugulung also refers to Drokmi Shakya Yeshe’s (brog mi shakya ye shes) residence and translation center in this area, which was established in the 11th century. Drokmi’s translation center, which was loosely monastic, consisted of several caves in which practitioners lived and translated. Drokmi was the 11th century primary translator of the Hevajra tantra systems and master of literary classical Tibetan.

Drokmi’s selection of Mugulung as his residence is exemplary of a larger trend of the translator movement in 11th century Tibet: the selection of a place for translation centers based on a place’s imperial heritage. A place with imperial history gave a certain prestige to a young translator’s location. Ronald Davidson also suggests that Drokmi chose Mugulung because it was near the trade center of Lhatse, but not too near; he was far enough out of the way as to avoid clan feuds and the like. (Davidson, p. 176)

It was in Mugulung that seeds for the emergence of the Sakya sect were planted. Members of Khön clan came to Mugulung to study with Drokmi, and their descendents became the “eight groups” of Khön in that area.

Drokmi's disciple Könchok Gyelpo (dkon mchog rgyal po, 1034-1102) of the Khön clan studied with Drokmi at Mugulung and later founded Sakya monastery in 1073 to the northeast of Mugulung. Könchok’s son, Sachen Künga Nyingpo (sa chen kun dga' snying po, 1092-1158) and grandsons, Drakpa Gyeltsen (grags pa rgyal mtshan, 1147-1216) and Sonam Tsemo (1142-82), are credited with the clear development of the Sakya tradition.

Mugulung’s glory days seem to have been short-lived. Once Sakya monastery was established, Drokmi’s Khön-associated lineage preferred to encamp at Sakya and to locate Sakya as a locus of pilgrimage, rather than keeping a center of learning at Mugulung. It is unclear whether or not Mugulung was entirely abandoned at this point in time, or if the translation going on there ceased gradually over time. It’s clear that by the 15th century Mugulung was no longer a center of translation or other activity; yet by then it had become a site of pilgrimage marking a important place in the sacred geography of the Khön clan.

Mugulung is a quintessential example of several trends in Tibet in the 11th century: it is an imperial historical site re-made into a new translator’s center for his work and residence, it’s a sudden - and sometimes short-lived - growth of a community based on one charismatic person, and it’s an example of the strong connection between Tibetan clans and their geographical location.

Mugulung in the Blue Annals

Blue Annals includes four references to Mugulung. In Blue Annals Chapter 1, Zur Shakya Jungne ,a disciple, comes to Mugulung to bring Drokmi enough gold for Drokmi to pay Indian teacher Gayadhara in exchange for the exclusive rights to his Lamdre teachings. {R 112} In Blue Annals Chapter 4, Drokmi, spends time at Mugulung, propagating teachings {R 207} and another teacher from Mugulung, Dopa ton chung (do¬pa ston chung) leaves the monastic center and dies shortly thereafter {R 208}.

In Chapter 8 of Blue Annals, Marpa (mar pa) studies Sanskrit and learns to translate under Drokmi, at Mugulung. In Chapter 14, Marpo (la stod dmar po’i skabs), is poisoned (though forewarned) at Mugulung and dies. {R 1029}


Ronald Davison’s Tibetan Renaissance, p. 174-176.

Blue Annals Chapters 1, 4, 8, and 14