Thangtong Gyalpo

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Thangtong Gyalpo

Thangtong Gyalpo (Tib. ཐང་སྟོང་རྒྱལ་པོ་, Wyl. thang stong rgyal po) aka Tsöndrü Zangpo (Tib. བརྩོན་འགྲུས་བཟང་པོ་, Wyl. brtson 'grus bzang po) (1385-1509) was a famous Tibetan siddha who travelled extensively in China, Tibet and other eastern countries, built numerous temples and metal bridges and founded monasteries at Dergé and elsewhere.

He is said to be an emanation of the mind aspect of Guru Rinpoche, as well as an incarnation of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen.

His name, Thangtong Gyalpo, means King of the Empty Plain. While he was engaged in meditation in the Gyede Plain in Tsang, he had a vision of five dakinis, who approached him and sang verses of praise. One of the verses says:

On the great spreading plain
The yogin who understands emptiness
Sits like a fearless king
Thus we name him King of the Empty Plain. [1]

Sadhanas & Practices

  • Thangyal Tsédrup
  • The Outer, Inner and Secret Refuge Practice of the Mahasiddha Thangtong Gyalpo


  1. *From the Notes to the Translator’s Introduction to the Life of Shabkar

Further Reading


  • Biography of Thangtong Gyalpo by Lochen Gyurme Dechen, གྲུབ་པའི་དབང་ཕྱུག་ཆེན་པོ་ལྕགས་ཟམ་པ་ཐང་ཐོང་རྒྱལ་པོའི་རྣམ་ཐར་ངོ་མཚར་ཀུན་གསལ་ནོར་བུའི་མེ་ལོང་གསར་པ་, grub pa’i dbang phyug chen po lcags zam pa thang thong rgyal po’i rnam thar ngo mtshar kun gsal nor bu’i me long gsar pa. Wood blocks of this biography have been carved at Thubten Chöling Monastery in Nepal under the inspiration of Dza Trulshik Rinpoche.
  • Könchok Palsang and Dewa Sangpo (Dkon mchog dpal bzang and Bde ba bzang po), Bright Lamp: A Biography of Master Tangtong Gyalpo, Bla ma thang stong rgyal po’i rnam thar gsal ba’i sgron me. In Tangtong Gyalpo, The Collected Works of Grub chen Thang stong rgyal po (Grub chen thang stong rgyal po’i bka’ ’bum), vol. 2. Thimphu: National Library of Bhutan, 1984.


  • Gerner, Manfred. Chakzampa Thangtong Gyalpo - Architect, Philosopher and Iron Chain Bridge Builder, 2007 (available online here)
  • Gyatso, Janet. "The Teachings of Thang-stong rGyal-po." In Michael Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi, eds., Tibetan Studies in Honour of Hugh Richardson. Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1980, pp. 111-119.
  • Stearns, Cyrus. King of the Empty Plain: The Tibetan Iron-Bridge Builder Tangtong Gyalpo, Snow Lion, 2007
  • Tsering, Tashi. 'On the Dates of Thang stong rgyal po' in Ramon N. Prats ed. The Pandita and the Siddha: Tibetan Studies in Honour of E. Gene Smith, New Delhi: Amnye Machen, 2007

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