Ringchen Zangpo

In the 10th century, Kashmir rather than Ladakh was the region's centre of Buddhist scholarship. One of western Tibet's three regional monarchs, Yeshey-Od, decided to send 21 of the kingdom's brightest students to investigate Kashmir's religious scholarship. All but two reputedly died in the process, but one who made it home (after 17 years) was Ringchen Zangpo. He became known as the 'Great Translator', having put more than 100 Buddhist scriptures into Tibetan.

His return to Ladakh in AD 993, accompanied by 32 Kashmiri artists, set off an astonishing flurry of temple building. Remarkably, several original interiors, statues and carvings remain from this period, most famously at the temples in Alchi, Manggyu and Sumdha Chun, along with similar structures at Saspol, Wanla and Kanji. Zangpo also set up a great Buddhist university at Nyerma near Thiksey, of which a few sturdy wall fragments remain.