Archeologists have discovered mural paintings dating back 800 years among ruins of a Tibetan temple in the city of Shannan, southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.
The paintings, including images of Buddhist deities such as Green Tara Mantra, Samantabhadra and Avalokitesvara were found in a 20-square-meter area on an interior wall of the temple.
Changpa Tsering, director of the Shannan Cultural Relic Bureau, said archeologists named the temple "Golhakhang," with "Go" from the sound of the location and "Lhakhang" meaning Buddhist temple.
Shannan in southern Tibet is generally acknowledged by archeologists as the origin of the ethnic Tibetan group and their culture. The first palace and first monastery in Tibet are both located in the city.
Tsering said mural paintings previously found in Shannan were mostly dated after the 17th century, while the new findings were from 400 years earlier.
He said mural paintings of the 13th-15th centuries had been rarely found in Tibet. The paintings suggest artistic elements from Nepal and reflect a time when Buddhism spread to Tibet before mixing with Chinese culture.
Tsering said they had excavated 400 square meters of the temple ruins. The mural paintings are well preserved with clear details.
The exact time of the temple has not been determined, he said. The temple has a stupa in the center, which is connected with surrounding buildings.
"The building structure suggested that the temple was originally built like this, and surrounding buildings were not later added. This building design had long disappeared, and has not been found in other Tibetan temples," said Chai Huanbo from the Hunan Cultural Relic Research Institute, who is involved in the study of the new findings.