Lhundup Chodarling Lhakhang


Lhundup Chodarling Lhakhang is located in Korphu village, approximately a one hour drive from Riwo Tala on the Trongsa–Zhemgang Highway. The road from Riwo Tala to Korphu is a feeder road that climbs up from the Mangdechu river bridge. This road passes Nimzhong village, and then Nabji village comes into view on a plateau below, with Korphu village on a hillock. A cluster of village houses surrounds the modest, two-storey, traditional style temple.

According to oral sources, the village’s name is derived from a cave called “Gorphug” in the local language, where the treasure discoverer Pema Lingpa (1450–1521) took shelter while a storm with hailstones was raging. Gor means “stone” and phug means “cave,” but the village is commonly called Korphu.


According to Lam Dorji from Chakhar in Bumthang, Trulku Chogden Gonpo (1497–1543), incarnation of the treasure discoverer Dorji Lingpa (1346–1405), visited Nabji Lhakhang in the early 16th century and offered statues of Guru Rinpoche and Dorji Lingpa. He made an effort to promulgate the religious teachings of the Dorji Lingpa tradition of the Nyingmapa religious school.

While Trulku Chogden Gonpo was at Nabji, an epidemic of smallpox spread over Tharpaling and Tashiling villages, and many villagers died. Trulku Chogden Gonpo could not bear to see this misery and invited his root guru Pema Lingpa there to cure the disease. Pema Lingpa came to Nabji and cured the smallpox by performing tantric ritual practices. Later, he established a smithy at Tashiling in Nabji, where he produced a variety of metal objects. Nowadays, this location is called Garpang (མགར་སྤང་), and medium-sized stones upon which Pema Lingpa created his metal work still remain there.

Pema Lingpa wished to have a residence in the jungle at the site of Korphu village. He first visited Aumkora (ཨམ་བསྐོར་ར), where he tried to find a water source. About 40 minutes below Aumkora, he found the Menchu Gang (སྨན་ཆུ་སྒང་ “medicinal water”), which he hoped to use as a source to bring water up to Aumkora. In Menchu Gang he constructed three stone steps down to the water source and built a tub, which is still visible now, for bathing in the medicinal water. Pema Lingpa felt discouraged by the amount of work needed to construct steps from the water source to Aumkora, however, so he eventually abandoned the idea of building his residence there.

Pema Lingpa later met Pema Dorji, a hunter from Nabji village, and asked him to point out the source of the area’s drinking water. Pema Dorji refused, stating his worry that Pema Lingpa would disturb his hunting. Pema Lingpa repeatedly asked the same favour, but the hunter repeatedly refused. Finally, Pema Lingpa presented his riding horse to the hunter as a gift, and in return the hunter pointed out the water source at Umchu Gang (ཨུམ་ཆུ་སྒང་), now called Ta Umchu (རྟ་ཨུམ་ཆུ་ “horse pond”) in commemoration of the gift. Ta Umchu is a 10 minute walk from Korphu village.

According to senior villager Ap Zeko, who has served as the village headman for nine years, until 1976 Ta Umchu remained the village’s main water source. However, after the local administration (aided by government funds) supplied water in the village, the old source was abandoned. In 2013, again with aid from the government, the local administration finally built a safety roof and fence around the pond.

After finding the drinking water, Pema Lingpa shifted up to the location where his residence was built. According to Chakhar Lama Dorji, he first built a small two-storey residence and retreat center. Many disciples, gomchen, and ani (lay practitioners and nuns), from various regions gathered there for his profound teaching, oral transmission, and guidance, but they later intermarried and had children. The temple’s position is therefore unique, in that it is surrounded by houses that were once small retreat centers.

The story goes that Pema Dorji, the hunter, used to set traps around Umchu Gang for animals that came to drink, but one day Pema Lingpa destroyed the traps. The next day, the hunter went to see Pema Lingpa, and he shouted angrily using harsh words, “You poor beggar gomchen! Why did you do this to me? My entire family and I have depended upon this occupation for a long time. I cannot accept your evil deeds!” Upon receiving this upbraiding, Pema Lingpa provoked a hailstorm with heavy rain and forceful winds to subdue the hunter, while he magically transformed himself into a bee and hid in a small cave. When the hunter could not find safety from the storm, he saw the magical emanation of Pema Lingpa in the cave. Immediately he regretted his bad deeds and after begging forgiveness became Pema Lingpa’s disciple. From then on the village was called Gorphug (“stone cave”), although it later became commonly known as Korphu.

According to Mangmi Dorji, there are now 75 houses in Korphu, but relatively few permanent residents, as many live away from home as civil servants or students.

Architecture and Artwork

The temple is a two-storey Bhutanese structure with wood, stones, and mortar at the base. According to senior villager Nyima Phuntsho, the temple was renovated and extended in 1966. The main temple occupies the largest space on the top floor, with a small guestroom on the side reserved for visiting lamas. The ground floor has a large room for communal gatherings. The two floors are connected by a traditional Bhutanese outdoor wooden staircase.

The altar inside the temple is well decorated. The main relic of the temple is the sacred scripture of Transcendental Wisdom in 8000 Stanzas (བརྒྱད་སྟོང་པ་), which is said to have been written in golden ink by Pema Lingpa. There is also a small box containing a statue of Pema Lingpa, which is believed to have been presented either by the 8th Karmapa Mikyod Dorji or the 7th Karmapa Chodrak Gyatso, who knew Pema Lingpa.

The other relics are two of Pema Lingpa’s hats, called ugyen pezha (ཨོ་རྒྱན་པད་ཞྭ་) and tendrel uzha (རྟེན་འབྲེལ་དབུ་ཞྭ་); a heavy coat worn during rituals (dagam ཟླ་གམ་ ); the hat of Ani Choeten Zangmo, the grand-daughter of Pema Lingpa; the girdle (སྐུ་བཅིངས་) of Pema Lingpa; and two types of bells crafted by Pema Lingpa. There are statues of Guru Rinpoche; Buddha Shakyamuni; Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig); the famous Thangtong Gyalpo (Chagzampa1361–1485); and the legendary King Gesar of Ling. The temple of the protective deities (Gonkhang) is attached to the main temple, and a small closet on the right side contains various old Buddhist scriptures. On the left side the walls are covered with paintings of the Eight Emanations of Guru Rinpoche and Pema Lingpa, and on the right are paintings of several lamas and protectors.

Social and Cultural Functions

The temple belongs to the local community and was traditionally looked after in rotation by a caretaker from the village.

The Petsheling Trulku from Bumthang has a close relation to the villagers, who consider him their “root lama,” but it is not exactly clear when this relationship began. The present and 5th Petsheling Trulku Kunzang Tenzin Gyamtsho (b. 1960) travels from Bumthang to preside over the annual festival of Drup.

The temple hosts the following events:

  • 7th–9th days of the 1st month of the Bhutanese calendar: Fasting prayer (nyungney)
  • 10th day of the 1st month: Tsechu
  • 15th day of the 1st month: Lama Phuntsho Kuchoe, death commemoration of Lama Phuntsho, who was a cousin of His Majesty the Second King and a great contributor to the development and preservation of Korphu Drup; he provided the facilities and led the Drup for more than 20 years.
  • 10th day of the 2nd month: Nyipai tsechu (prayer)
  • 8th day of the 3rd month: Akhu Duedulla’s offering ceremony to a local deity (originating from Bon, like the Lhabon festival of Tsangkha, but years ago this was changed to a Buddhist ritual practice)
  • 10th day of the 5th month: Tsechu
  • 10th day of the 6th month: Tsechu
  • 7th–10th days of the 7th month: Mani
  • 7th–10th days of the 8th month: Tangla Choedpa; for 1½ days, lay practitioners recite the Kangyur (words of Buddha), and on the evening of the second day, villagers perform the ritual of Gekte, which eliminates evil spirits from the houses. On the third morning, a Tsokhor is performed by the villagers, in which they make rounds of the village carrying the Kangyur on their backs. After lunch there is a tsechu (prayer) ritual.
  • 15th–18th days of the 11th month: Korphu Drup, the village’s most important festival


Venerable Petsheling Trulku Kunzang Tenzin Gyamtsho
Ap Tandin, senior-most villager, ex-gup
Ap Nyima Phuntsho
Ap Pema Tashi, caretaker of Korphu Lhakhang
Umze Chimi Dorji
Ap Zeko, ex-gup


Dorji Gyeltshen. (2011). sKor phug sgrub kyi lo rgyus gser gyi thigs pa’i yang snying “Essence Drops of Gold. An account of Korphu Consecration.” Thimphu: The Center for Bhutan Studies, p. 114.
Kuenzang Dorji (ed.). (2014). gnas yig kun phen lam ston “The guide book for holy places in Zhemgang and Trongsa Dzongkhag.” Volume 7. Thimphu: Home and Culture Ministry, pp. 201-204.

Researcher and Photographer

Tenzin Dorji, Lecturer, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, 2015

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