Thangtong Gyalpo was born in 1361 in the village of Ölba Lhadsé in central Tibet. An emanation of the Indian mahasiddha Kukuripa, Thangtong Gyalpo was known for his eccentric demeanor and miraculous experiences. He was given the name Thangtong Gyalpo, or ”King of the Empty Plain,” by five dakinis in a pure vision.
Thangtong Gyalpo was a great siddha, poet, tertön, as well as an architect. In his spiritual life, he was connected with the Northern Treasure Text tradition and the Sixth Karmapa, however, he had connections with all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
He constructed numerous shrines and temples throughout India, Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. As an engineer, he was best known for his iron chain suspension bridges. Some of these suspension bridges exist to this day. Due to his engineering knowledge, Thangtong Gyalpo’s lineage of treasure texts are known as the Chagsam, or Iron Bridge lineage, which still survives in the Nyingma School.