The monastery is first mentioned in the Chinese novel Journey to the West, first published in the 1590s. In the novel, it is stated that the Buddhist monk Tang Sanzang had visited the monastery while returning from India in the 7th century. The iconography of the archaeological artifacts recovered demonstrates the practice of Tantric Buddhism in the area. It is believed that Muslim armies destroyed the monastery in the ninth century and was forgotten until post-conflict excavations following the Soviet war in Afghanistan.
Foundations for the site were discovered by a joint study, conducted by the Afghan Archaeological Research Institute and Japan's National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
The site lies along a hill and is 250 meters long. It is located south of Lake Koul-e Heshmatkhan, south of Kabul and was discovered beneath a modern police station. The monastery consists of five small stupas for meditation and five chapels. The Afghan Institute of Archaeology continues to excavate at the site for one month each summer since 2005. The site was listed in 2008 among the top 100 sites at risk.
Given the material at the site and the fact that the site is uncovered, it is at significant risk for erosion. The sculpture found at the site are made of "clay overlaid with fabric and covered with stucco."
Recent political events have meant increased danger for the site as damage from looters, armed conflict and insufficient management continue to be threats.
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- "Archive: mission "Tepe Narenj" 2007". Association Internationale pour la Promotion et la Recherche en Archeologie. Retrieved June 8, 2011.
- "Afghan Institute of Archaeology". Retrieved June 8, 2011.
- "Tepe Narenj". Kabulpress.org. 10 July 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2011.