Religious Revivals and Artistic Renaissance in Central Asia and the Himalayan Region – Past and Present
November 16 — 18, 2015
Internationales Wissenschaftsforum Heidelberg Hauptstrasse 242, 69117 Heidelberg
Organizing Committee Paris
Frantz Grenet (President of SEECHAC)
Marie Lecomte Tilouine
Organizing Committee Heidelberg
Birgit Kellner (Chair of Buddhist Studies)
William S. Sax
With the kind support of the Ti-se Foundation
Contact for Enquiries
Secretary of the Chair of Buddhist Studies
Karl Jaspers Centre, Gebäude 4400
Voßstraße 2, 69115 Heidelberg
18:00 — 20:00
09:15 — 09:45 Opening Addresses
Frantz Grenet (President of SEECHAC) Birgit Kellner (University Heidelberg)
09:45 — 10:30
Marion Wettstein: Dancing in the Hills: A Comparative View on the ‘Renaissance’ of ‘Folk-Traditions’ in the Eastern Himalayas
10:30 — 11:15 Mélanie Vandenhelsken: Religious Changes and Political Agency in Sikkim
11:15 — 11:45
11:45 — 12:30
Clea Chakraverty: Donyi-Polo, a Reformist and Revival ‘Tribal’ and ‘Indigeneous’ Religion in Arunachal Pradesh, North-East India: Two Approaches to Discuss
12:30 — 13:15 Jonathan Samuels: Religious Revival or Religious Conversion? Questioning Representations of Religion and Ethnicity in the Tibetan Borderlands: The Tamang People of Nepal
13:15 — 14:30 Lunch Break
14:30 — 15:15 Joona Repo: The Pure Dga’ ldan Lineage: ‘The Revival Movement’ of Pha bong kha bde chen snying po
15:15 — 16:00 Markus Viehbeck: Religious Revival in 19th Century Tibet and the Spread of a Mahāyāna Classic
16:00 — 16:30 Coffee Break
16:30 — 17:15 Clara Ma: Early Regionalization in Western Himalayas: Development of Mahākāla Images in Alchi
17:15 — 18:00 Marialaura Di Mattia: The Artistic Renaissance in the Early Ladakhi Temples — the Instance of the Marvellous Wood-Carvings at the Alci Chos ’khor
18:00 — 19:00
Christian Luczanits: Processes of Revival in Himalayan Art: Imagining Kashmir and Nepal in the 15th and 17th Centuries
19:00 — 20:00
Reception at IWH
09:00 — 09:45
Ebru Zeren: An Analytical Approach to the Contribution of Uygurs in the Renaissance of Mahāyāna Art in Turfan
09:45 — 10:30 Haiyan Hu-von Hinüber: Buddhist Procession and Performance in Central Asia and North India in the 5th Century — According to Faxian’s Travel Report
10:30 — 11:15 Liying Kuo: Buddhoṣṇīṣa-vijayā-dhāraṇī Wall-paintings in Dunhuang Caves and Their Religio-political Aspects
11:15 — 11:45 Coffee Break
11:45 — 12:30 Lewis Doney: The Fourteenth-Century Re-birth of Tibetan Historiography after the Period of Mongol Hegemony
12:30 — 13:15 Daniele Cuneo & Camillo Formigatti: The Malla Renaissance: Towards a Literary and Cultural History of Nepal in the 14th-18th Centuries
13:15 — 14:30
14:30 — 15:15
Christiane Brosius: ‘Out here’ No more: Exploring Nepali Contemporary Art Production
15:15 — 16:00 Galina Sychenko & Alisa Zolotukhina: Phurdok Ritual (Phur-pa Puja) and Reconstruction of the Hyolmo Identity
16:00 — 16:30 Coffee Break
16:30 — 17:15 Davide Torri: The Importance of Being a Beyul: Landscape, Buddhism, Shamanism and Identity among the Nepal’s Hyolmo
17:15 — 18:00 Martin Gaenszle: Bhakti and Shamanism: Josmani Influence on the New Kiranti Religion
18:00 — 19:00
Harry Falk: Royal Inthronisation Rites from Commagene to the Kushans and Beyond
19:15 Dinner (Participants)
09:00 — 09:45 Laurianne Bruneau: In Between Kashmir and Xinjiang: Buddhist Remains of the Nubra Region, Ladakh. Results of the Indo-French Archaeological Mission in Ladakh
09:45 — 10:30 Elena Paskaleva: Timurid Neo-Renaissance in Independent Uzbekistan after 1991
10:30 — 11:15 Gulnara Aitpaeva: Sacred Geography of Kyrgyzstan: Linking Spirituality and Arts
11:15 — 11:45 Coffee Break
11:45 — 12:30 Sophie Roche: The Qalandar Khona in Khujand Facing the Wave of Islamization
12:30 — 13:15 Suzanne Marten-Finnis: Mapping Out Bukhara — Ethnographic Reports for the Soviet Reorganization of Labour
13:15 — 14:30 Lunch Break
14:30 — 15:15 Nandini Bhattacharya: Revival of Miniature Painting in Post-Soviet Tajikistan: An Artistic Renaissance Heralded by Olim Kamalov
15:15 — 16:00 Saskia Abrahms-Kavunenko: Aspiring to Enlightenment: Practicing Purification in Postsocialist Mongolia
16:00 — 16:30 Closing Remarks
16:30 — 17:00 Coffee
L’ACADEMIE DES SCIENCES DE VIENNE
SALLE DU COLLOQUE – CONFERENCE ROOM
PAUSE CAFE - COFFEE BREAK
Président de la SEECHAC
DINER AU PALMHAUS RESTAURANT - DINER AT PALMHAUS RESTAURANT
The Third SEECHAC International Conference was held on 25-27 November 2013 in the splendid historical precincts of the Vienna Academy of Sciences (AAS), under the title Interactions in the Himalayas and Central Asia. Processes of transfer, translation and transformation in art, archaeology, religion and polity from Antiquity to the present day.
Alphabetical list of abstracts
The conference was introduced by Pr. Dr. Brigitte Mazohl (President of the philosophical-historical section of the AAS), Pr. Frantz Grenet (President of SEECHAC) and Pr. Ernst Steinkellner (AAS).
24 papers were presented to a numerous and responsive audience, including a number of students. Speakers came from Austria, Germany, France, England, Italy, Hungary, the USA, Mongolia and India.
Unfortunately two Tibetan colleagues who had been invited were unable to come at the last moment for administrative reasons. In accordance with the title of the conference, the papers touched on a broad spectrum of periods and countries, but with a general emphasis on questions of transfers and adaptations from one culture to the next (and sometimes between geographically very distant cultures).
Among the subjects which were addressed, art and archaeology were represented by the Bronze Age in Central Asia (Elise Luneau) ; the archaeology of early Medieval Ladakh (Quentin Devers) and Mongolia (Lhagvasuren Erdenebold) ; Hindu painting in Khotan (Ciro Lo Muzio), Buddhist painting in Kucha (Jorinde Ebert) and in 17th century Nepal (Anne Vergati).
As expected, the majority of the papers focussed on Tibetan issues: early Tibetan philology (Birgit Kellner) ; the art and archaeology of the 7th-9th century Tibetan empire (David Pritzker, Frantz Grenet, Guntram Hazod) ; Medieval history (Lewis Downey) ; Buddhist painting and manuscripts (Lewis Doney, Hubert Feiglstorfer, Amy Heller, Christian Luczanits, Gudrun Melzer and Eva Allinger) ; ancient medicine (Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim).
Modern societies were the topic of several papers, both on Tibet (Klaus-Dieter Mathes) and on Mongolia (Maria-Katharina Lang, Agnes Birtalan, Isabelle Charleux).
Finally, some papers embraced the far-off historical or artistic contacts of the Himalayan regions (Christiane Kalantari, Marie Lecomte-Tilouine, Finbarr Barry Flood, Diwakar Kumar Singh).
Our hosts in Vienna, in the first place Christiane Kalantari and Christian Jahoda, were warmly congratulated for the perfect organization and the excellent atmosphere. SEECHAC is now planning the next conference in 2015.
Department of Inner Asian Studies, University ELTE Budapest
Text and image between in the Himalayas and Inner Asia – The Mongolian Case
The traditional and innovative sacred texts and images associated with them play a more and more important role in the contemporary religious practices (shamanic, folk religious and Buddhist rituals) of various Mongolian ethnic groups. There is a rich textual tradition of syncretic Buddhist practice based on translation from Tibetan (and to a lesser extent from other languages) enriched with motifs of local cultic tradition on one hand, and text-related images of foreign origin incorporating Mongolian elements, on the other hand.
During my field researches I had the opportunity to record texts both in situ and beyond rituals among various Mongolian ethnic groups, and while working on the project aimed at the complete elaboration of the Hans Leder-Sammlung in European Collections (under the guidance of Maria-Katharina Lang, Wien) I became able to examine a great variety of diverse images of deities that the Mongols are inclined to worship. In order to study the connection between the textual tradition and the images of the pre-revolutionary period of Mongolian religious practices (turn of the 19th and 20th centuries) I chose the images of the White old man (a well known deity in various forms in Cis-Himalayan and Inner Asian regions) and the different types of equestrian warrior gods and examined the possible correlation between the motifs of texts and features of objects.
The aim of the present paper is to introduce the main principles of the transfer of religious ideas in both texts and images, and to reveal the areas and extent of local influence, i. e. the degree of their “Mongolisation”.
CNRS-Groupe Sociétés, Religions, Laïcités (UMR 8582). Paris
On some numinous icons and their replicas in Mongol Buddhism
The present paper focuses on some especially numinous Buddhist items such as “true portraits” and “living icons” worshiped by Mongols from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. Some were (believed to have been) made in Ancient India or in Tibet and contain holy relics, while others were self-generated icons (acheiropoietos, made by hands other than those of ordinary mortals, or descended from sky/heaven), or imprints of original footprints, handprints etc. of Buddhas and deities. The devotion to these icons is said to be identical to the devotion to Buddha or a bodhisattva in person: they are privileged, direct and tangible access to the “original.” Drawing on art historians’ studies on “true,” “living” icons (Walther Benjamen, David Freedberg, Hans Belting, Richard Davis, Robert Sharf, Patricia Berger), I will question the power and charisma of these icons and of their reproductions (the claim of authenticity of the surviving statues will not be discussed here), and raise the following questions: How to produce an authentic icon? Could an authentic image be “copied true” and retain the same power and miraculous properties? What exactly must be replicated to ensure that a branch icon retains the potency of the original? At last, what are the written and oral accounts, stories and legends that support the claims of authenticity of these icons and propagate their narratives? (My main sources here are two pilgrimage guidebooks to two of these icons, written respectively in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: Rölpe Dorje’s guidebook to the Sandalwood Lord, and the guidebook to the Juu Shākyamuni of the Yekhe Juu of Ordos written in 1849).
PhD candidate, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris
Charting ancient routes in Ladakh: An archaeological documentation
Communication routes have played an important role in the history of Ladakh, crafting its identity as a country at the crossroads. Through them a range of influences reached the region, visible in its archaeological heritage such as rock art, temples and fortifications.
As we know them through the accounts of the 19th and early 20th century explorers, these routes were shaped by the treaties signed between Ladakh, Kashmir and Tibet in the 17th century. Long distance trade ended up in the hands of few wealthy families: the scale at which they conducted their activity made Leh the centre of a network from which a limited number of routes reached the main destinations of commerce – i.e. the Tarim basin, Kashmir, Central Tibet, Baltistan and India. Because of the scarcity of written sources, the pre-treaties route network is mainly uncharted: it is not known whether it was similar to that observed later on or if it had a more arborescent scheme.
After conducting comprehensive surveys the author has gathered a large corpus of archaeological sites, documenting, among others, over two hundred fortifications and ruined settlements. Their location, density, topographical and archaeological environments give unprecedented insights into the pre-treaties communication scheme. Through the examination of key sites and their spatial distribution, we will, during this presentation, define these ancient itineraries and observe that the communication network had then a much greater diversity of routes and destinations, with an emphasis towards several parts of Upper Tibet.
Transforming Tibetan kingship
This presentation re-evaluates Tibetan history in the light of the impact of the transfer of Buddhism into Tibet. It focuses on their portrayal of Khri Srong lde brtsan (742–c.800), whether as a Tibetan emperor, a Buddhist king or a tantric disciple. The influence of the foreign religion is present from the start. Imperial texts depict him as a great Tibetan emperor (btsan po), endowed with the authority of his ancestors. Yet the inscriptions at Brag lha mo and ’Phyongs rgyas also describe him as a bodhisattva, leading many of his subjects towards enlightenment. Post-imperial sources, found in the Mogao caves of Dunhuang, transform the emperor into a Dharma king. They identify him with idealised Indic royal predecessors like Aśoka or King Tsa. Twelfth-century histories, such as the sBa bzhed and Nyang ral Nyi ma ’od zer’s (1124–1192) Zangs gling ma, remember him as the patron and pupil of spiritually superior Buddhist masters. One Indic tantric master, Padmasambhava, even blames the king’s lack of faith for the future decline of the Dharma. These religious figures gradually displace the king as the central protagonists of his life history. This presentation thus uncovers the concerns that lie beneath early portrayals of Khri Srong lde brtsan. These include self-presentation, lineage legitimisation and complex relationships with the “golden age” of empire. The transformation of Khri Srong lde brtsan in Buddhist histories depends upon seismic shifts affecting Tibetan culture, including the cult of religious figures and the influx of Indian literary genres into Tibet.
University of Vienna
„Homecoming into the Mountains and emerging from the Mountains“: A Major Theme in the Buddhist Art of Kucha/Xinjiang
It has long been an enigma, why the Buddhist art of Kucha in Central Asia (from around 450 – 900 A.D.) and especially its mural paintings in many hundreds of stone caves shows such a variety and dense depiction of mountainous landscapes in painting and sculpture, not seen anywhere else during this time in such recurring prominence. Since the Buddhist art of Central Asia during this stage of development had no interest in depicting landscapes or mountains as such (l’art pour l’art), but was mainly occupied with the promulgation of the Buddhist “truth” in pictures, the mountains depicted there can only be interpreted in this light. This paper ventures to unravel the mystery of the mountain-theme by drawing attention to the close economic, cultural and social ties linking the art of Kucha to the pre-Buddhist regions of ancient Iran and Central Asia, where similar mythological ideas and resulting ritual habits lead to a common iconography. Three very ancient cultures were mainly responsible for this: The proto- and old Elamic culture of Southwest Iran (flourishing 3000 – 2600 B.C. in Susiana and Fars), the Kerman culture in Southeast Iran directly bordering it (about 2700 – 2000 B.C.), and the Bactrian culture of Afghanistan and Southern Turkmenia (around 2500 -1800 B.C.). The mythological ideas and ensuing rites of those ancient times based on the veneration of interacting gods/goddesses and heroes remained virulent, and were later translated into the Buddhist iconography of Bactria, as can be observed in the seals of the Kushana Period from Central Asia. From here, this iconography was transmitted to Kucha in today’s Xinjiang. At the bottom of the Buddhist mountain depictions in Kucha thus lies the ancient myth of the hero (Etana) who is sent into the mountains initially by the god (Shamash) and later by a goddess to procure a means for the survival of the royal dynasty from heaven. The goddess is often symbolized by specific animals (i.e. the eagle, the snake, the lion, or the scorpion), or a vessel carrying the water of life, or a tree as a symbol of the axis mundi or paradise, and most important for our context: the symbol of the mountain. Mountains, while generally considered the abode of the gods from most ancient times on, also function as a place where to the hero can withdraw in order to fulfil his destiny. Thus, in the Buddhist context of Kucha, mountains become the abode for the initial “homecoming” of the Buddha, as they will finally furnish the scenario for his “emergence from the mountains“ (jap.: shussan shaka).
Austrian Academy of Sciences
Reconstructing the Early Structure of the Khorchag Monastery, Purang, Western Tibet
Along with the monasteries of Nyarma and Tholing, the Khorchag monastery in Purang may be mentioned as one of the first three monastic sites of Western Tibet established at the end of the 10th century CE by a member of Western Tibet's royal dynasty. Field research in 2010, together with Tsering Gyalpo, Christian Jahoda and Christiane Kalantari, offered the possibility to explore the architecture of Khorchag monastery. The hypothesis regarding what once constituted the former layout of the site and the temples’ earlier structure is based on detailed documentation of the existing construction, including the survey of the entire complex. Its appearance today narrates a constructive history of continuous transformations, from an original structural core towards a massive contemporary complex, each phase of extension related to a certain constructive method.
In this presentation, material and constructive parameters as well as proportional relations within the Jokhang and Lhakhang Chenmo temples and the methodology of the reconstruction will be explained. The methodology itself is based on the analytical study of the interrelation of spatial, proportional, material and constructive data of the individual components as part of the whole architectural complex within the framework of an interdisciplinary approach.
In their reconstructed form, the Jokhang and the Lhakhang Chenmo appear as being related to different architectural-historic roots. While the layout of the first is based on a cruciform shape, the latter is much more related to a small temple with a cella (dri gtsang khang) as it's own chamber, and was transformed into a cruciform shape in a later phase. The results of this reconstruction will be typologically compared with other early sacred sites like Nyarma or Tandruk in an architectural-historic context based on a transference of constructive traditions in the Himalayas and their local transformation within the early Western Tibetan empire.
Finbarr Barry Flood
New York University. New York
Transcultural Elements in Twelfth-century Himalayan Art: A Comparative Perspective
Since they were first brought to the attention of art historians, the murals of Alchi have attracted considerable interest for their inclusion of both Indic and Islamicate elements. The Alchi paintings provide a tangible trace of pre-modern patterns of circulation known from textual sources, in which artefacts, artisans, materials and techniques appear to have been remarkably mobile, even in what are often described as 'remote' regions of the medieval world.
The individual Islamicate and Indic elements in the Alchi paintings have been subject to extensive discussion. Moving from the micro level of iconographic and formal analysis to the macro level of cross-cultural comparison suggests, however, that the Alchi paintings might be seen as evidence for a broader twelfth-century transcultural horizon. This is characterized both by commonalities among the self-representations of cosmopolitan elites established across a swath of territory from Sicily to western Tibet, and by the circulation and consumption of 'imported' visual forms. The phenomenon was especially marked in regions that constituted an economic, geographic, or political nexus between major cultural formations. Considering the transcultural elements of the Alchi paintings in a wide-ranging comparative perspective, the lecture will present them as part of a synchronic transect across the twelfth century, drawing attention to a consistent relation between artistic displacement, visual eclecticism, and elite self-fashioning, and exploring its implications for the idea the pre-modern 'global'.
Collège de France, Paris
The Deydier vase and its Tibetan connections: a preliminary note
A gilded silver vase now in the Deydier art gallery in Paris shows hunters on the back of an elephant and a camel, as well as frightening guardian gods and various animals both real and fantastic. It was reportedly acquired by Paul Pelliot in China before the war. A note and photos have been published last year in the Catalogue of the gallery, and in last October at a conference at the Hermitage Museum a paper on this object was presented by M. Men’shikova and A. Nikitin, who proposed to recognize an episode of Shiva’s legend and to attribute the vase to expatriated Sogdian artists working in the 6th c., possibly in Khotan. The present paper tries to demonstate that the vase belongs to the Tibetan court production of the 8th c. and presents strong similarities with several vessels in the Pritzker collection (studied by Boris Marshak whose Catalogue is being prepared for publication). The Indian iconographic component does not stem from Shivaism but from Mahayana Buddhism, and was transmitted through China. These themes were reworked for the sake of royal propaganda, in a manner very similar to the « Red Hall » paintings at Varakhsha dating from the 730’s.
Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences
The Tibetan Tumulus Tradition: About New Discoveries in Central Tibet
The beginning of the construction of burial mounds in Tibet can be dated at least to the 4th century CE and it ends in the early 10th century, when after the collapse of the Tibetan Empire (c.600-850 CE) the royal graves were plundered. The area with the highest density of tumuli fields is Central Tibet, the Bod of the imperial period and core region of the early Tibetan civilization. Here we find numerous square (usually trapezoidal) structures of enormous size, of which those of the royal cemeteries and of a few other fields have long been well known to the research. However, today a total of about 200 fields can be registered for Central Tibet, of which the vast majority have not yet been documented. Dozens of fields with imposing barrows were discovered in the course of recent fieldworks by the author and his Tibetan colleagues, others we know from information based on satellite imagery. The findings are the result of long-standing historical and ethnographic surveys of the history of the Empire, especially here relating to the history of the Tibetan clans, in whose erstwhile homelands these unique monuments historically and geographically are located. The findings formed the opening of a research project at our institute, which started this year, and the present meeting provides a good opportunity to present and discuss some of the results achieved so far. It will refer to the issue of the territorial distribution of the fields, the outer appearances of the sites (architectural features, topographical and settlement archaeological specifics), the social and political context, and not least the complex of the (pre-Buddhist) funeral ritual will be addressed, including here also the comparable view of other “tumulus traditions” in the Central Eurasian world.
CNRS/UMR 8155, Paris
“Three ancient illuminated Tibetan manuscripts from the Tucci collection, IsIAO”
Among the numerous manuscripts collected by Giuseppe Tucci in Tholing (1), the majority are now conserved in Los Angeles County Museum of Art. These have been attributed to Kashmiri painters of the 11th century in publications by Pal (2,3,5), although the most thorough publication by Harrison (4) raises questions about this attribution. The study of two unpublished Prajñ̄āpāramitā manuscripts conserved in IsIAO Roma sheds further light on the history of these manuscripts as a result of examining them in the context of mural paintings in Tholing, and nearby Mangnang, and portrayal of donors therein. This leads to a chronological hypothesis, indicative of distinct phases of patronage during the successive reigns of Ye shes ‘Od and Byang chub ‘Od. The third IsIAO manuscript may be compared (in terms of codicology and illuminations) with Prajñ̄āpāramita manuscripts discovered in Dolpo, C-14 date of late 11th to early 12th century (6) and in Himachal Pradesh (7,8). This period corresponds in part to the reign of rTse lde who sponsored the 1076 Religious Council at Tholing, assembling numerous Buddhist masters, scribes, translators and artists of many lands. The third IsIAO manuscript as well as the manuscripts now conserved in Dolpo and Spiti may be envisaged in this context as a repercussion, and may well have been commissioned in the aftermath of the 1076 Religious Council. The three manuscripts of IsIAO thus enrich our understanding of the issues of patronage and commission in the Guge Kingdom of Western Tibet during the 11th and early 12th century.
1. G. Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, Roma, 1949.
2.P. Pal, Art of Tibet, A Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 1983.
3.P. Pal and J. Meech-Pekarik, Buddhist Book Illuminations, New York, 1988.
4. P. Harrison, “Notes on some West Tibetan manuscript folios
in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art”, in Pramāṇakīrtiḥ edited by B. Kellner (Vienna : Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, 2007: 229-246.
5. P. Pal, “A Painted Book cover from Ancient Kashmir”, www.asianart.com,
6. A. Heller, Hidden Treasures of the Himalayas, Tibetan paintings, Manuscripts and Sculptures of Dolpo, Serindia Publications, 2009.
7. D. Klimburg-Salter, “ A Decorated Prajnaparamita Manuscript from Poo”, Orientations, June, 1994: 54-60.
8. E. Allinger, “Kunstler and Wekstatt am BEispeil des westibetischen Manuskriptes in Poo/Himachal Pradesh” Vanamālā : Festschrift A. J. Gail; Gerd J. R. Mevissen et Klaus Bruhn, eds. - Berlin: Weidler Buchverlag, 2006.
Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin
Highland Trans-border Communities of the Eastern Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau Interface: State of the Art of Research and a Constructive Appraisal of Future Prospects
This paper introduces research on the diverse range of small highland societies who dwell at the eastern Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau interface, roughly along the current de facto boundary (often called Line of Actual in Control in India) between modern Arunachal Pradesh and the southern Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Many of these local communities straddle the modern India-China frontier zone, either actively maintaining degrees of positive contact or remaining completely isolated from one another. Two parallel research domains concerning these peoples have been generated by modern political circumstances, one largely India-based, the other Chinese, and for various reasons they are virtually never articulated. The advent in the region of a small number of independent researchers with diverse linguistic skills is a new development. Following a brief review of the state of the art of research on trans-border peoples of the eastern Himalayan-Tibetan Plateau interface, I will outline the major desiderata for future scholarship in the region, and suggest constructive proposals for building realistic international research collaborations.
Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna
Untying Old Knots - Weaving New Patterns. The Regional styles of Khartse and Khorchag in the Fabric of Early Western Himalayan Buddhist Art
The last years have brought to light in areas of historical Western Tibet (mNga’ ris) a large corpus of new documentation of temples, monasteries and cave sanctuaries with their decorative programmes that were founded by the new royal elite acting as patrons of Buddhism within the political domain of the West Tibetan kingdom. The new material transformed our knowledge of early Western Tibetan Buddhist art from the 10th to the 13th centuries. Up to now this art has been mainly associated with the long and lasting religious-artistic landscape of Kashmir and the ‘Kha che lugs’ (i.e. ‘Kashmir style’ in Tibetan terminology), which spread through itinerant artists and flows of mobile artworks. Examples of monuments and wall paintings from sacred sites in Khartse valley (Guge) and Khorchag (Purang) dating back to the formative phases of the kingdoms of Purang and Guge, and in particular early representations of mandalas, show adoptions and transformations of traditions from Nepal and Mustang. They reflect the complexity of interactions and the cosmopolitan cultural horizons that existed from the beginnings of the West Tibetan kingdom onwards and in particular the significance of this region as a contact zone of cultural exchange between Western Tibet and Nepal. Based on recent field-studies the highly refined wall paintings of temples and cave sanctuaries from these sites will be analysed uniting into a common view information from different media (wall-paintings, illuminated manuscripts, inscriptions) partly still in situ. The goal is to employ geographic and historic categories and to try to identify distinctive regional styles within the borderland principalities in the Himalayas of historic Western Tibet.
Buddhist Studies Cluster “Asia and Europe”, Heidelberg University
The Thon mi sambhoṭa Complex – on the Indian Origins of the Tibetan Writing System
According to Tibetan Buddhist historiography the Tibetan writing system was created by Thon mi
sambhoṭa, who had been dispatched to India to retrieve a script by king Srong btsan sgam po in the first half of the sixth century CE. Among the various achievements attributed to Thon mi in numerous sources we find also the authorship of the two foundational treatises of Tibetan grammar, and the translation of several Buddhist texts from Indian sources.
Research relating to the narrative complex associated with Thon mi sambhoṭa has primarily focussed on finding the historical truth behind the accomplishments attributed to this elusive figure (who some doubt even existed). This paper will pursue a different approach. A closer look at the different versions of the Thon mi complex reveals variations in their structure, in the elements involved, in their mutual relations, and in their function within the larger narrative framework. Through analysing several salient versions, this paper aims to investigate how different authors depict Indo-Tibetan religio-cultural connections in this particular case, and to explore possibilities to etch out a more precise morphology of Tibetan approaches to aspects of Indian culture.
Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna
Moving artefacts: Mongolian Tsam Figures in European Museums
Strikingly expressive, a group of twelve small wooden figures depicting characters of the Mongolian tsam ceremony are preserved in the Mongolia Collection of the Museum for Ethnology Vienna. In total these artefacts form a group of at least sixty-six tsam figures, which in part appear to have originated from one set and are today kept in several ethnography museums in Europe. During his first visit to Mongolia in 1892, the Austrian traveller-researcher Hans Leder for the first time witnessed a tsam performance in the monastery of Erdene zuu; in 1902 he sent a group of miniature tsam dancers to Europe. In my presentation I will analyse these figures, and their embeddedness in a network of relations and multiple transfers more closely. They narrate the changing history and practice of the tsam ritual in Mongolia and are themselves the result of a cultural transfer between Asia and Europe.
Directeur de recherches, CNRS, Paris
Is There a Network of Holy, Natural Gas Flames Across the Himalayas and Central Asia?
Dullu, the imperial capital of the Malla dynasty (eleventh-fourteenth c.), in western Nepal, is remarkable for its ritual enclosure made up of temples where natural gas flames burn and are worshiped in the name of Jvalaji or Vaishvanara. In the myth of origin of the flames of Dullu, these holy flames are linked to two other similar shrines: Muktinath to the East and Kangra, to the West. Inscriptions show that the Malla emperors referred to their capital city as "the area of the flames" and that they worshiped them. My contribution focuses on the characteristics of these flames and of their worship and explores the similarities and possible links with other religious centres built around natural flames in Central Asia, as far as Baku, Azerbaijan.
Mongolian University of Science and Technology. Mongolia
The Art Gallery of Nomads
A joint archeological team of Mongolia - Kazakhstan carried out an excavation work at a place named Shoroon Bumbagar of Ulaan Kherem, Bayannuur soum of Bulgan aimag, Mongolia, 2011 and discovered early nomads’ aristocrat tomb. Shoroon Bumbagar tomb of Ulaan Kherem dates back to the 7th Century AD and we are assumed that it could be built by one of the Turkic ethnic groups. We found more than 30 paintings were placed on both sides of the entrance walls and grave walls. They used stucco with red, black and blue colors to paint all pictures. We think that the mural paintings have been drawn by two painters at least. Images of 24 persons, a white lion, a blue dragon, 2 horses with saddles and bridles, a dog, 2 flags and 7 bushy trees have been drawn on both sides of the entrance walls and inside of the burial place walls too.
Also we have discovered totally 140 golden objects and more than 40 golden coins were amongst the other objects. We think that most of the golden coins were designed in Constantinople, in 630 BC. These coins were designed for decoration and for gifts as we consider. Some of the coins had handles for hanging or even it had small holes for various things. These small holes or handles of the coins are clear shown us the usage of these coins. Most of the coins had images of something and several coins portrayed images of aristocrats of the Byzantine period. Thin and light golden coins were discovered from here too. It shows us that a golden coin had been fabricated and used in an ancient time and others depicted ritual fire offerings that are the main rite of Manichaeism. This religion spread amongst Turkic nomads in some extends and it was influenced on the world view and funeral ceremony that period of time. We have also found a golden flower pattern at Shoroon Bumbagar tomb of Ulaan Kherem that has been taken an attention. Unfortunately, this golden object was intentionally broken and put it into the coffin, therefore, it is difficult to restore it completely. If we look at it more carefully, leaves appear on both sides from middle of bunch bouquet and each leaves forms a heart –shape. If we connect all heart – shaped leaves, we can see an image of complete flower pattern. Researchers underlined that this kind of the flower pattern that expresses heart-blood was originated from India. Also this flowery pattern consider as a symbol of energy. In China, it is called as a gem flower pattern. We assume that maybe this Indian pattern spread amongst Central Asian nomads through China.
The territory that is today Mongolia was inhabited by the nomadic tribes in the 7th century and they had known about states of Middle Asia in West, Greeks and Rom in East, China in South, Tibet and India in South-West and Balhae /ancestor of Korea / in East and also they had communicated in a direct and indirect way with them which it proved by the findings from Shoroon Bumbagar tomb. A gallery of wall paintings has never been discovered not only in Mongolia but also in the region of nomadic tribes of Central Asia too. Therefore, we can say it that this discovery opens a new page in the history of archeological science.
The findings of Shoroon Bumbagar of Ulaan Kherem is given to us to further research on ancient nomads’ tomb construction, funeral custom, their aesthetics, artistic thoughts, development of a craft skill and their world view which is definitely enriched the scope and base of historical and archaeological research by new materials. We think that ancient nomadic tribes inhabited in current Mongolian territory, given to us a great possibility to close study of their socio-economic situation, their intellectual development and foreign relations. Finally, it is no doubt that it will be a valuable source for making new scientific conclusion on it.
Ciro Lo Muzio
University La Sapienza, Rome
Remarks on Some Brahmanical Deities in Buddhist Central Asian Art
Field explorations carried out during the last decades in Southern Xinjiang, particularly at Dandan Oiliq (Khotan oasis), have yielded fresh evidence on the part played by Brahmanical deities within Buddhist iconographic programmes. Siva, Karttikeya and a number of other male and, above all, female ambiguous deities provide a sort of frame to large Buddha images. An analysis of the iconographic as well as literary sources of the single divine characters and on their presentation scheme will be made with the aim to clarify such original parivāras.
Rubin Museum of Art, New York
Beneficial to See – New Observations on Early Drigung Painting
In an article of 2006, I established a first body of early Drigung paintings based on the usage of a single distinctive composition with several iconographic markers. At that time I could only hint at possible expansions of this corpus, but could not proof the affiliation decisively. Revisiting this subject for a Rubin Museum project, and incorporating the evidence of the early Ladakhi monuments this body could in the meantime not only expanded considerably, but there are also hints about the purpose and function of these paintings.
In my presentation I will introduce the main characteristics for the earliest paintings of the Drigung School shortly, refine their historical setting, establish distinctive mahāsiddha and Buddha representations characteristic for this school, and relates all these to monuments in Ladakh.
In terms of chronology, I will focus on the first two centuries of Drigung art, and only occasionally refer to later examples. Finally, I will show how the main iconographic groups found are conceptually related to each other and thus hint towards a function of these paintings.
German Archeological Institute, Berlin
Transfers and Interactions between North and South in Central Asia during the Bronze Age
Central Asia, during the Bronze Age (2500-1500 BCE), is characterized by a situation of multiculturalism. Several cultural entities shared this territory, as the Oxus civilization in the southern part and different "steppe" cultures (Afanasievo, Andronovo for instance) originally present in the northern part. Exchanges between these groups are known since the Early Bronze Age. An intensification of the relations occurred with the migration of the "steppe" populations towards southern Central Asia. Several influences, cultural, technical and ideological transfers are obvious, as for example on the ceramic tradition (influence on the decorations and on the manufacturing process), on the metallurgy (increase of the bronze metallurgy, connection with the trade of tin, and adoption of numerous metal items related to the "steppe" material complex) and on the burial practices (appearance of cremations and cairns) of the Oxus civilization. Conversely, any clear influence of the local populations from southern Central Asian is, at present, noticeable on the cultural features of the "steppe" groups. Besides, some sites, especially graveyards, combine, the cultural traditions of the two communities. An eventual assimilation of populations may be proposed. These phenomena occurred, particularly, during the Final Bronze Age, when the Oxus civilization underwent profound mutations before its disappearance around 1500 BCE.
This communication will present and investigate the different relations between the cultures from North and South of Central Asia during the Bronze Age. The perspective will also be to better define the impact of the interactions on the sociocultural evolution of the Central Asian cultures during the Bronze Age.
University of Vienna, Vienna
The Goddess Ama Yangri of Yol mo—Local Himalayan Beliefs and the High Religion of Tibetan Buddhism
A ma g.Yang ri (“Mother Auspicious Mountain”) is worshipped by the inhabitants of Yol mo north of Kathmandu, Nepal, and is central to their religious beliefs and practices. This contrasts with the broader context of Tibetan Buddhism, where she figures only as a local guardian deity entrusted by the famous Indian Buddhist tāntrika Padmasambhava with the task of protecting the hidden land “lotus grove,” which can be roughly located in the region of Yol mo. The incorporation of this popular local cult into a more universal form of religion represents an interesting example of cultural transfer. It proved to be an important strategy used by the northern treasure tradition (byang gter) founded by the Tibetan treasure finder Rig ´dzin rGod ldem ´phru can (1337-1406) to expand its influence over one of the most fertile and enchanting areas of the Nepalese Himalayas.
The present paper is based both on my docu¬mentation of the annual A ma g.Yang ri Festival which was celebrated on April 6, 2012 at g.Yang ri Peak (3771m) overlooking Tarkekhyang, and on textual evidence of A ma g.Yang ri and g.Yang ri Peak found in the writings of Nyingma and Kagyu masters traveling to and living in Yol mo, i.e., Rig ´dzin rGod ldem, Zhwa dmar Chos kyi dbang phyug (1584-1630), the first Yol mo sPrul sku Shākya bzang po (15th /16th cent.), and the fifth Yol mo sprul sku ´Phrin las bdud ´joms (1726-1789).
Gudrun Melzer and Eva Allinger
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna
The Early Tibetan Cult of the Book as reflected in Early Western Tibetan Prajñāpāramitā Manuscripts
Prajñāpāramitā manuscripts seem to have formed the largest bulk of ancient western Tibetan monastic libraries. The Tibetan cult of the book has already been studied in various aspects; however, the manuscripts themselves have rarely received much scholarly attention until recently. What is it that turns them into a sacred cult object?
Quite often we find only the miniatures of isolated folios published while their relation to the general layout of the manuscript and the text remains unclear. Recent studies of Indian and Nepalese Prajñāpāramitā manuscripts have revealed an intriguing relationship between the illuminations and the text as well as the book as an important object for worship. Frequently, the distribution of illuminations in the manuscripts seems to have been thoroughly planned.
In the presentation, we investigate the underlying scheme of the distribution of early western Tibetan book illuminations and their style in relation to the text. How many people wrote a multi-volume book like the Śatasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā? How many artisans draw the illuminations? What is the history of such a manuscript; how was it preserved? How is it related to the well-known Kanjur versions?
As an example we choose an almost complete and unpublished Śatasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā manuscript from Hanle (Wam le) in Ladakh, which will be comparatively studied.
University of Oxford, Oxford
The Previously Unknown Golden Ewer belonging to the Pritzker Collection
The previously unknown golden ewer belonging to the Pritzker Collection, presents an interesting example of the aesthetic influences of the Sassanid and Tang Empires and the Silk Road in the material culture of the Tibetan Empire. Even more importantly, however, the ewer represents the synthesis of these influences in a style that is characteristic of the Imperial Period of Tibet. I will explore how the aesthetic of the ewer exemplifies an energy and spirit unique to the explosive and short-lived Tibetan empire (7th-9th centuries). The presentation will include a detailed description of the object, alongside with images of both the ewer and other objects most closely comparable with it. The paper will also discuss the cross-cultural aesthetic influences in the creation of the object, looking at how processes of transfer and translation informed its craftsmanship, type, shape, and decorative motifs. Finally, I will highlight the characteristics that define the ewer as a distinctive object from the Tibetan royal court, reflective of the socio-political and economic context of the Tibetan Empire.
Diwakar Kumar Singh
University of Delhi, New Delhi
Rituals, Texts and Transmission: Mapping the Space between Tibet and Nalanda
The role of the Buddhist monastery in propagating Buddhist ideals has been enveloped in a variety of contexts. It is believed that the Buddhist monastery was not only associated with an isolated role of the practice and propagation of Buddhist ideas of enlightenment, rather the role was much wider and complex in fermenting the historical process. Thus, scholars in terms of facilitating the socio-economic processes such as agriculture, trade, and urbanization have largely visualized the role of monastery. The Buddhist monasteries underwent a complex transformation during the period, perceived as early medieval India (600-1200 C.E). The transformation can be seen in emergence of monasteries such as Nalanda, Vikramsila, Odantpuri, Kurkihar and Ratnagiri. The archaeological as well textual evidence bears testimony of evolution of these places as great centre for learning. Nalanda specifically acquired a significant status. The Chinese and Tibetan sources amply attests the archaeological finds of Nalanda and its complex evolution of monastery beyond the designated rubric of University- a term which has been used in modern scholarly writing. The evidence amply affirms the dynamic interactions and multiple transmissions of texts, relics, rituals and various other physical and metaphysical entities. The process of such interactions must have been complex one. However there has been a tendency to locate those interactions in monolithic and coherent configuration. The case of Tibet is one that needs a wider scholarly attention. Nalanda played a vital role in propagation of Buddhism in Buddhism in Tibet. The linguistic rendering also suggests the impact of Sanskrit in fermentation and synthesis of Tibetan Language. The hagiographical texts spell out the complex layers of those interactions. Buddhist chronicles are encoded with events and metaphors that encapsulate ontological dialogue that took place between Tibet and Nalanda. The transmission of philosophical tradition by Santraksita and Padmsambhava in Tibet is a well-documented historical fact. The present paper based on both archaeological as well textual sources locates the complex interactions of Nalanda and Tibet. It is imperative to delineate the complexity of religious processes that are often seen in terms of assimilation, appropriation and domestication of cults and rituals. The implications of such theoretical tools need to be understood in a larger historical context.
Representing Svayambhū stūpa (caitya) in paintings (Nepal)
For Nepalese Buddhists, the most important of the stūpas (called caitya in Newari) is Mahācaitya Svayambhūnāth, an important place for pilgrimage for Tibetans as well. It is known as Śengu by Newars and Nepali speakers refer to the shrine of Śimbhu, which is presumably an elided form of its classical name Svayambhū, “self existent”. The foundations of Svayambhū stūpa are linked with the mythical history of the Valley. The most popular text among Newar Buddhist is Svayambhū Purāna, which describes the creation of the Valley and the foundation of the Mahācaitya.
The paintings of the second Malla period representing the stūpa of Svayambhunath are important documents for the architecture of the Valley and the pantheon of Kathmandu Valley. The present painting was executed for the ceremony of installation of the vajra at Svayambhū in 1668, ordered by the Hindu King of Kathmandu, Pratāpa Malla, and it depicts this festive event. Among the assembly of worshippers in front of the vajra on a dharmadhātu mandala, the main figure is the king Pratāpa Malla and on the other side, his wife, Anantapriyā. The study of the monuments and paintings of the second Malla period could help us to understand the complex relationship of Hinduism and Buddhism in the Malla kingdoms.
History Department, Goldsmiths, University of London
Tibetan Medicine from Dunhuang: Notes on Transmissions of Medical Knowledge along the Silk Road
How can we begin to analyse the process of transmission of medical knowledge along the Silk Road? The Tibetan medical manuscripts discovered in Dunhuang refer either directly or indirectly to knowledge deriving from other medical traditions.
By contextualizing this material, I suggest some possible directions towards untangling questions of transmission.