Société européene pour l’Étude des Civilisations de l’Himalaya et de l’Asie Centrale
European Society for the Study of Central Asian and Himalayan Civilisations
SEECHAC is happy to announce that its next international meeting will be held in Naples from 5 to 7 November 2018. We invite contributions that adopt a multidisciplinary approach to the image as an instrument and as a reflection of ritual, in its artistic, archaeological, literary and historical connotations, in a wide Central Eurasian context, including Tibet, Iran, Mongolia, Central Asia and the Himalaya.
Images play an important role in the rituals of most cultural traditions of the region. They may represent components that are integral to the efficacy of the performance, either as major or minor divinities to be revered, or as demonic powers to be exorcised, or as other elements in the wider ritual environment. In form, they may range in complexity from simple two-dimensional depictions to large and highly elaborate constructions that may require many days to build. In some cases, the production of ritual images follows the rigorous application of textual prescriptions, whereas in others the tradition is perpetuated by oral transmission or by imitation.
The ontological status of images in ritual has itself been the subject of extensive debate. Is an image worshipped as the symbol of a transcendent deity, or is it merely the support for that divinity, or is it intrinsically sacred, and, if so, is this sanctity a permanent attribute or is it confined to the spatial and temporal framework of the ritual performance? While iconographic complexity may be particularly associated with the major religions of the region – notably Buddhism and Hinduism – images play an important part in other ritual traditions.
An important key of analysis will be represented by ritual as visual expression, religious, ideological, social and political conceptions. This is the case of Central Asia and Iran where, according to a long established tradition, images were also used for political and instrumental aims from the Early Antiquity to the present.
Narrative paintings, for example, provide a record of coronations, state ceremonies, sacrifices and other rites that are otherwise absent from, or only vaguely alluded to, in the literary record. And in the same way as the epic of the bard, the recitation of the shaman or the litany of the priest or the mulla, or even contemporary wedding videos, may evoke the figures of unseen gods and heroes, such “word pictures” may also be used to describe in detail the mythic, primordial performance of the rites that they are about to replicate in the here-and-now.
If you would like to present a paper at this conference, please send a title and an abstract of not more than 500 words to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 June 2018. We will let you know as soon as possible thereafter if your paper has been accepted. The definitive programme will be announced by the end of September. Participants will be asked to make their own travel arrangements, but all other conference costs, including board and accommodation, will be covered by our hosts in Naples.
Auditorium of Musée Cernuschi. 7, avenue Velasquez. 75008 PARIS.
9H30 AM – 1H30 PM - 3H00 PM – 7H00 PM
A Chinese Manichaean Diagram of the Universe: An Analysis of a Monumental Hanging Scroll from the Song Dynasty. Zsuzsana Gulacsi, Northern Arizona University, Department of Comparative Cultural Studies.
A large medieval Chinese silk painting belonging today to the Nara National Museum located in Nara, Japan, was identified in 2010 by Yutaka Yoshida as a depiction of the cosmos according to the Manichaean religion. Two other small silk fragments originally believed to stem from a separate work of art are here shown to be pieces of an unsuspected missing top section of the same painting. With the original hanging scroll digitally restored and assessed with the aid of a line-drawn diagram, it is now possible to offer a systematic analysis of its overall design and individual sub scenes that incorporate previous interpretations, correct others, and add several new insights. In light of early Manichaean cosmological texts paired with a formal artistic analysis, this presentation explores visual catechism as it is conveyed within a complex iconography of over 900 motifs distributed in a layered symmetry that merges anthropomorphic, geomorphic, and architectonic features into a monumental cosmic map of salvation.
The book of the Kings of Ferdowsi and the pictorial supports to his recitation; more than a millennium’s tradition. Frantz Grenet, Collège de France.
The tradition of the Shāhnāmekhān, reciters of the Shâhnāme, Ferdowsi's "Book of Kings" (early 11th c.), Iran's national epic, remained alive in Iran and Afghanistan. In Iran, recitations attracting the largest number of people take place in front of large paintings. They are sometimes accompanied by improvised moments and gesticulations (the most famous "performer", Gordāfarid, is a star of Iranian television, although emigrated to Los Angeles). Several cycles painted in particular houses in Pendjikent (not far from Samarkand), executed in the 740s, but when the city was still little Islamized, show epic scenes taking place in long banners painted on three walls of the reception room. Rostam, champion of kings, can be identified in three cycles, one of which corresponds to a known episode of Shāhnāme. It is very probable that recitations took place before these paintings. The arrangement of the episodes on the walls makes one suspect that they are in some cases the transposition of illustrated scrolls.
“The Sermon Scenes” of Kucha. Refinements and Conventionalization of the Indian Pictorial Tradition. Monika Zin, Leipzig University.
Narrative paintings must have played an enormous role for the dwellers and the visitors of the Buddhist caves in Kucha since they cover most parts of the walls and barrel vaults. The stories themselves, as well as the tradition to illustrate them in the monasteries, was adopted from India together with a set of highly sophisticated techniques of narrative representation. However, in Kucha these techniques were further developed to achieve a condensation of narrative representations; the aim was to show as many topics as possible within the space available. This resulted in a "telegraphic style" of pictorial story-telling; one picture can contain events taking place in different re-births, while in other cases an entire tale is represented just by one single attribute and alongside an image of the preaching Buddha we may find not only the depictions of his audience but also of the content of his sermon.
Writing the Visual: Translating Buddha life Narratives from Text into Image (Tibet). Andrew Quintman, Yale University.
Accounts of the Buddha’s final life are ubiquitous across Tibet. Among the most extensive and striking are those in the corpus of literary and visual materials produced by the seventeenth-century luminary Tāranātha Kunga Nyingpo (1575–1634) at his monastic seat of Phuntsokling in the Tibetan region of Tsang. This paper examines Tāranātha’s work entitled A Painting Manual for the Hundred Acts of the Teacher, Lord of Śākyas (Ston pa shākya dbang po’i mdzad brgya pa’i bris yig). This text exemplifies the little-studied genre of Tibetan writing known as the painting manual (bris yig). In it, Tāranātha self-consciously bridges two sets of Buddha vitae: his literary narrative in 125 chapters called The Sun of Faith (Dad pa’i nyin byed) and the narrative murals executed in his monastery’s second floor gallery, covering some 150 square meters, referred to as “the Boundless Design” (bkod pa mtha’ yas). The Painting Manual covers the entire arc of the Buddha’s life story as told in The Sun of Faith, and contains scene-by-scene instructions for its visual representation. Tāranātha’s Painting Manual thus inhabits in a middle ground between two media, effectively translating text into image. This paper draws on Tāranātha’s writings and a complete site documentation of his murals to reflect upon the different kinds of stories textual and visual narratives tell, and how the translation from one to the other leads to new forms of storied knowledge.
Nepalese Narrative paintings of the second Malla kingdoms XVII-XVIII. Anne Vergati, CNRS, Paris.
In the three Malla kingdoms Patan, Kathmandu and Bhaktapur of Kathmandu Valley a new category of paintings appeared at the end of XVIth century. These are long scrolls (Newari vilampu) depicting the legends of foundation of monasteries, Buddhist legends, a festival (yatra) or a pilgrimage. These scrolls were exhibited in the courtyard of the monasteries during the holy month of Buddhists, the month of August. In the past, they have been used for teaching the Buddhist legends, for instance the legend of prince Visvantara, the creation of the valley by the bodhisattva Manjusri or the history of a monastery. They show a strong Indian influence for the costumes and landscape but at the same time they have create a specific Nepalese style. Often, they represent monuments such monasteries, temple, stupa which are characteristic for Malla kingdoms. These paintings are important documents for the cultural history of the Malla kingdoms.
Tibetan Buddhist Storytellers, their stories and their audience Berthe Jansen, Leiden University.
In this paper, I discuss the tradition of Buddhist storytelling in Tibet and the Himalayas. The Lama Manipa (or bu chen) were men and women who travelled far and wide to tell their stories to ordinary people. Significantly, they used traditional paintings (thang kha) to illustrate their narratives. The often colourful and emotive stories revolve around persons important in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and are presented to the public as portraying religious history. Currently, there appears to be only one active storyteller left. Using the interviews I conducted with this last Lama Manipa, the narrative thang khas, and textual references to this tradition as my sources, I consider the stories told, and shown, to an audience of believers. I argue that, ultimately, an investigation into this (semi-) ‘folk’ religious tradition offers us a glimpse into the once lived religious experiences of ordinary Tibetan Buddhists.
The Fourth International SEECHAC Colloquium : Religious revivals and artistic Renaissance in Central Asia and the Himalayan Region – Past and present, was held in Heidelberg from 16 to 18 November. The host institution was the University of Heidelberg’s Pole of Excellence “Asia and Europe in a global context” and the remarkable organization was ensured by Birgit Kellner, professor of Buddhist studies, who is now joining the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna as the Director of the Institute of Cultural and Spiritual History of Asia.
A large, motivated and generally young public attended the colloquium with ten nationalities represented. It was held in the “Forum International de la Science” which provided both a practical and pleasant setting. The following themes emerged from the twenty papers presented, which were all in English:
- Buddhist decors (mainly Mahāyānic) in the western Himalayas and the Tarim Oasis; - The repossession of cultural heritage by the societies and States of the post-Soviet republics of Central Asia; - The rituals of the populations of the eastern Himalayas, Tibetan and Mongol: recent revivals, reinterpretations and innovations.
The latter body of research in which the Heidelberg school is currently very active was particularly well illustrated at the colloquium, giving it a more contemporary flavour than in the past. The program allowed for adequate time for discussion that was both lively and friendly. As well as the papers, two lectures were given, one by Christian Luczanits “Processes of revival in Himalayan art: Imagining Kashmir and Nepal in the 15th and 17th centuries”, the other by Harry Falk, “Royal inthronisation rites from Commagene to the Kushans and beyond”. The regrettable absence at the colloquium of Tibetan and Central Asian researchers (apart from a colleague from Kirghizistan) was not due to the organizers but was the result of contingency factors: the institutions to which they are attached not taking charge of the missions, the difficulty in obtaining exit visas for the citizens of the People’s Republic of China. In the final discussion there was a unanimous desire that a volume issued from the colloquium should be published, as was the case with the Vienna colloquium which will appear early next year. This possibility will be actively investigated and Birgit Kellner implied that that it would succeed.
Frantz Grenet President of SEECHAC
Luneau, Élise: Transfers and Interactions between North and South in Central Asia during the Bronze Age.
Erdenebold, Lhagvasuren: Preliminary Excavation Findings from Shoroon Bumbagar, Ulaan Kherem, Mongolia.
Nalesini, Oscar: Two Enigmatic “Megalithic” Sites in Tibet.
Lo Muzio, Ciro: Skanda and the Mothers in Khotanese Buddhist Painting.
Grenet, Frantz: The Deydier Vase and Its Tibetan Connections: A Preliminary Note.
Pritzker, David: Allegories of Kingship During the Tibetan Empire: A Preliminary Study of a West Asian Gold Ewer in the Royal Court of Tibet.
Zhu, Tianshu: The Influence from Khotan: The Standing Buddha Images in Kucha.
II. Translation and Adoption of Art and Architecture in the Western Himalayas
Allinger, Eva: An Early West Tibetan Manuscript from Hanle Monastery, Ladakh.
Heller, Amy & Charlotte Eng: Three Ancient Manuscripts from Tholing in the Tucci Collection, IsIAO, Roma, Part II: Manuscript 1329 O.
Kalantari, Christiane: The Art of Khorchag and Khartse in the Fabric of Western Himalayan Buddhist Art (10th–14th Centuries): Questions of Style II.
Flood, Finbarr B.: A Turk in the Dukhang? Comparative Perspectives on Islamicate Dress in Medieval Ladakh and the Caucasus.
Di Mattia, Marialaura: A Cultural Crossroads: Some “Foreign” Elements in the Art and Architecture of mNga’ ris.
Feiglstorfer, Hubert: Reconstruction of the West Tibetan temples of Khorchag: The Lhakhang Chenmo.
III. Patterns of Transformation in Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia and Central Asia
Doney, Lewis: Narrative Transformations: The Spiritual Friends of Khri Srong lde brtsan.
Devers, Quentin: Charting Ancient Routes in Ladakh: An Archaeological Documentation.
Lecomte-Tilouine, Marie: Is There a Network of Sacred Fires Across the Himalayas and Central Asia? From Baku to Nepal, and Back.
Charleux, Isabelle: Circumambulating the Jowo in Mongolia: Why Erdeni Juu Should Be Translated as “Jowo Rinpoche”.
Birtalan, Ágnes: Between the Himalayas and Inner Asia – The Mongolian Case.
Lang, Maria-Katharina: Moving Artefacts: Mongolian Tsam Figures.
Organizing Committee Paris
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
The colloquium will focus on various forms of religious revivals or artistic renaissances in the Himalayas and Central Asia, including Northern India, Northern Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Afghanistan and the Central Asian republics, from the viewpoint of a variety of disciplines and fields of study (in particular archaeology, art history, numismatics, philology, social anthropology, religious studies). Papers can be given in any European language, albeit preferably in English (20 minutes plus 10 minutes for discussion).
All SEECHAC members are invited to attend the colloquium. Colleagues wishing to attend the conference should inform the organisers as early as possible at email@example.com. Abstracts for papers of no more than 20 lines should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org before 31 January 2015.
President of SEECHAC
Organizing Committee Heidelberg