Collège de France
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Remerciements au Collège de France et à L'Institut de France sans qui ce colloque ne pourrait avoir lieu.
While representations of the Kalacakra, “The Wheel of Time” and of its mandala become more frequent in the art of Tibet during the centuries following the introduction of the tantra into the country during the “Second Diffusion” of Buddhism, the representations of the kingdom of Shambala devoted to this major tutelary divinity of the Vajrayana, as well as those of the Battle which will take place there at the end of Kali yuga by the last of its kings, flourish in Tibetan painting at a relatively late period that is to say mainly in the 18th and 19th centuries. After a brief summary of the Indian and Hindu origin of the myth, we intend to evoke these images of Shambala, stressing in particular the political and religious role played by the sect of Geluppas especially the Dalai lamas and Panchen lamas in the artistic development of the theme as well as the places they occupy in these representations.
The 9th, 10th and 12th centuries were troubled periods at Dunhuang. After the Tibetan occupation (787-848) Zhang Yichao rose in revolt, freed the country and formed a military district reaching as far as Turfan and of which Dunhuang was the ruling centre. During more than two hundred years, two families shared the power, first the Zhang, then the Cao (from a little before 935 until 1014 at the latest). Good relations were established with the kingdom of Khotan and the Uyghur Khanate of Khocho, the capital of which was Idikut shari. Marriages were arranged between the Cao family and the Qaghan. What influence did the Uyghurs exercised on the artistic level? It seems to have been very important in the 10th century and the paintings brought back by Stein and Pelliot bear witness to this, it is not only in the portraits of the patrons but also in the representations of Kshitigarbha, of the guardian king (Vaishravana crossing the seas) which figure on the banners and the wall paintings, as well as in the caves at Dunhuang.
It should consist in: 1) showing in
parallel the monumental art, the works of art and the rock sculptures
from oasis and steppes of central Asia; 2) outlining a history and a
draft of a sociology of these ancient arts in the ancient Orient context;
3) questioning, from a theoretical point of view, the influence of political
and religious constraints in relation with other determining elements
in the artistic production and the possible freedom of the artists.
Certain Tibetan monasteries
in exile have begun to show ritual dances in international theatres.
Aimed at a wide audience their object is to demonstrate and promote
their religious traditions to finance these monastic institutions and
to draw public attention to the “Tibetan cause”. This form of export
shows the dynamism of a new form of artistic creativity bringing together
religious rituals and theatrical techniques. By analyzing the creative
process motivating the export, this paper stresses the creative dynamism
generated in the monasteries in exile (Nepal, India).
For a long time, Iranian royal audiences were only known through the reliefs of Persepolis. During the Sassanid dynasty the rock carvings and the gold and silver dishes, products generally strictly controlled by the ruling power, are sometimes representing audience scenes, but in an elliptical way which does not allow serious comparisons with details to be found in the texts of the Islamic period.
In recent years new documents have appeared or documents already known re-interpreted : a painting on cloth, probably depicting the Kushan king Huvishka (around 150-191) donating his estate to his heir; a wall painting from Samarkand (around 660) illustrating the reception at the New Year in a context of astrological speculations; wall paintings at Kazakliyatkan, first capital of Khorezm (first century before our era) showing dignitaries waiting to be received in audiences in an architecture of concentric corridors which one is tempted to compare with certain descriptions in the old texts (symbolical descriptions of the Ecbatane walls in Herodotus, descriptions of Alexander’s Iranian protocol, then certain details of the receptions given by the Sassanid king Khosrow Anoshervan).
It is really to religious and political constraints that Tibetan artist have submitted throughout the History. In the first part we shall briefly evoke that the sacred art of thangkas, though following iconometrical and iconographical rules, had also, beyond the timeless religious texts, to comply with the alternating supremacy of the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
In the second part, we shall develop more lengthily, as it is the subject of our research, and which is most unknown, how the faith of Tibetan artists has known to confront the Chinese power since the fifties. We shall question if that faith, which appears as an essential component of the Tibetan identity, is still visible in the work of contemporary artists from Lhasa, those who being born during the Cultural Revolution have never known the Tibet of the Dalai lamas.
On August 20th of 2008, Olympic Games organizers invited the Nation and foreign guests to assist to a performance, covered by medias and in several respects quite symbolic, a few months after the upraise of Tibetan communities in the western part of the country: a traditional Tibetan play, renamed Wencheng Kongjo, which illustrate the wedding of a Tibetan emperor with a Chinese princess during the seventh century. The wedding, forced emblem of the so-called ancient political union between the two nations was also, this time, aesthetic: by calculated will of artistic hybridization, the show mixed Tibetan and Chinese actors with their own language and theatrical techniques.
This initiative answered many attempts by the cultural authorities in Lhasa since five years to enter the ache lhamo (traditional Tibetan theatre) as Intangible Heritage of Humanity. This strategy has, by the way, raised important debates in relation with the efficiency of such cultural preservation.
In this paper, I would
like to put in relation the strategies of the different cultural actors
of the contemporary ache lhamo
(local, nationals and internationals; touristic and economic politics)
and explore the way how folkloric and cultural heritage are each time
redefined by variable interpretations of the cultural authenticity.
The history of Lamo-tchok
small temple, in the east of Lhasa, goes back to the “Second Diffusion”
of Buddhism in Tibet, during the 10th century. Its fame came
late, following the installation in Lamo-tchok of one the main oracle
in Central Tibet, Tsangpa Karpo, the “White Brahma”. Despite the
uncertainty regarding the date of this mutation from temple to oracular
site, we know that it was under the “king” of Tibet Polhané, during
the first half of the 18th century, that Lamo’s oracle
started to play an important role in the religious and political balance
of the Tibetan state. In this conference, we shall consider today’s
Lamo temple, where 18th century paintings can still be seen,
outstanding example of the pantheon of Tibetan protective deities.
My paper will be about
the spiritual and political literary journey of ‘Od zer (better known
in the West under the name of Woeser), young Tibetan woman writer of
Chinese mode of expression, born in Lhasa in 1966 from a Sino-Tibetan
father, officer in the People’s Liberation Army, and a Tibetan mother
belonging to the progressive and Maoist small aristocracy from central
Tibet. ‘Od zer gradually imposed herself on the media-related and
literary international stage starting when her first anthology of essays,
Notes from Tibet, was forbidden to the sale in PRC in 2003. Starting
with this event, she asserts her civic, identity-related and literary
militancy, and her unique example of commitment to the Tibetan cause
inside the PRC began to make the front page of international newspapers.
It would be for the least simplistic to believe that the interest in
‘Od zer’s work started with her political and literary activism
and its media coverage. The originality and the quality of her texts
widely predate her activism and her international fame, her journey
as a Tibetan woman and artist is more complex and richer than what is
generally thought. My intervention aims to bring into light the whole
of ‘Od zer’s works, insisting on the lesser known characteristics
of her literary universe and the specificities of her non-linear artistic
path which always fed itself to different sources and experiences.
The printed text wearing number 1359 in the Tucci Collection (IsIAO, Rome) is a unique copy of an otherwise unknown text. It is a teaching manual of the Naropa’s six doctrines written by the 29th abbot of gDan sa mthil, sPyan snga Nyer gnyis pa bSod nams rgyal mtshan dpal bzang po (1386-1434). The author was the nephew of Phag mo gru Tai situ Byang chub rgyal mtshan and the brother of Grags pa rgyal mtshan (1374-1432), who reigned in Central Tibet from 1385 to 1432 and was the great patron of Tsong kha pa as well as the funding patron of the oldest prints in Tibet.
Tucci Collection’s text probably belongs to this set of printings done during this particular moment in Tibetan History. It is illustrated with a spectacular series of portraits of the masters from the author’s lineage. We find in particular, figured in folio 8a placed on each side, respectively Tsong kha pa and the fith Karma pa, both teachers of the author and representing groups linked with the ruling clan. Shortly after the death of Grags pa rgyal mthsan, a dissension arose between the followers of these two masters which will degenerate, fifty years after, in a real war between the two parties. This print represents a unique evidence of a religious and political unity decisive for Tibet’s History and Tibetan textual History.
The Church of the East, also named Chaldean or Assyrian, called Nestorian in the West and Jingiiao in China, was based in Persia and Mesopotamia, where was the seat of the Patriarchate. From its very beginning, the artistic creations of this Church use preferably ancient local models, Assyro-Babylonian, blended with a particular eclecticism to Christian symbols. The Chaldeans, persecuted in Occident and condemned as heretics at the First Council of Ephesus in 431, will spread out in a number of Asian countries, mainly Central and Eastern Asia (6th to 14th century), where they created works of art of a remarkable eclecticism which comes from the blending of their own traditions and the local religions and politics.