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