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Images of Lost Civilization: The Ancient Rock Art of Upper Tibet By John Vincent Bellezza

A rock art tradition found on the highest parts of the Tibetan plateau chronicles at least 3000 years of a fascinating but little known civilization.  These images in stone are one of our clearest windows into the nature of early civilization in Tibet and they are invaluable to our understanding of the pre-Buddhist economy, environment and religion. They provide us with graphic evidence of early Tibet for they were wrought by the very hand of her inhabitants.

Published: Nov. 22, 2000

Whiff of Luxury: By Norman A. Rubin

The Mary and George Bloch Chinese snuff bottle collection is a unique assemblage that combines the expression of artistic craftsmanship with creative Chinese ingenuity. Mary and George Bloch  have accomplished a collector's dream. They have, within the relatively short period of fifteen years, assembled an extensive and valuable collection of one of the finest crafts of Chinese artisans.

Published: Nov. 17, 2000

The Synthesis of European and Mughal Art in the Emperor Akbar’s Khamsa of Nizami: By Gregory Minissale

The purpose of this article is to examine the adoption of the European techniques of sfumato, modeling and stereoscopic perspective in the Khamsa illustrations and then to trace the European sources for the motifs of some the key miniatures. In this regard, it is necessary also to look at the use of motifs taken from European maps for Mughal background landscapes, which is a subject that has not been dealt with in Mughal art history.

Published: Oct. 13, 2000

Trance-Dancers of the Goddess Durga: Hamid Sardar

Ancient Nepali chronicles agree that "no dramatic performance equals that of the Harasiddhi priests." The manifestations of the Mother Goddess and her retinue of deities possess the dancers, intoxicated on sacrificial blood and alcohol. A hypnotic musical score, punctuated by symbolic gestures accompanies the spectacle whose secret meanings remain closed to the non-initiate Trance-Dancers of the Goddess Durga

Published: Aug. 17, 2000

Phagpa Lokes'vara of the Potala: Ian Alsop

Phagpa Lokes'vara of the Potala Who is Phagpa Lokes'vara? How old is his image and where was it made? For the answer to the first question we must turn to Tibetan religious history; for answers to the other two, we must attempt a stylistic analysis without, alas, a direct view of the figure itself, working only with the shadows left by countless pious copyists.... (originally published in Orientations, April 1990)

Published: Dec. 14, 1999 Last Updated: August 4, 2000

 Ghosts, Demons and Spirits in Japanese Lore: Norman A. Rubin

Belief in ghosts, demons and spirits has been deep-rooted in Japanese folklore throughout history. It is entwined with mythology and superstition derived from Japanese Shinto, as well as Buddhism and Taoism brought to Japan from China and India. Stories and legends, combined with mythology, have been collected over the years by various cultures of the world, both past and present. Folklore has evolved in order to explain or rationalize various natural events.  Ghosts, Demons and Spirits in Japanese Lore

Published: June 26, 2000

Wangden Meditation Weaving: Rupert Smith

Wangden Meditation Weaving Wangden was once famous throughout Tibet for its unique style of carpet weaving, practiced nowhere else in Tibet, and in great demand by monasteries from Lhasa to Amdo to Ladakh. Wangden carpets were used as meditation mats by the Fifth Dalai Lama, and every year a new set of Wangden runners was woven for use by monks participating in the Great Monlam Prayer Festival in Lhasa, the first and largest religious gathering of the Tibetan Buddhist year.

Published: March 31, 2000

Conservation of a 5th century Buddhist Manuscript: Susan Sayre Batton

In the fall of 1998, a professional numismatist, with a specialty in Classical antiquity, brought an early manuscript to my studio for consultation. The elongated leaves were brittle, compressed together, water damaged, and folded into a tight “S” curve, like a wad of dollar bills after the wash cycle. This manuscript was found in the Bhamiyan cave region in modern Afghanistan, purportedly from the 5th century, on birch bark, and written in the Kharoshti script. Conservation of a 5th century Buddhist Manuscript

Published: Feb. 21, 2000

The History of an Indian Musical Instrument Maker: Steven Landsberg

The History of an Indian Musical Instrument Maker The shop of Kanailal and Brother was located in a cultural oasis, known as the Barabazar area of Calcutta. Both the renowned poet-philosopher Rabindranath Tagore and the maharaja Sourendra Mohan Tagore, a great patron of the arts, lived in the same area. Many musicians, poets, and writers inhabited this cultural belt of early twentieth century Calcutta and gave it the aesthetic color and feeling that is to this day an inspiration for many of Bengal's contemporary artists.

Published: Feb. 4, 2000

A New Ceiling for the Roof of the World: Broughton Coburn

The Thubchen Gompa, dedicated to Sakyamuni, Buddha of The Present, is located within the walled city of Lo Manthang, the capital of the formerly forbidden Kingdom of Mustang, a cultural relic of Tibet near the Nepal-Tibet border. The American Himlayan Foundation has embarked on an ambitious project to conserve and restore this ancient building and the precious paintings found within it. A New Ceiling for the Roof of the World

Published: Jan. 20, 2000

Changthang Circuit Expedition 1999: By John Vincent Bellezza

Changthang Circuit Expedition 1999 While Tibet is synonymous with Buddhist learning and culture, its civilisation extends much further back into antiquity than the Buddhist period. My findings
demonstrate that Tibet supported a sophisticated culture long before the dawn of the Buddhist era in the 7th century. This earlier civilisation is closely connected with the Bon religion, an indigenous belief system which seems to have been enriched by various traditions coming from adjoining countries.

Published: Dec. 9, 1999

The Giant Thangkas of Tsurphu Monastery: by Terris Temple and Leslie Nguyen

Each great monastery in Tibet once possessed giant silk applique hangings for public display and worship. These often huge banners comprise some of Tibet's greatest art treasures because of their spiritual significance, size and intricate design. Some survived the cultural revolution - most did not. The giant banners of Tsurphu monastery in central Tibet-traditional seat of the Karmapas-were both destroyed during this time. The Giant Thangkas of Tsurphu Monastery

Published: Dec. 5, 1995 Updated: October 08, 1999

Thogchags, The Ancient Amulets of Tibet text by John Vincent Bellezza

The Ultimate Essence of Thogchags

Thogchags are Tibetan talismans made of bronze and meteoric metals dating as far back as the Bronze Age. While precise dates for the Tibetan Bronze Age have yet to be formulated, archaeological evidence from various sites around the country indicate that it began no later than the beginning of the Second Millennium BCE. An unbroken tradition of producing amulets extends into the Iron Age and Buddhist periods creating a cultural legacy several thousand years old.

Published: June 1, 1999

The Murals of Baiya Monastery: by Jonathan Bell

The murals of Dege County’s Pewar (Ch. Baiya) Monastery are truly exquisite works of art that embrace their subject matters with a mixture of vivid color and painstaking detail. From ghastly esoteric scenes of demons wearing human skins to the serenity of buddhas seated in meditation, the depictions on the walls of the temple and upper prayer room comprise a mixture of stylistic influences from within and outside Tibet. The Murals of Baiya Monastery

Published: March 8, 1999

New Archeological Discoveries in Tibet: by John Vincent Bellezza

New Archeological Discoveries in Tibet In August and September of 1998 the author discovered a series of pre-Buddhist archaeological sites in the western Tibet province of Ngari (mNga’ ris). Located in close proximity to what had been important prehistoric sources of fresh water, these ancient sites include burial mounds, villages and ceremonial structures. Situated at 4500 meters in the Changthang (Byang thang), the vast northern plains of Tibet, these finds significantly add to our knowledge of Tibet before the spread of Buddhism in the 7th to 11th centuries.

Published: December 17, 1998

Augmented Nationalism: The Nomadic Eye of Painter M.F. Husain (b. 1915):

A study of the art of India's most famous living painter, Maqbool Fida Husain (known to millions of his admirers simply as Husain), by Shyamal Bagchee of the University of Alberta English Department. This wide ranging article examines Husain's art from the perspective of his, and the author's, Nationalism: "A point that is often missed by critics writing about Husain is that he operates out of probably the one country in the world that can mount a really serious challenge to the so called new imperialism of a postmodern, post-rational, fast replicating, information proliferating, media-dominated, United States of America." Augmented Nationalism

Published: July 3, 1998

The Conservation of Tibetan Thangkas:

The Conservation of Tibetan Thangkas The Conservation of Tibetan Thangkas consists of a series of articles presented at papers to the Western Association for Art Conservation (WAAC) Annual Meeting in Santa Fe New Mexico in September 1992. The articles include technical notes and procedures and photographs of various stages of conservation. Published in Asian Arts 3/5/98, with kind permission of WAAC and the authors.

Published: March 5, 1998

Bangladeshi Arts of the Ricksha: by Joanna Kirkpatrick

The three wheeled pedicab or cycle ricksha of Bangladesh has been around at least since the late forties and the partition of India. In those days they were left more or less undecorated. Sometime in the sixties it began its development into a "peoples' art" that combines folkloric, movie, political and commercial imagery and techniques. It serves the expression of heart's desires of the man in the street for women, power, wealth, as well as for religious devotion. Bangladeshi Arts of the Ricksha

Published: December 5, 1997

Early Portrait Painting in Tibet: by Jane Casey Singer

Early Portrait Painting in Tibet One facet of Tibetan iconic art is to be found in early portrait paintings. Portraiture figured prominently in Tibetan art between ca. 1000 and 1400 A.D., and yet almost nothing is known about its functions and its significance. This essay addresses two main questions: What aesthetic and theoretical guides did artists observe in painting historical persons? And what social, political, and religious purposes did portraiture serve in pre-fifteenth century Tibet?

Published: November 30, 1996

China Exploration & Research Society: Conserving Tibetan Art and Architecture by Pamela Logan

The goal of the China Exploration and Research Society (CERS) projects in Tibet is to save some of the last intact monasteries on the eastern plateau. Internationally known experts are teaching Tibetans how to repair traditional buildings while retaining as much original material as possible.

(Asian Arts is delighted to be able to host the CERS site here, where researchers will be periodically updating the site with CERS activities.)

China Exploration & Research Society

Published: CERS: November 13, 1996

A Kushan-period Sculpture from the reign of Jaya Varma, A.D. 185: by Kashinath Tamot and Ian Alsop

Jaya Varma In April 1992 workers digging a trench for the foundation of a house in Ma-liga-on stumbled across the most important art historical discovery in the Kathmandu Valley for many years. Lying face-down at a level of about three feet they found a life size (171 x 49 cm) standing male figure carved in pale sandstone.

Published: July 10, 1996, Updated 7/14/96, also 8/14/97

Intro to Kathmandu University Department of Music: by Gert-Matthias Wegner

The musical traditions of Nepal are as diverse as the various ethnic groups of the country. The most complex musical culture in the Himalayas is that of the Newar in the Kathmandu valley which in the course of the past 2000 years has absorbed mostly Indian influences shaping a unique musical tradition. Introduction to Kathmandu University Department of Music

Published: April 17, 1996

Images of Earth and Water: The Tsa-Tsa Votive Tablets of Tibet: by Juan Li

Images of Earth and Water In 1938 after returning from one of his extensive expeditions to Ladakh and Western Tibet, the great Italian tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci published a volume on Stupa symbolism as part of the Indo-Tibetica series. The second part of this pioneering study is dedicated to the votive clay tablets known as tsa-tsa. Although Tucci was not the first to write about tsa-tsa, his study remains the only extensive exploration of this art form. The present article aims at updating some the information on this neglected area of studies.

Published: November 11, 1995

Introduction to the Art of Mongolia: by Terese Tse Bartholomew

Tibetan Buddhism, a highly ritualistic religion with a huge pantheon of gods and goddesses, inspired the religious art of Mongolia (fig. 1). As in most religions, there is a need to create cult images in painting and sculpture, as well as ritual objects and other paraphernalia associated with worship of the deities.
     The objects in this exhibition associated with religious worship date from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries and are the result of the second wave of conversion to Buddhism in Mongolia. They are inspired by Tibetan art, itself a fusion of the art styles of its neighboring countries--India, Nepal, and China.
Introduction to the Art of Mongolia

Published: September 7, 1995

A Taglung Lama: by Jane Casey Singer

A Taglung Lama This charming thirteenth century portrait depicts a religious hierarch from the Taglung branch of the Kagyu order of Tibetan Buddhism. Wearing monastic robes, he is seated on a throne whose symbolic significance reflects the considerable spiritual authority which the hierarch enjoyed in his day. Mountain staves, indicating that the central figure is meant to appear within a mountain cave, surround him and his attendants in the upper and side registers.

Published: March 17, 1995

An Early stone fragment in Central Nepal: by Thomas Pritzker

Just south of the town of Arughat, along the Buri Gandaki River in central Nepal there is a small hot spring which has been channelled into a public bath. Next to this bath are two small buildings which over the centuries were used as Buddhist and then Hindu shrines. While there are a number of sculptures of interest I would like to point out a fragment which is in the wall of the southernmost building. The figure on the left shows the visible portion of this fragment. An Early stone fragment in Central Nepal

Published: March 17, 1995

Licchavi Caityas of Nepal: A Solution to the Empty Niche: by Ian Alsop

Licchavi Caityas of Nepal Among the curious puzzles of early Nepalese sculpture and architecture are the empty niches of the lovely Licchavi stone caityas that dot the Kathmandu valley. These elegant caityas are fully decorated, often with exquisitely detailed carvings, but the niches where one might suppose the figures of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas would normally reside, are vacant.

Published: March 17, 1995 Updated: Feb. 10, 2000

Tsakli:Tibetan Miniature Ritual Paintings: by Juan Li

Among the numerous items employed in Tibetan ritual is a genre of miniature painting little known in the occident and rarely spoken of in the liturgical literature translated into western languages. These are the 'Tsakli' or 'Initiation Cards' . Tsakli paintings are employed in numerous ritual situations such as empowerment, ritual mandalas, transmission of teachings, substitutes for ceremonial items, visualization aids and funerals. Tsakli:Tibetan Miniature Ritual Paintings

Published: March 17, 1995 | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries | Message Board | Departments