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Nyon, Switzerland
August 11, 2012

It is my pleasure to introduce this volume which is part of the Proceedings of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, 12th seminar, convened at University of British Columbia by Tsering Shakya, August 16-20, 2010. The organizers requested that I serve as chairperson of Session 25 on mural paintings where several presenters asked me to organize the publication of their research. The core group has been supplemented to include research on manuscripts and manuscript illuminations, iconography and portable paintings, as well as the Tibetan inscriptions which accompany the murals and manuscripts. Elisabeth Haderer and Karenina Kollmar-Paulenz, participants in Session 11, texts and images from Mongolia, have also contributed their research to this volume. As evidenced by the concepts and content of the articles in this volume, the vast range of the impact of Tibetan painting and manuscript traditions goes far, spanning the Himalayas throughout Tibet and extending into Mongolia. The IATS seminars since 1979 have been a crucial meeting of scholars from all over the planet, with particular emphasis on the current scholarship by Tibetans. Notably we look forward to future publication by our colleague Tsering Gyalbo of Tibet Academy for Social Sciences, Lhasa, whose research on "Guge kingdom period mural paintings in the newly discovered Zhag grotto, mNga' ris, Western Tibet" was particularly appreciated at Vancouver IATS. We are grateful to present here two papers by Tibetan scholars - presented in Tibetan language with English summary /translation - as a complement to the papers presented at Vancouver IATS: the research on Gong dkar monastery by Penba Wangdu, Professor of Fine Arts at Tibet University; and the research on the history and mural paintings of the kLu kha stod temple by Shawo Khacham, doctoral candidate in Tibetan archaeology at the Centre for Tibetan Studies, Sichuan University. The research on manuscripts by Eva Allinger and Christiane Papa-Kalantari is also a most welcome complement to the IATS presentations. As editor, I have taken the liberty to include my own very brief communication on a series of thangkas linking Tibet and Bhutan.

This volume reveals the diversity of current trends in the study of Tibetan, Himalayan and Mongolian art history, and proves that there are many discoveries yet to be made in the Land of Snows.

The volume is organized in chronological progression, and sub-divided into regional categories, with the articles on the Tibetan inscriptions contiguous to the articles on the manuscripts and mural paintings. The focus of the research is manifold: historical, linguistic and/or aesthetic considerations have been addressed by all the authors; there are reassements of iconographic identification, as well as the process of defining the iconography of a specific portraiture, the relationship of the work of art to the ritual text, both on the recto and verso of the thangka painting, or within a mural context within a monastery, thus demonstrating multiple levels of "reading" of the imagery or the mulitiple aspects of the iconography of a given deity; as a corollary, there is the examination of the complex relationship of the paintings by the virtuoso painter Situ Panchen, his emulation by students or subsequent workshops. Insofar as the subjects permit, the authors have examined the works of art within the specific historic, geographic and ritual/cultural contexts of the works of art, thereby enhancing the readers' aesthetic perception. In this sense, as editor I am conscious and pleased that the research in this volume corresponds to principles enunciated by the late Michael Aris, " Indigenous schools and classifications of style, although generally cryptic and elusive, have provided the starting-point of many of the discussions included here. Above all, by the great attention to the broader context, the authors have examined Tibetan painting from the perspectives of the literate culture that gave it birth." ) (quotation from Michael Aris, "Raids and Revolutions, review of Pratapadityal Pal, Art of Tibet: A catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Pratapaditya Pal, Tibetan Paintings: a study of Tibetan thankas, 11th to 19th centuries" Times Literary Supplement, 29.3.1985)

Further to the directives on publication of proceedings announced at the end of the Vancouver seminar, I have organized an on-line publication thanks to Ian Alsop, editor of, and his very competent staff, in particular Sameer Tuladhar. It is unfortunate that art history publications are notoriously expensive to produce and usually can only include a very limited number of detail photographs due to high production costs. This obviously compromises thorough study of the works of art. With online publication in, these problems are obsolete. This on-line volume also be a good opportunity to promote the study of Tibetan art history as an academic discipline through the accessibility of the online medium throughout the world. It is the first time that is presenting articles in the format of a volume on the website, and this marks the first publication of articles in Tibetan language on the website. I am particularly aware of the difficulties encountered due to the numerous and varied photographic materials from the different authors and the potential problems with the fonts with diacritics as well as Tibetan language. The enthusiasm of Ian Alsop and his staff and their perseverance have been a boon to this publication, yielding articles which are the epitome of visual communication.

May I thank all of the contributors to this volume for their good cooperation during the editorial process and congratulate them for their precious insights and their commitment to excellence. May it be auspicious!

Amy Heller

Dr. Amy Heller
Visiting Professor, Centre for Tibetan Studies, Sichuan University
Research Associate, Tibetan art and archaeology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
Research collaborator, Centre de recherche sur les Civilisations de l'Asie Orientale, CNRS-Paris (UMR 8155).