Buddhist Art in Tibet

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Transcript of Buddhist Art in Tibet

Michael Henss

Buddhist Art in TibetNew Insights on Ancient Treasures A Study of Paintings and Sculptures from 8th to 18th century

Fabri Verlag Ulm 2008

The presentations of this book following an introduction as Part I comprises two revised and in extenso enlarged earlier essays: Part II relates to the important Tibet exhibition and its catalogue: TIBET Klster ffnen ihre Schatzkammern, shown at Museum Villa Hgel, Essen (Germany), August 18th - November 26th, 2006; and Museum fr Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin, February 21st - May 28th, 2007, published under the same title, in German only, by Hirmer Verlag, Mnchen 2006. The text was published in its first version as a review in the Internet-online Journal www.asianart.com in late 2007. Part III is a revised version of the review of Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet, originally published in Oriental Art (Singapore), vol. XLIX, no. 2, 2003, relating to the book by Ulrich von Schroeder, Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet; 2 Vols, Visual Dharma Publications, Hong Kong 2001.

Copyright responsibility for all illustrations in this book with the author Michael Henss, Zurich.

Cover photo: Buddha Shakyamuni, gilt copper. Height ca 60cm. 15th century. Shalu monastery, bSe-sgo-ma Lha-khang. Photo: M. Henss 1987

Fabri Verlag Ulm/Donau 2008 ISBN 978-3-931997-34-2 2

ContentsI. Introduction: Western and Chinese research and publications on Buddhist sculpture and painting in Tibet and in Chinese collections since 1980 Tibetan art in Chinese museums. II. Tibet - Monasteries Open Their Treasure rooms (Museum Villa Hgel, Esen/Germany, 2006). A review on the exhibition and its book: The Lamdre Masters at Mindrl Ling Zhang Zhung, Western Tibet and the Kashmir style Pala Indian statues in Tibet Tibet or India: the Ford Tara reconsidered Early images of King Songtsen Gampo The Diamond Seat Buddha and the Mahabodhi temple Indian palm leaf manuscripts and early Tibetan painting Tibetan style Silken paintings 13th to 15th century The Yongle Bronzes and Tibeto-Chinese sculpture of the early Ming period The Yongle lotus mandalas The art of Densa Thil Tibetan medical thangkas Ritual objects. A few notes on selected Essays: Foreign styles in Tibetan sculpture (Amy Heller) Early manuscripts in Tibet (Sonam Wangden) The Potala in the 7th/8th century (Paphen) Tibet and the Silk Road (Marianne Yaldiz) Iconometry in Tibetan Buddhist art (Michael Henss). III. Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet by Ulrich von Schroeder (2001). A detailed survey and annotated review: The Nepal-Tibet connection, 11th to 15th century Pala Indian prototypes and influences Tibetan metal images of the 7th to 9th century The Tenth Karmapa and the Kashmir revival style The earliest Buddhist narrative art in Tibet: the wooden carvings in the Lhasa Jokhang The mystery of the Jowo Shakyamuni Monumental statue cycles at Nyethang and Yemar




The royal images in the Potala Palace and Jokhang temple Buddhist sculpture from Zhang Zhung, in Western Tibet? Kashmir and Guge Western Tibetan bronzes, myth and reality. IV. Addendum to Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet: The early sculptures in the Jokhang Tibetan paintings of the 8th/9th century Statues of King Songtsen Gampo The Aniko style and the Jowo Shakyamuni The Rietberg Goddess and the Tenth Karmapa tashi lima statues at the Qing court Kashmir and Western Tibet Regional attribution and local schools via technological styles? Indian Pala style and the Andagu miniature stone carvings from Pagan. V. Bibliography VI. List of Illustrations VII. Illustrations


155 178 187 197


IntroductionThis book has been prepared with the intention of making available to a wider readership two earlier exhibition and book reviews in a revised and enlarged form with many more illustrations. This format also allows for greater exploration of some of these essential subjects, that were raised by the presented material and by its interpretation. By focussing on sculptures and painting it will provide the reader with some updated insights of our current knowledge on the ancient cultural relics in present-day Tibet and thus is supposed to offer more than just a report on two specific publications. The review article on the German exhibition and its book Tibet Monasteries Open Their Treasure Rooms, arguably the most significant presentation of Buddhist art from Tibet ever shown in the West, initially was written for The Tibet Journal (where it will be soon published in the original unrevised edition), an academic magazine on Tibetan studies edited in Dharamsala, India. This periodical, while it has a high academic reputation, does not, however, reach many more than the inner circle of Tibetologists and their related institutions, and hardly all other, who are particularly interested in the art of the Himalayas. This review was also presented online in late 2007 (www.asianart.com) with some thirty illustrations but again, likely will be read only by those readers who know and use this internet journal. A more comprehensive version has therefore been requested, all the more since this exhibition presented many important cultural relics, which only have been on public display in the Lhasa Tibet Museum or in the Potala Palace, and in some monasteries often visited by Tibetan, Chinese and foreign pilgrims and travellers. It has also been suggested that a more detailed discussion of the treasures shown at the German Tibet exhibition in the Villa Hgel Museum, Essen, and in the Museum for Asian Art, Berlin, will be particularly appreciated by the non-German readers of the 664 pages cataloguehandbook, of which no English edition exists.5

When ORIENTAL ART (Singapore) had published my review on Ulrich von Schroeders Buddhist Sculptures in Tibet (2001) in 2003, it became clear that this once very reputated scholarly Asian art journal did no longer reach the majority of the experts and connoisseurs in the field, and it was hardly known to the special afficionados and collectors of Tibetan Buddhist art. In view of the fundamental importance of this extremely useful reference work, which will be of value for decades to come, a republication cum ADDENDUM may help to provide further assistance and insight. Since my earlier survey on the cultural monuments in present-day Tibet was published (in German: Tibet. Die Kulturdenkmler. Zrich 1981) soon after foreign visitors had been allowed to visit Lhasa and beyond for the first time (1980), several years passed by before some Western and Chinese books or major articles documented in greater detail the cultural relics in the Central Regions of and Tsang provinces (dbUs and gTsang). First among the local archaeologists and art historians in Lhasa to explore and publish Tibetan art and architecture was Sonam Wangd (bSod nams dbang dus, see the bibliography also for other authors and publications in my forthcoming The Cultural Monuments of Tibet. The Central Regions), whose various books and articles from the 1980s and early 1990s were published in Tibetan and Chinese only. A few years after the then still existing monasteries and palaces had reopened their doors for pilgrims and foreign visitors a first exhibition of precious painted scrolls from the Potala Palace was presented to the public in the Summer Palace of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, accompanied by a well illustrated book, Xizang Thangka (Beijing 1985 and 2005). A profusely illustrated Chinese pictorial encyclopedia Zang Chuan Fojiao Yishu (Tianjin 1987) and its English translation Buddhist Art of the Tibetan Plateau (Hongkong 1988) compiled by Liu Lizhong provided a first more comprehensive visual survey on monasteries and monuments. Roberts Vitalis groundbreaking Early Temples of Central Tibet (London 1990) followed as the first modern scholarly book in a6

Western language based on field studies and extensively on Tibetan text sources. Vitali documented such hitherto unseen rareties as the earliest monumental image groups still to exist at On ke ru Lha khang (8th and 9th century) or the unique late 11th century wall-paintings at Drathang, both not far from Samye monastery. Other chapters are dedicated to the early eastern section of the Lhasa Jokhang, the surviving 11th century statuary at Yemar to the South of Gyantse, the extensive mural cycles at Shalu, which date to the 11th through 14th century, and the Riwoche Kumbum stupa with its painted decorations in the remote western part of southern Tibet, where it was constructed by the multi-talented engineer-mahasiddha Thangtong Gyalpo in 1449-1456.

In the tradition of Guiseppe Tucci the two Italian scholars Erberto Lo Bue and Franco Ricca dedicated their research to the Gyantse monuments. The books written by these authors, Gyantse Revisited (Firenze 1990), and The Great Stupa of Gyantse (London 1993), have become essential reference works, particularly on the Kumbum, since then. A useful addition to this subject with many more high-quality plates of the paintings and statues is The Kumbum of Gyantse Palcho Monastery in Tibet by Xiong Wenbin (Chengdu 2001), a leading Chinese Tibetologistart historian at the China Tibetology Research Center in Beijing. Regettably the essential Archaeological Studies on Monuments of Tibetan Buddhism (Zang Zhuan Fojiao Siyuan Kaogu, Beijing 1996) written by Su Bai, a renowned Han-Chinese specialist on Tibetan art, have been published only in Chinese. Illustrated by numerous plans and a number of historical photographs this summa of Su Bais Tibetan research in art and architecture comprises chapters on the Lhasa Jokhang and Ramoche, Drepung and Sera, the Gyantse Kumbum, Narthang, some monuments in the Lhoka and Shigatse areas, the temples at Tholing and Tsaparang, manuscript collections in the Potala and at Sakya monastery, as well as chapters on Tibetan style paintings a