Buddhist Art in Tibet

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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

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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

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155 178 187 197

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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 along the Silk Road such as Zhangye, Wuwei, Yulin, Dunhuang and in Xixia, or on Yuan dynasty buildings and sculptures like the giant Tibetan Baita stupa7

in Beijing (1271-78), or Juyong Guan gate and its relief carvings, which is located further to the North (1342-45). Other Chinese scholars, including Huo Wei and Li Yongxian, both from Sichuan University, Chengdu, have focussed their rsearch on prehistoric petroglyphs (Art of Tibetan Rock Paintings, Xizang Yanhua Yishu. Chengdu 1994), to the tombs of early Tibetan kings (Research on the Burial Systems in Ancient Tibet. Xizang Gudai Muzang Zhi Du Yanjiu. Chengdu 1995), or to sPu rgyel dynasty rock carvings in the eastern Tibetan cultural areas of Sichuan province. Other experts like Xu Xinguo, of the Qinghai Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Xining, supervised and published burial treasures from excavations in the Tibetan-Han Chinese borderlands in northern Tibet. Among the younger generation of the Beijing-based Tibetan art historians, to name a few in this selective survey of those conducting research on cultural relics in the TAR, Xie Jisheng (Capital Normal University, Beijing) has published widely on Tibeto-Chinese and Sino-Tibetan art, mainly from Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and adjacent areas. Zhang Yashas (Central University for Nationalities, Beijing) investigations on the Yemar sculptures and on the wall-paintings at Drathang presented a remarkable interpretation from a Chinese perspective, though potentially challenged in the light of Western publications (Vitali, Rhie, Heller, Henss). Pntsok Namgyal (Phun tshogs rNam rgyal), formerly Deputy Director of the Cultural Relics Bureau in Lhasa, is the author of three wellillustrated books with Chinese and English text introductions on the Tibetan Buddhist Monastery Bkra sis lhum po (Beijing 1998), nTho ling Monastery (Beijing 2001), and on The Potala Palace (Beijing 2002). The only more comprehensive documentation on the Potala Palace with 380 illustrations, many excellent plans and details about the large scale renovation in 1989-94 was published in Chinese, Xizang Budala Gong (The Potala Palace in Tibet, 2 vols., Beijing 1996), yet does not appear to have come to the knowledge of Western readers. Two more Potala books from China have proved useful for further studies: Gems of the Potala8

Palace (Budala Gong Mibao, Beijing 1999), a large album with 375 excellent plates and informative captions, and A Mirror of the Murals in the Potala (Budala Gong Bihua Yuan Liu, Beijing 2000) with 200 illustrations of the wall-paintings from mid-17th to early 19th century and a readable trilingual text. While only part of the Potala paintings are accessible to the public (and now even less than before), a systematic and comprehensive documentation in text and illustration would be needed, additional to the welldone photographic survey mentioned above. A recently published album, The Celestial Palace of the Gods of Tantric Vajra Yana (Beijing 2004) with excellent reproductions of 158 mandala paintings in the Potala Palace collection has hardly become known to Western scholars. It comprises two sets of 45 and 65 mandalas painted at the time of the Eighth Dalai Lama (1758-1804) by the same workshop around 1800, and additional 48 mandalas mostly of the Nyingmapa tradition and dating to the 19th century. Photographic albums were published in Beijing on Tashilhnpo Monastery, edited by Meng Zi and Liao Pin (1993), Sera Thekchen Ling (1995), and Zhaibung Monastery (Drepung; 1999), with partly popular or questionably scholarly texts. A well-researched monograph on Nechung monastery by Franco Ricca, Il Tempio oracolare di gNas chung, may not have found sufficient readers due to its exclusive Italian language publication (Torino 1999). Monographic studies by the same author do exist for books on Shalu monastery (in collaboration with Lionel Fournier) and on the Gyantse Tsuglagkhang, but have not been published yet. A fine book with masterful photographs of the extraordinary tantric Dzogchen wall-paintings in the small Lu khang sanctuary on the Naga Kings Lake (kLu rGyal po mtsho) lake island behind the Potala by Ian Baker and Thomas Laird, The Dalai Lamas Secret Temple (London 2000), makes these painted treasures of the 18th century now in danger of damage and decay and not accessible for the public literally, or rather visually, more impressive than when standing in front of the original murals.

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The cultural relics in Western Tibet were investigated for the first time after Guiseppe Tuccis visit in 1935 and documented in great detail by an archaeological team from Lhasa in 1985. Comprehensive excavations were carried out on the 15th and 16th century temples and vast palace remains at Tsaparang, now mostly known as Guge, and published in The Site of the Ancient Guge Kingdom, 2 vols., Beijing 1991 (in Chinese, with many illustrations and plans). After the excavations and conservation work at the grand Mandala temple (brGya rtsa) at Tholing in 1997-99 Pntsok Namgyal published the newly discove...