Faculty, students and visitors enjoyed a three-part event on Wednesday, October 1st exploring Tibetan texts—their materials, production, and compilation. The events spanned from the CU Art Museum to Norlin Library and covered an array of media: painting, photography and video, and textual analysis.
A group of 40-50 started at the CU Art Museum for a reception and exhibit of works by the Lhasa artist Gade from his series on "pechas," paintings done on traditional manuscript paper. Loaned by CU faculty, the works on exhibit juxtapose Buddhist motifs with icons of modernity, such as Ronald McDonald and Communist soldiers, to highlight tensions between tradition and modernity in contemporary Tibet. In doing so, as Asian Art Curator Ariana Maki states, Gade comments on "the commodification of the Buddha image, the ubiquity of Western consumer goods, and the inescapable presence of the Chinese Communist government."
From the museum, the group proceeded to Norlin Library for a tour of "Opening the Tibetan Treasury of Knowledge: Textual Transmission and Cultural Preservation." Taking turns in small batches, visitors walked through the installation on the third floor of the library, designed by Andrew Violet. The installation explores the production of Tibetan texts from woodblock printing to digitization. The Treasury of Knowledge, composed by the nineteenth-century Buddhist luminary Jamgön Kongtrul, provided the lens through which to view the transformation of Tibetan texts and their transmission to the West through massive translation projects. Photos and videos of the Dege Publishing House in eastern Tibet illustrate the woodblock printing process and reverence for texts, seen as living embodiments of wisdom.
The final and culminating event was a lecture by Andrew Quintman of Yale University in the British Studies Room, attended by more than 90 faculty and students from Front Range institutions as well as the general public. The lecture, "The Making of Milarepa: Reading and Writing the Life of Tibet's Great Saint," introduced the audience to the biographical corpus of Milarepa and its compilation into a masterful piece of world literature by Tsangnyön Heruka in the fifteenth century. Based on his book, The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet's Great Saint Milarepa (2013), Professor Quintman presented the evolution of this biographical corpus from its early skeletal fragments to the novelistic fifteenth-century work that reanimated the saint's life.
These events celebrated and served as a prequel to the Tsadra "Translation and Transmission" Conference in Keystone, CO on October 2-5th. The conference brought together more than 200 scholars and translators from around the world for a series of lectures, panels and workshops on translation issues and their implications on the transmission of Buddhism to the West. A dozen CU faculty and graduate students attended the conference and enjoyed its rich array of presentations and perspectives as well as the stunning fall weather in Keystone. The Center for Asian Studies served as a Partner in the conference. Holly Gayley, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, served on the Steering Committee for the conference and organized the prequel events at CU Boulder.
The exhibit of Gade's works will be up through the end of October at the CU Art Museum. The library installation, "Opening the Tibetan Treasury of Knowledge: Textual Transmission and Cultural Preservation," can be viewed through Spring 2015 on the third floor of Norlin Library, across from Special Collections.
Thanks to the Center for Asian Studies for supporting these events in tandem with the CU Art Museum, the CU Libraries, and the Department of Religious Studies. Special thanks to the Tsadra Foundation for the generous donation of Tibetan texts to the CU Libraries and to the Rubin Museum for permission to reproduce images for the library installation. Photographs by Nevada Drollinger.