Several major new books on Tibetan art were critically reviewed during the Asian Studies Research Collection (ASRC) seminar ‘Heritage as soft power: Recent publishing on Tibetan antiquities in China and its uses’, led by myself at Matheson Library, Monash University, on 21st May 2013. In my presentation I argued that Chinese publishing on Tibetan art is beginning to reflect some of China’s priorities in soft power projection, using books newly acquired by the ASRC as examples.
Tibetan Buddhism has a sophisticated, universalistic character that appeals to the world in a way that other aspects of the Chinese milieu do not. Much of the tradition’s material culture is in the custody of the PRC, and scholars there have lately been making good use of their access to it. The monographs on Tibetan art history now being produced in China demonstrate, in many cases, new and impressively high standards of scholarship, printing and book design. These publications appeal in part to a domestic audience increasingly willing to study and support Tibetan Buddhism, but many are also clearly intended for international and non-Chinese consumption—they are furnished with translations and multilingual glossaries, and are informed by major Western studies in the field.
These books are important resources for specialists in Tibetan and Buddhist art. Yet at the time of writing, they have become known to only a few, and the ASRC is the only library outside China holding copies of certain titles. Their importance lies in the fact that they reproduce or reexamine neglected primary sources; they treat large, significant sites and collections of art; and they are concerned with motifs common not only to China and its Tibetan regions, but also to the transnational domain of tantric Buddhism: Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia and much of East, and Central and Southeast Asia.
In order to make these studies more widely known, an annotated bibliography of selected titles is given below. I freely dedicate this short contribution to the ASRC librarians, especially Mr. Dennis Kishere and Mr. Hueimin Chen, as I could not have used these books in my research without their guidance and kind assistance.
- ’De ga dpe skrun khang sdebs ris rtsom ’bri tsu’u. Bod kyi ldebs ris phyogs bsdus (1–2): Mnga’ ris kyi pod (西藏壁画全集 阿里卷). 2 vols. 西藏人民出版社 (Lhasa: Bod ljongs Mi dmangs dPe skrun khang ldebs ris rtsom ’bri tsu’u), 2011.
Large-format reproductions of the tantric Buddhist murals and decorations in the rTsa mda’ Gu ge lha khang (Zanda County 札达县), Mnga’ ris (Ngari Prefecture 阿里地区), Tibet Autonomous Region. The photographs, which are among the best published to date, are captioned in Tibetan and Chinese.
- Editorial Board of Murals in Ar-er-zhai Grottoes (鄂托克旗文化广播电视电影). 阿尔寨石窟壁画 (Ar-er-zhai grotto murals). 呼和浩特：内蒙古人民出版社 (Hohhot: Nei Menggu ren min chu), 2010.
Large-format photographic reproductions of the tantric Buddhist murals of the Arjai caves, located on the grasslands near Ordos xota 鄂尔多斯市 in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. The murals, mostly dating from the late Yuan era, depict events in the life of Genghis Khan, the state preceptor ’Phags pa and other historical figures, as well as more common Buddhist subjects: the 35 confession Buddhas, 21 Tārās, 16 Arhats and various higher tantric deities; Tārā’s acts of salvation are shown in some detail (pp. 115–126). The accompanying inscriptions are in Tibetan (’Phags pa and dBu can scripts), Mongolian (Uyghur) and in some cases also Sanskrit (Rañjanā), though these have not been transcribed or otherwise studied in depth. The murals are reproduced with bilingual captions in Chinese and English, and the book has a superficial Preface, Introduction and Postscript, also bilingual.
- Ethnographic Museum of the University of Zürich (瑞士苏黎世大学民族学博物馆版本提供). 五百佛像集：见即获益 (Rin ’byung sNar thang brGya rtsa rDor ’phreng bcas nas gsungs pa’i Bris sku mthong ba don ldan bzhugs so). 北京：中国藏学出版社 (Beijing: Zhongguo zang xue chu ban she), 2011.
A reproduction of the hand-painted blockprint (mistranslated as ‘photocopied version’) of the so-called Collection of Five Hundred Buddhist Images kept at the Völkerkundermuseum der Universität Zürich, previously studied by Willson & Brauen (2000). The manuscript comprises 510 sacred images with captions in Mongolian and Tibetan, conforming to the instructions of three iconographic compendia: the Rin ’byung of Blo bzang nor bu shes rab (nos. 4–420); the Snar thang brgya rtsa of mChim Nam mkha’ grags (nos. 421–456); and the Rdor phreng/Vajrāvalī of Abhayākaragupta (nos. 457–503) as interpreted by Ngag dbang Blo bzang Chos ldan, i.e., with additions from the Kriyāsamuccaya (nos. 504–507). The present publication, unlike Willson & Brauen, does not treat the visualization texts associated with each image. The English introduction by Wenhua Luo, translated by Jue Liang with input from Weirong Shen, reexamines the relationship of the Zürich blockprint to other blockprints, which all originate after 1810 CE.
- Gao, Chunming (高春明) and Liu, Jian’an (刘建安). 西夏艺术研究 (Xi Xia yi shu yan jiu). 上海：上海古籍出版社 (Shanghai: Shanghai gu ji chu ban she), 2009.
A study of Tangut art and architecture arranged by type of object or motif: cloth painting (pp. 1–56), statuary (pp. 57–102), manuscripts (pp. 103–136), buildings (pp. 137–), ‘handicraft’ (工艺美术, pp. 225–260), music (pp. 261–286) and dancing figures (pp. 287–310).
- Gu gong bo wu yuan (故宮博物院). 究竟定：清宮藏密瑜伽修行寶典 (Samādhi of completion: secret Tibetan yoga illuminations from the Qing court). 北京：紫禁城出版社 (Beijing: Zi jin cheng chu ban she), 2009.
A reproduction and study of an illuminated manuscript on tantric Buddhist haṭhayoga produced at the Qianlong court. The manuscript is untitled and comprises 117 miniature paintings of yogic postures (āsana, ’phrul ’khor) together with instructions in Tibetan and Chinese. The postures accompany the cultivation of inner heat (caṇḍālīyoga, gtum mo, fols. 5–8), the Yogic Exercises of the Thirty-two Actions by Grags pa rGyal mtshan (fols. 12–108), and short invocations of the chief deities of the Cakrasaṃvara, Śrīvajrabhairava and Guhyasamāja tantric systems (fols. 110–117). Each illumination is reproduced together with transcriptions of the Chinese and Tibetan captions, both translated into English, and remarks by the editors. There is an extensive introduction to the manuscript and the yogic traditions it represents, which are chiefly those of the Sa skya pa, by Françoise Wang-Toutain (pp. 16–33).
- Luo, Wenhua (罗文华) and The Palace Museum (故宫博物院). 藏传佛教造像 (Classics of the Forbidden City: Tibetan Buddhist Sculptures). 北京：紫禁城出版社 (Beijing: The Forbidden City Publishing House), 2009.
A photographic inventory of 189 Buddhist sculptures and figurines formerly enshrined in various buildings of the Forbidden City (Zi Jin Cheng 紫禁城), Beijing. The sculptures are classified into the categories of ‘Master and Adept’ (p. 35ff), ‘Ādibuddha and Tathāgatas’ (p. 53ff), Yi Dam (p. 85ff), ‘Buddha’ (p. 117ff), ‘Bodhisattva’ (p. 165ff), ‘Feminine Divinities’ (p. 229ff) and ‘Dharmapāla’ (pp. 263–293). There is a brief introduction by Wenhua Luo in Chinese and English, a Sanskrit-Tibetan-Mongolian index and a Chinese index. Some items appear again in Wang (2011).
- Luo, Wenhua (罗文华), editor in chief; The Palace Museum, Sichuan Provincial Cultural Relics and Archaeology Research Institute (故宫博物院 四川省文物考古研究所). 木雅地区明代藏传佛教经堂碉壁画 (The Ming Dynasty Tibetan Murals in the Lhakhang Towers of Mi nyag District). 四川甘孜地区民族与考古调查报告 (Sichuan Ganzi (dkar mdzas) Prefecture Ethnic and Archaeological Survey). 北京：故宫出版社 (Beijing: The Forbidden City Pubishing House), 2012.
A comprehensive report on the murals and architecture of the Lha khang Towers in Ganzi Prefecture (甘孜地区), Sichuan. There are four main contributions: Wenhua Luo, ‘The Changhexi Pacification Office, the Mingzheng Tusi and Their Times’ (pp. 15–60); Jun Yao 姚军, Hang Cui 崔航 and Ting Wang 王婷 (pp. 61–170); Wenhua Luo, ‘The Dating, Style and Symbolism of the Lhakhang Tower Murals’ (pp. 171–302); and Rui Bi 毕瑞 and Honghua Wu 吴洪华, ‘Illustrations and Descriptions of the Murals’, (pp. 303–485; the English titles are from the supplied Table of Contents). The monograph includes numerous photographs and line drawings of the towers and their murals.
- Semenov, Grigory and Jin Yasheng (金雅声); The State Hermitage Museum, Russia; Northwest University for Nationalities (西北民族大學); Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing House (上海古籍出版社). 俄羅斯國立艾爾米塔什博物館藏黑水城藝術品 (Khara-Khoto Art Relics Collected in the State Hermitage Museum of Russia), I. 上海：上海古籍出版社 (Shanghai: Shanghai Chinese Classics Publishing House), 2008.
Reproductions of Tangut painting from Kharakhoto kept at the State Hermitage, St Petersburg. The volume has rich prefaces by Yasheng Jin, Kira Samosyuk 薩瑪秀克 and Xihong Shu 束錫红 and Xianzhan Fu 府憲展, presented in Chinese, English and Russian. These are followed by 85 high-quality plates minimally captioned in Chinese and English and a list of the ‘Illustrators’ (sic, i.e. illustrations). The art reproduced represents a small portion of the whole collection, which was more comprehensively inventoried (though with less lavish photography) by Samosyuk (2006).
- Thang lha Tshe dbang (唐拉泽旺), Dkon mchog bsTan ’dzin (根秋登子). 德格印经院藏传木刻版画集 (sDe dge par khang chos mdzod chen mo’i shing par lha ris dang de’i gsal bshad). 成都：四川民族出版社 (Chengdu: Si chuan min zu chu ban she), 2002.
Monochrome A3-sized reproductions of 192 blockprints produced by the printery at Derge monastery, Garze Prefecture (甘孜州), Sichuan. The subjects include the 12 Deeds of the Buddha (sTon pa’i mdzad pa bcu gnyis 佛陀十二宏化图, nos. 1–9), 15 Emanations of the Bhagavān (bCom ldan ’das kyi Tsho ’phrul bco lnga 释佛十五神变图, 10–24), Lives of the 16 Arhats (sTon pa gNas brtan bcu drug gi rTogs brjod kyi zhal thang nyer gsum 佛与十六尊者故事图, nos. 25–40), 8 Manifestations of Padmasambhava (Gu ru mTshan brgyad zhal thang dgu 八变莲花生, nos. 48–56), 8 Practice Lineages [of Tibetan Buddhism] (sGrub rgyud Shing rta brgyad kyi zhal thang dgu 藏传佛教八大传承, nos. 57–65) and so on. In the reproductions, each part of the composition is marked with a number and described in appendixes in Tibetan (pp. A1–A134) and in Chinese (pp. B1–B74). Poorer quality digital reproductions of many blockprints are available online at degeparkhang.org.
- Wang, Jiapeng (王家鹏). 梵华楼 (Fanhua Pavilion). 4 vols. 北京：紫禁城出版社 (Beijing: Zi jin cheng chu ban she), 2009.
A systematic description of the art and architecture of Fanhua Pavilion (Fan Hua Lou 梵华楼), built in the northeast corner of the Forbidden City between 1772 and 1776. Each of the four volumes reveals a different part of the building with architectural drawings, line tracings and photographs of the Pavilion’s numerous paintings, statues, ornaments and ritual paraphernalia. Among the more rarely seen items are six large cloisonné (‘enamel’) stūpas enshrined in separate rooms. All objects in the Pavilion are affiliated to the Tibetan Buddhism of the dGe lugs pa. The lengthier Manchu-Tibetan-Chinese-Mongolian inscriptions associated with the art have been reproduced and transcribed in these volumes. The fourth volume concludes with six studies of the Pavilion by Jiapeng Wang 王家鹏, Shixiang Wang 王世襄 and Wenhua Luo 罗文华 and a Chinese-Sanskrit index of the statues’ names.
- Wang, Jiapeng (王家鹏) and The Palace Museum (故宮博物院), eds. 故宮唐卡图典 (Classics of the Forbidden City: Tangka Paintings in the Collection of the Palace Museum). 故宮经典 (Gu gong jing dian). 北京：紫禁城出版社 (Beijing: The Forbidden City Publishing House), 2011.
A photographic inventory of 300 Tibetan Buddhist paintings on cloth and some appliqués (pp. 306–329), produced mostly during the eighteenth century for the Qing court. These objects were commissioned to decorate the private chambers of the Forbidden City (紫禁城), such as the Fo Ri Lou (佛日楼) and Fan Hua Lou (梵华楼). Dozens are very accomplished examples of their type, or masterpieces (e.g., the series of paintings produced for the Bao Xiang Lou (宝相楼) in 1765, nos. 277–300), and many subjects or motifs are rarely seen (e.g. Māyājālakramāryāvalokiteśvara 黑色观世音菩萨, no. 169). Some items are accompanied by Tibetan captions or quadriligual Chinese-Manchu-Mongolian-Tibetan inscriptions, which are inconsistently reproduced; the all-Chinese text makes only limited use of this material. The same corpus of art has also been treated, much less extensively, in Wang (2003).
- Wang, Jiu & He, Dan (eds); Chang, Siyu (English ed). 西藏江孜白居寺吉祥多门塔 (Bod ljongs rGyal rtse dPal chos dgon bKra shis sgo mang mchod rten = The Kumbum of Gyantse Palcho Monastery in Tibet). [拉萨：]西藏人民出版社; [成都：]四川民族出版社
Tibet People’s Publishing House and Chengdu: Sichuan People's
Publishing House, 2001.
A photographic presentation of the statues and frescoes in the five chapels of the Sku ’bum (est. 1418) in Gyantse County (江孜县), Tibet Autonomous Region. It features 244 clear photographs with brief bilingual Chinese-English captions and some identifying text in Chinese. The photographs are preceded by an introduction to the history and aesthetics of the Kumbum (pp.11–45) and are followed by two indexes (‘Catalogues’) to the photographs, both also in Chinese and English (pp. 210–217). The accompanying text is somewhat simplistic and unoriginal, but there are photographs of several subjects not seen in Ricca & Lo Bue’s (1993) landmark book on the Sku ’bum.
- Tenzin Nyima (尼瑪旦増). 罗布林卡珍藏文物辑选 (Treasures of the Norbulingka). 北京：中国藏学出版社 (Beijing: Zhongguo zang xue chu ban she), 2011.
A visual inventory of the art preserved at the Nor bu gling ka palace in Lhasa: sculptures, thangkas, figurines, cups, crowns, tsa tsas, incense burners, hanging banners, manuscripts and manuscript covers, sedan chairs, and furniture. Several objects are very accomplished works of art, e.g. the illuminations of an Indian Prajñāpāramitā manuscript (pp. 146–147) and a painting of the mahāsiddhas Virūpa and Nāḍapāda (p. 91), which is clearly related to the famous painting of Virūpa in the Kronos Collection (himalayanart.org item no. 101354). The inventory is not exhaustive; it does not detail the Sanskrit manuscript collections kept at the Nor bu gling ka, which was one the major sites included in the official survey of Sanskrit manuscripts in China (see, e.g. Shaobo Bai (白少波), 西藏贝叶经保护：寻经6载 千年文化遗产崭新面世 (Xizang bei ye jing bao hu: xun jing 6 zai qian nian wen hua yi chan zhan xin mian shi), 29 September 2012, chinanews.com 中国新闻网 (URL: http:// fo.ifeng.com/news/detail_2012_09/29/ 18003819_0.shtml).
- Xie, Jisheng (谢继胜), editor-in-chief. 藏传佛教艺术发展史 (Zang chuan Fo jiao yi shu fa zhan shi). 2 vols. 上海：上海書畫出版社, (Shanghai: Shanghai shu hua chu ban she), 2010.
A comprehensive historical study of Tibetan Buddhist art, focusing in particular on Sino-Tibetan interchanges. The periodization is as follows: the 7th-9th centuries (pp. 1–88), 10th–13th century Dunhuang and Central Asia (pp. 89–118), the Tangut Empire (pp. 119–262), the Yuan dynasty (pp. 263–400), Tibetan influence on Chinese art during the Ming dynasty (pp. 401–660), Tibeto-Mongol art during the Ming (pp. 661–704), the Qing court (pp. 705–894), major Tibetan Buddhist establishments of the Qing (pp. 895–964) and Tibeto-Mongol art during the Qing (pp. 965–995). There are some studies of the Chinese and Tibetan inscriptions at sites such as Miaozhan Si 妙湛寺 in Yunnan.
- Zhongguo guo jia tu shu guan (国家图书馆版本), ed. 诸佛菩萨妙相名号经咒 (Xylographs in Marvelous Images, Names, Sutras and Dharanis of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas). 北京：中国藏学出版社 (Beijing: Zhongguo zang xue chu ban she), 2011.
A facsimile edition of the Zhu fo pu sa miao xiang ming hao jing zhou (诸佛菩萨妙相名号经咒), a compendium of Buddhist icons, mantras and short texts printed in Beijing
in 1431 CE. The copy reproduced here is kept in the National Library of China (国家图书馆). It begins with a quadrilingual preamble in Chinese, Sanskrit, Tibetan and Mongolian (pp. 2–21), followed by 63 images of Buddhist figures accompanied by the quadrilingual name and invocation of each figure (pp. 23–86); images and quadrilingual praises of each of the 5 Tathāgatas (cf. Guhyasamājatantra 17.1–5) and the 21 Tārās (pp. 87–115); several short Mahāyānasūtras and dhāraṇīs in Chinese (pp. 126–228); images of the 35 confession Buddhas with their Chinese names (pp. 252–271), different from those in Amoghavajra’s translation of the San shi wu fo mei jing (三十五佛名经, Taishō 326); various short Buddhist texts (pp. 272–296); and an index and colophon in Chinese, Sanskrit and Tibetan acknowledging the patronage of the Ming emperor (pp. 297–303). The images are evidently of the Tibetan milieu—the Karmapa 葛哩麻尚师 is lauded (p. 296)—though they share stylistic features with Tangut Buddhism and with the illustrated Chinese Tripiṭakas printed in the Yuan era, and “exhibit massive Nepalese influences”, according to the ‘Abbreviated Version of Chinese Introduction’ (pp. 305–318) written by Wenbin Xiong 熊文彬 and Dramdul 郑堆 and translated by Jue Liang and Weirong Shen 沈卫荣. The unique parts of the compendium, i.e., the texts of the preamble, mantras, praises, and colophon, have been transcribed in four languages (pp. 319–354) with an index of names (pp. 355–360). This is the first full publication of the compendium; previously only a few folios of the copy in the Musée Guimet had been reproduced by Karmay (1975).
Karmay, Heather. Early Sino-Tibetan art. Warminster: Aris
and Phillips Ltd, 1975.
Ricca, Franco, and Erberto F. Lo Bue. The great stupa of Gyantse: a complete Tibetan pantheon of the Fifteenth Century. London: Serindia, 1993.
Samosyuk, Kira Fedorovna. Buddiĭskaya zhivopis’ iz Khara-khoto XII-XIV vekov: mezhdu Kitaem i Tibetom. Kollektsiya P. K. Kozlova. St. Petersburg: The State Hermitage Publishers, 2006.
Wang, Jiapeng (王家鵬); Gu gong bo wu yuan (故宮博物院). 藏傳佛教唐卡 (Zang chuan Fo jiao tang ka). 故宮博物院藏文物珍品全集 (Gu gong bo wu yuan cang wen wu zhen pin quan ji), 59. 香港：商務印書館 (Hong Kong: Shang wu yin shu guan), 2003.
Wang, Jiapeng (王家鵬) and Weirong Shen (沈卫荣). 金铜佛像集萃 (Collection of Gilt Bronze Statues). 北京：紫禁城出版社 (Beijing: The Forbidden City Publishing House), 2011.
Willson, Martin and Brauen, Martin. Deities of Tibetan Buddhism: The Zürich Paintings of the Icons Worthwhile to See. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2000.