“I don’t think the Dalai Lama would mind if you saw this through the prism of Monty Python,” said Robert Barnett, director of the modern Tibetan studies program at Columbia University. Zhu Weiqun, a Communist Party official who has long dealt with Tibetan issues, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide, he said, according to a transcript (in Chinese) of his comments on the website of People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.
A large, Yongle-Ming period Buddhist embroidery sold at auction this week for $45 million - the highest price ever paid for a piece of Asian art. The 11ft x 7ft (335cm x 213cm) silk & gold thread thangka from the early 15th century depicts "Raktayamari, a meditational deity in Mahayana Buddhism, in an embrace with his consort, Vajravetali." ~~~ Full screen hi-res zoom frame /// Short overview video /// NYTimes /// Note the 'Lot Notes' and 'Features' tabs in the main Christie's link (where there are overview/context essays too).
Diana Vreeland, noted fashion columnist and editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine from 1963 until 1971, once famously said, "Pink is the new black." This post is about her grandson, Nicholas Vreeland, who as a teenager worked as an assistant to legendary photographers Irving Penn and Richard Avedon (both friends of Grandma). Nicholas began studying Tibetan Buddhism in 1977. This (8:39) PBS Video from 6/15/2012 provides some background: "Buddhist Abbot Nicholas Vreeland". Now, the trailer to Monk with a Camera: The Life and Journey of Nicholas Vreeland", a documentary film by Guido Santi and Tina Mascara, has a North American release date of 11/21/14. A Leica Camera Blog article: Nicholas Vreeland: Capturing Photographs to Honor and Preserve His World. Perhaps you would just enjoy seeing some of what Nicholas Vreeland can do with that camera. Enjoy!
A new paper in Nature suggests the gene variant that allows Tibetans to thrive at high altitudes may have arisen in the mysterious Denisovans, an extinct branch of hominid that co-existed with modern humans and Neanderthals. Denisovans were discovered through DNA analysis of a single bone from a cave in Siberia. Popular article in Slate. Just as Neanderthal ancestry contributed 1-4% of genes to modern people with ancestry outside of sub-Saharan Africa, Denisovan ancestry lives on in Southern Asia, and as the new research suggests, conferred benefits to the people of Tibet. From links here and here you can download the DNA letters for the first Denisovan discovered, along with a report generated based on personal genomics analysis.
Inside, please find a list of forty-three movies, TV episodes, and short subjects by Werner Herzog, all of which can be streamed, along with some short descriptions of their content. One or two of the films are in German without subtitles; this is noted in the description. [more inside]
Gorgeous photographs of Tibet, thousands of them by Jan Reurink with excellent, informative captions. Exceptionally detailed, clear photographs of a huge variety of Tibetan landscapes, architecture of all kinds, flowers, wildlife, cool details, monastic cities. Of course, all kinds of Tibetan people, from a high plains cowboy in a dusty town, monastic staff, nomads to kids. [more inside]
The Dalai Lama says he isn’t tired and wants to go into the mountains to see skiing. What should I do? (Single link Slate article, sweet anecdote that's worth it for the really big question.)
"By figuratively sticking her foot in America’s front door and keeping it wedged there long enough for an anonymous band of war-tossed Mongols to navigate around daunting racial barriers, Countess Tolstoy not only became the architect of the Mongol “invasion” of New Jersey and the country’s first ethnic Mongolian community, she also served as the midwife for the birth of Tibetan Buddhism in America." -- tells the amazing story of how a small band of Kalmyk Mongols (all WWII Wehrmacht veterans) established Tibetan Buddhism in America, as told by David Urubshurow, who was one of them. Featuring Leo Tolstoy's youngest daughter, Cold War CIA and Ivy League intrigues, how the Dalai Lama came to America and why this was only possible under president Carter and more.
With 53 self-immolations since 2009, these Chinese villagers might bring to mind the self-immolation by Tibetans, but the Chinese villagers are highlighting a different issue. The rapid urbanization of China is having a number of impacts across the country, with rural communities being demolished to build new urban centers. While many people are moving from rural farms to cities to find more lucrative jobs, some are fighting back to keep their rural communities intact, or to retain their family farms. When other options are gone, desperate villagers turn to self-immolation (NPR). [more inside]
Over a thousand monks and laymen are revered in Tibetan Buddhism as the incarnations of past teachers who convey enlightenment to their followers from one lifetime to the next. Some of the most respected are known by the honorific "rinpoche." For eight centuries, rinpoches were traditionally identified by other monks and then locked inside monasteries ringed by mountains, far from worldly distractions. Their reincarnation lineages were easily tracked across successive lives. Then the Chinese Red Army invaded Tibet in 1950 and drove the religion's adherents into exile. Now, the younger rinpoches of the Tibetan diaspora are being exposed to all of the twenty-first century’s dazzling temptations. So, even as Tibetan Buddhism is gaining more followers around the world, an increasing number of rinpoches are abandoning their monastic vows. Reincarnation in Exile. [more inside]
A colorful mural adorns Chao Tsung-song / Tibet House in Corvallis, Oregon. Commissioned by Corvallis businessman, David Lin, the 100 foot long mural depicts at one end, a cheerful Taiwanese countryside scene, and at the other, police beating Tibetan protesters and a Tibetan monk in the process of self-immolation. The Chinese government has requested that the mural be destroyed. Mr. Lin and Corvallis city mayor, Julie Manning, say, "no."
The Dalai Lama was prevented from going to South Africa for Desmond Tutu's 80th birthday by visa problems. So they used Google+ to "Hangout" instead.
We've talked about throat singing on the Blue before, but Mongolia and Siberia aren't the only places where throat singing is practiced. In Tibet, an ancient collection of traditions called Bön keeps throat singing alive and well. [more inside]
The Dalai Lama announces his resignation as a political leader. It remains to be seen if the Tibet Parliament will accept.
Tibetans May Be Fastest Evolutionary Adapters Ever. "A group of scientists in China, Denmark and the U.S. recently documented the fastest genetic change observed in humans. According to their findings, Tibetan adaption to high altitude might have taken just 3,000 years. That's a flash, in terms of evolutionary time, but it's one that's in dispute."
Asia Snapshots "is a blog that examines topics in Asia through the perspectives of interesting people interviewed by a group of bloggers in Mainland China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and more." Meet Gao Qingrong and family, who along with seven other households are part of an organic farm co-op in Anlong Village, Sichuan. Or there's the tale of how one of the bloggers met Jun Jun, a male prostitute in Beijing; an encounter with Silang Laji, a road maintenance worker in Kham, a Tibetan region of China; and Gege, an enterprising journalist in Chengdu.Via
Why Americans Love the Dalai Lama : an insightful piece from CNN preceding his appearance tonight at 9PM EST on Larry King Live. [more inside]
Sky burials are often practiced in the mountains of Tibet, both for religious and practical reasons. Basically, the corpse is placed on a mountain top and sliced open in various places, to attract the birds of prey circling above. They’d probably feast on it anyway, but an invitation like that doesn’t hurt.
Time-lapse video, shot from overhead, of Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery creating a sand mandala over 5 days: Eight frames per second (1:30); Thirty frames per second (0:23). [via MeFi's Own™ carter]
The CIA in Tibet l the Cold War in ShangriLa l The CIA's Secret War In Tibet by Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison, the entire book online. [more inside]
"On the evening of July 5th, several hundred Uighur youths went on a bloody rampage [in Urumqi, Xinjiang] following a peaceful demonstration over a separate incident of ethnic violence at a Guangdong toy factory. . . . In the days that followed, bands of roving Han vigilantes armed with kitchen knives, hammers, metal pipes and other improvised weapons sought to mete out revenge in the Uighur suburbs of the city. . . . Caught in-between these increasingly polarized and agitated ethnic communities is the Chinese state, which, rather than orchestrating the brutal oppression of the non-Han minorities, finds itself increasingly powerless to stop the spiralling circle of ethnic hatred which its policies helped to foster in the first place." [more inside]
The Dalai Lama's Buddhist Foes contrasts "the tolerance and rationalism that the Dalai Lama represents globally and the theological hardball over mystical principles that he seems to play on his home turf." But the Shugdenpas aren't the Dalai Lama's only Buddhist opponents. Tibetan Buddhism's only female living Buddha, the twelfth Samding Dorje Phagmo, who chose to stay in Tibet when the Dalai Lama fled, has said, "The sins of the Dalai Lama and his followers seriously violate the basic teachings and precepts of Buddhism and seriously damage traditional Tibetan Buddhism's normal order and good reputation." [more inside]
Ever wondered where the remotest place in the world is? Short answer according to New Scientist: the Tibetan Plateau. Lots of cool maps showing transport times and methods. [more inside]
Field Force to Lhasa 1903-04 Captain Cecil Mainprise accompanied General Sir Francis Younghusband's expedition to Tibet in 1903. He wrote 50 letters home which trace the expedition’s progress into Tibet. Read this insider's account on the day they were written some 105 years later. Final post is 18 November 2009. [Via]
Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network. "A vast electronic spying operation has infiltrated computers and has stolen documents from hundreds of government and private offices around the world, including those of the Dalai Lama, Canadian researchers have concluded. In a report to be issued this weekend, the researchers said that the system was being controlled from computers based almost exclusively in China, but that they could not say conclusively that the Chinese government was involved." [more inside]
Tibet serf debate shadows China's "emancipation day". Like Juneteeth or Martin Luther King Day, Tibet's Serf Emancipation Day commemorates the freeing of a million serfs in 1959. Much like the descendants of slaveowners mocking Martin Luther King Day, the descendants of Tibet's aristocracy have announced Smurf Emancipation Day.
West treats East. "To help traumatized Tibetan monks, doctors in Boston turn to cross-cultural medicine." [Via]
West 'uses Tibet to attack China'. Against a background of Chinese authorities denying police had shot a young Tibetan monk who tried to set himself on fire, China has issued Fifty Years of Democratic Reform in Tibet. For a little background: FACTBOX - Historical ties between China and Tibet. [more inside]
Buddhism's allure is fading for many young Tibetans. At the same time, growing numbers of middle-class ethnic Han Chinese are turning to Tibetan Buddhism. [Via]
Historic, beautiful and interesting footage of Tibetan lamas and yogis teaching Buddhism, just 4 years after their escape from Tibet, when the Chinese invaded in 1959. "In 1963, for the first time, the Dalai Lama allowed a Westerner, Desjardins, to film the heart of the Tibetan tradition." Some meditation instruction taught by yogis: Tantra as practiced in Tibet, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Lerab's Youtube channel has all kinds of video gems for those interested in Buddhist and Hindu spiritual practice. [more inside]
The Tibetan Youth Congress has been described as an organization bent on terror wherein Young Tibetans ‘will resist China with blood’.
The Tibet Album: British photography in Central Tibet 1920 - 1950 [previously] via The Best of The Asian Studies WWW Monitor [more inside]
High Peaks: aerial panoramas of 18 famous Himalayan mountains, from the Digital Himalayas Collections, which include all kinds of interesting things: old and new photographs, short films from the 1930's, maps, rare books and manuscripts, songs and stories in the languages of the locals in these remote parts of the world at high altitudes.
Armchair travel via three superb audio slide shows by photographer Reinhard Krause:
Monlam, the Tibetan Great Prayer Festival - Aba China
Catholics celebrate Christmas in rural China
Tibetan prayer meeting in Tongren [more inside]
Monlam, the Tibetan Great Prayer Festival - Aba China
Catholics celebrate Christmas in rural China
Tibetan prayer meeting in Tongren [more inside]
Contemporary Tibetan artists incorporating traditional themes: Gonkar Gyatso l l Karma Phuntsok l Yungchen Lhamo [scroll down for video] l P. N. Dhumkhang l Losang Gyatso l Angsang [more inside]
As the health of the Dalai Lama seems uncertain, the question remains: will he be reborn this time? and, if so, where?
Remember Tibet during the Olympic Games. Jonathan Barnbrook and Pedro Inoue raise awareness through this new site. [Via Computer Love]
Women Explorers and Travellers of Asia and the Middle East - In an age where women struggled for basic human rights, these individuals were literal trailblazers. Leaving their homelands for varying motivations (but often due to dissatisfaction with their social lot in life), they devoted their lives to "explore these antique lands before they are irretrievably caught up in the cacaphonic whirl of the modern world." [more inside]
Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, just gave a historic six-day teaching of Je Tsong-kha-pa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (the Lam Rim Chen Mo), a vitally important explanation of Buddhism written in 1402 and just recently translated into English by a team organized by Joshua Cutler of New Jersey's Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center. The teaching, attended by about 5000 participants (my estimate), consisted of two two-hour sessions per day, except for a
public talkon Sunday afternoon, at which the Dalai Lama received an honorary doctorate from Lehigh and gave a speech. The speech is available as downloadable audio clips and for viewing online. It is possible that eventually the videos of the teachings themselves will be made available on DVD or for download at lamrim.com.
China's secret plot to tame Tibet. "Internal Communist party documents have revealed that China is planning a programme of harsh political repression in Tibet despite a public show of moderation to win over world opinion before the Olympic Games next month." Meanwhile, the military has sealed off several monasteries in Lhasa, keeping over 1,000 monks locked up. Another 1,000 monks have mysteriously disappeared, and may have been sent to prisons in a neighbouring province to keep them silent through the Olympics.
Beijing 2008: China's Olympian Human Rights Challenges. This website was set up by Human Rights Watch to monitor human rights issues in China during the run-up to the Olympics. "This is a historic opportunity for China to show it has the confidence to make tangible and sustainable progress in ensuring basic human rights for its 1.3 billion citizens." [more inside]
Monks Succeed in Cyclone Relief as Junta Falters. In Burma (Myanmar) the Buddhist monks are doing more than anyone to help the victims of Cyclone Nargis. At the same time, Burmese officials are trying to stem the influence of the monks by forcing survivors who have sought refuge in monasteries to return to their shattered homes. [Via Barbara's Buddhism Blog.]
Plural marriage, less publicized, in other faiths: polygamy among Black Muslims in Philadelphia; Rastafarianism; Judaism. Polyandry in Tibetan Buddhism. [more inside]
Here's a small representation of some of the culture that many Tibetan protesters hope to save from eradication in Tibet: Heart Sutra, by Geshe Kunkhen. [more inside]
A Lone Tibetan Voice, Intent on Speaking Out. Woeser (previously mentioned here) is a Tibetan writer and poet living under house arrest in Beijing, from where she blogs about the recent unrest in Tibet (there are English translations of her posts at China Digital Times). Last year she was awarded the Norwegian Authors Union Freedom of Expression Prize, but she was not allowed to travel to Oslo to collect the prize.
"On 5 May 1958 the three women climbed into their long-wheelbase Land-Rover in London, and drove through ten countries in six weeks, then walked for 21 days to Padam, the capital of Zanskar, in the highest inhabited region in the world."