Tibetan Art & Cultural Websites

This page is intended to give the reader additional information from a variety of sources related to Tibetan art and culture, and how it spread beyond Tibet. For example, the artifacts in the JMMTA collection represent the art of Tibet and those countries which fell within the sphere of Tibetan Buddhism, including Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia and Northern China and date from the 12th through 20th century. These objects are beautifully crafted and were made for use in the monasteries of Tibet. Due to political activities in the region, many of the monasteries once housing these significant objects were destroyed and the cultural history of the Tibetan people is now preserved in museums outside of the region such as the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art.

As mentioned in the “Introduction to Tibetan Art” in the Museum’s catalog [1], practice of Tibetan Buddhism and the creation and use of associated arts spread well beyond regions and peoples traditionally identified as Tibetan. In fact “some of the finest examples of Tibetan [Buddhist] art come from Nepal, Kashmir, China, and Mongolia.” In his introduction to “Tibetan Buddhism” written for the JMMTA catalog, Prof. Donald Lopez explains,

. . . I will briefly outline the history of Buddhism in Tibet, before going on to discuss some of the fundamental doctrines of Tibetan Buddhism, doctrines reflected so vividly in the Jacques Marchais collections.”
“It is important to understand at the outset that the majority of Tibetan Buddhist beliefs and doctrines are shared by Buddhists throughout Asia. Buddhism has both changed the cultures it has encountered and been changed by them, so that we speak of Indian Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, and so on. Tibetan Buddhism is one of the major forms of Buddhism in Asia, with its influence extending far beyond the borders of Tibet, to the Kalmyk region of Russia near the Caspian Sea in the west, to Siberia in the north, to Mongolia, China, and Manchuria in the east, and to the Sherpa regions of Nepal in the south. This religious tradition is properly referred to as Tibetan Buddhism, rather than Lamaism, an anachronistic and pejorative term that mistakenly suggests that the religion of Tibet is not Buddhism. It is, therefore, perfectly acceptable to refer to the Mongols, for example, as Tibetan Buddhists, much as one might say that the Spanish are Roman Catholics.” [2]

 

Thus the learning resources included here provide opportunities to explore the vastness of the Tibetan and Himalayan realm as well as a great diversity of cultural creations new and old from the many and diverse peoples of this expansive region.

[1] Lipton, Barbara. “Introduction to Tibetan Art”. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collections of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, Lipton, B. and Dorjee Ragnubs, Nima. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. (Pages 31 – 35)
[2] Lopez, Jr., Donald S. “Tibetan Buddhism”. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collections of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art, Lipton, B. and Dorjee Ragnubs, Nima. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. (Pages 19-30)

Tibetan Art Collections : New York Area Museums

  • Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art : The JMMTA is working to bring its collections to larger audiences through off site exhibits as well as online access. Presently many pieces are included on the Himalayan Art Resources website and several items are on loan to the Rubin Museum for showing in the exquisite Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room. The Museum is pursuing funding to bring the full collection online. If you would like to contribute, you may designate a donation for this purpose or call the Museum to ask how to assist with fund raising and to learn about other current fund raising projects.
  • Newark Museum : Background on the museum’s Tibetan Collection is well presented in the New York Times’ 11/12/2011 article for this 100th year anniversary of the collection which coincided with the “Newark Peace Education Summit” attended by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.
  • The Rubin Museum of Art : Opened in New York City in 2004 to provide “a dynamic environment that stimulates learning, promotes understanding, and inspires personal connections to the ideas, cultures, and art of Himalayan Asia.” Visit their Educational Interactive Library here.
  • The Metropolitan Museum : Exquisite examples of Buddhist Art from many traditions, as well as Hindu arts and other traditions that influenced Buddhist arts can be seen among the Met’s collections. In 2014 a special exhibit was held entitled: “Tibet and India: Buddhist Traditions and Transformations”. This web page includes a recommended video introduction on Buddhism as transmitted to Tibet from India presented by Prof. Donald Lopez.
  • MoMA Museum of Modern Art : MoMA with their interest in film arts (as a modern art form), MoMA has been supportive of emerging filmmaking in Tibet and new films about Tibet. Tibetan made feature films and documentaries were featured in 2014 as part of the on-going “Contemporasian” film series. Read about “Lens on Tibet” here.

Other Recommended Online Resources

  • Himalayan Art Resources : Established in 1997 “to create a comprehensive education and research database and virtual museum of Himalayan art.” See also his Tumblr posts.
  • Asianart.com : “It is our ambition to offer a forum for scholars, museums and commercial galleries. We display highlights of exhibitions in public and private institutions and galleries; present new discoveries by scholars and connoisseurs; and, by providing space for private galleries to present their works, offer the visitor a selection of fine Asian art worldwide.”
  • Asia Society – New York : See information about the spread of Buddhism here. See video excerpt of interview with “New Wave” Tibetan filmmaker Pema Tseden. Films have been screened at universities, film festivals worldwide. He is an author, director, and screenwriter. (His films are included in the growing JMMTA film collection — available for educational programming at the Museum.)
  • PlateauCulture.org : Get close to real life in Tibet. Read and explore what researchers working and teaching in the region have to share. Click on titles then look for link to “pdf” to read articles from Asian Highland Perspectives journal. Explore photo projects made by local students.
  • Latse Library : Latse Library is a major library of modern Tibetan publications (English, Tibetan, and Chinese), linked to the Trace Foundation in Manhattan. Pleasant reading room and wi-fi. Sponsors exciting exhibitions and events. ** Major exhibit of modern Tibetan art coming in spring 2015.
  • Columbia University, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Modern Tibetan Studies : Weatherhead Institute is a center for modern and contemporary East Asian studies, research and publications based at Columbia University which focuses on China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Mongolia and Tibet. Check their events calendar for opportunities to learn more about modern Tibetan life and culture “inside and out”. Find English translations of “Tibetan voices” from blogs and publications online.
  • Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) : Founded by the late E. Gene Smith, TBRC is currently based in Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. The TBRC, dedicated to making Tibetan texts available to the public through the internet. Serious researcher/student resource.
  • Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library, University of Virginia : This digital library, maintained by the University of Virginia , allows visitors to search audio and visual resources, maps, and online versions of some of the library’s holdings. Be sure to read the “About Us” from link at bottom of page.
  • Internet Archive : Free archive of books, video, and more. Search Tibet and related keywords to find interesting historical and more recent materials.
  • Tibetan Studies WWW Virtual Library : Part of the Asian Studies WWW Virtual Library, this site maintains an extensive list of online resources on a variety of topics, including art, language, politics and society.
  • Tibet House : The website for the Tibet House in New York City offers information about exhibitions and events, sponsored publications, and archives of its magazine.