New Cartographies

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Texas15 Sep 201817 Mar 201911:00am6:00pmSaturday 15 Sep 2018Sunday 17 Mar 2019

Maps have been at the center of cultural and political exchange between Asia and the West for centuries, supplying an orientation to unfamiliar environments, an ability to communicate about foreign lands to a domestic audience, and in some instances a taxonomy that gave mapmakers a sense of control and order. Maps continue to define and help navigate diverse geographies, both in analog and digital modes.

New Cartographies delves into the unique ways that contemporary artists such as Tiffany Chung, Allan deSouza, Li Songsong, and Sohei Nishino are incorporating cartography into their practices as they look at globally relevant topics such as urbanization, economic migration, environmental change, refugee movements, and the repercussions of colonial legacies.

Admission Information

Regular admission to this exhibition is free for Asia Society Members and children ages 12 and under, $8 for Nonmembers.


Hours

Tuesday – Friday, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday  – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed Mondays.


Photography

Photography of the exhibition without flash is permitted.

About the Artists

Tiffany Chung

Tiffany Chung (b. 1969, Da Nang, Vietnam; lives and works in Houston) is noted for her cartographic drawings, sculptures, videos, photographs, and theater performances that examine conflict, migration, displacement, urban progress, and transformation in relation to history and cultural memory. Chung’s work studies the geographical shifts in countries that were traumatized by war, human destruction, or natural disaster. Based on meticulous ethnographic research and archival documents, her work excavates layers of history, re-writes chronicles of places, and creates interventions into the spatial narratives produced through statecraft.

Chung’s works have been featured in exhibitions at the Mori Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and in the 2015 Venice Biennale, in the exhibition All the World’s Futures in the Arsenale, with an installation of 40 map-based drawings relating to the ongoing crisis in Syria.


Allan deSouza

Allan deSouza (b. 1958, Nairobi, Kenya; lives and works in the Bay Area) is a multi-media artist. His photography, installation, text, and performance works restage historical evidence through counter-strategies of fiction, erasure, and (mis)translation. deSouza’s recent works engage with the history of the later 19th century and connections between South Asia, East Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

His work has been exhibited in the U.S. and internationally, including at the Walther Collection, Germany; Pompidou Centre, Paris; 2008 Gwangju Biennale, Korea; 3rd Guangzhou Triennale, China; and in recent solo exhibitions at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; the Phillips Collection; the Fowler Museum; Krannert Art Museum; Talwar Gallery, NY; and Talwar Gallery, Delhi. His writings have been published in various journals, anthologies, and catalogues, including Third Text, London; Wolgan Art Monthly, South Korea; and X-TRA, Los Angeles. He is the Chair and an Associate Professor in the Department of Art Practice, UC Berkeley.


Li Songsong

Li Songsong (b. 1973, Beijing; lives and works in Beijing) primarily employs painting in his practice, incorporating historical and political content informed by photographic research. He directs attention to the way in which societies understand their own histories, and its impact on their collective behavior. His paintings emphasize the materiality of the medium and manipulate scale, surface, and color to emphasize his themes.

He graduated from the Subsidiary School of the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing in 1992 before going on to receive his BFA in oil painting from CAFA in 1996. Li has since been the focus of many publications and international exhibitions, including at Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany; MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Italy; Pace Gallery, Beijing, London, and New York; and Galerie Urs Meile, Beijing and Lucerne.


Sohei Nishino

Sohei Nishino (b. 1982, Hyogo, Japan; lives and works in Kanagawa and Shizuoka) is a photographer whose work focuses on the relationship between the physical body, memory, and diverse geographies. After graduating from Osaka University of the Arts in 2004, he began his Diorama Map series. The series features a “diorama” of each selected city, composed of thousands of collaged photographs which are records of his movements through its streets and architecture. The countless first-person views are printed on contact sheets and subsequently reconfigured as “maps” in his studio. The works are imbued with his experiences walking the selected cities, and capture the dynamism and subjectivity of cityscapes as we experience them.

He has exhibited his work internationally at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Daegu Photo Biennale, Korea; Saatchi Gallery, London; Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography; and the ICP Triennial, New York.

Related Programs and Tours

Reception for New Cartographies & Artists' Conversation
Wednesday, September 12, 2018 | 6-8 p.m.
Visit with the artists over drinks and light bites and receive a FREE preview of the exhibition.

RSVP Now


Monthly Tours

Saturday, October 13, 3 p.m.

Saturday, November 10, 3 p.m.

Saturday, December 8, 3 p.m.

To schedule a group tour outside of these designated days, please fill out the form below or contact Michael Buening, Director of Education & Outreach, at MBuening@AsiaSociety.org.

Schedule a group tour »


School Tours

School tours, facilitated by the education department staff and volunteers, provide educationally rich interactive opportunities for students to learn about Asian art, culture, and traditions. These free tours are open to all public, private, charter, alternative, and home schools. Visits take place on weekdays, Tuesday through Friday, for one to two hours.

All school tours and subsequent interactive projects are tethered to the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and district curriculum standards. They may include:

  • Docent-led tour of exhibitions in the Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery

  • "Introduction to Asia” PowerPoint Presentation highlighting essential information about Asian art, culture, geography, and politics

  • Guided tour of the Texas Center and discussion of its unique architecture

  • Interactive projects based on the current exhibition (unavailable during summer months, June through August)

At least two weeks’ notice is required for school tours. Additional advance notice is required for groups larger than 25.

Schedule a school tour »

For more information, please contact Michael Buening, Director of Education & Outreach, at MBuening@AsiaSociety.org.

Press Release

HOUSTON, September 11, 2018 — Asia Society Texas Center (ASTC) opens a new mixed-media exhibition entitled New Cartographies on September 15, featuring four artists from across the U.S. and Asia making their ASTC debuts. Their work examines how maps inform, and even shape, our view of the world in sometimes inaccurate ways. The exhibition, ranging from photography to installation, runs through March 17, 2019, in the Center’s upstairs Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery.

New Cartographies delves into the unique ways that contemporary artists such as Tiffany ChungAllan deSouzaLi Songsong, and Sohei Nishino are incorporating cartography into their practices as they examine globally relevant topics such as urbanization, economic migration, environmental change, refugee movements, and the repercussions of colonial legacies.

Maps have been at the center of cultural and political exchange between Asia and the West for centuries, supplying an orientation to unfamiliar environments, an ability to communicate about foreign lands to a domestic audience, and in some instances a taxonomy that gave mapmakers a sense of control and order. Maps continue to define and help navigate diverse geographies, both in analog and digital modes. These artists take cartography in utterly new directions while challenging past norms.

“In 2018, the majority of us encounter and use maps digitally. The artists featured in New Cartographies reconnect us to the physicality of maps, and their importance in shaping histories and narratives,” says Bridget Bray, ASTC’s Nancy C. Allen Curator and Director of Exhibitions. “This exhibition assembles a group of four artists from across Asia and the United States who raise interesting questions about something many of us rely on everyday as a factual, objective resource: the map. They re-frame maps as created documents that can share information but also can convey a certain perspective, depending on the map’s creator and their intentions.”

Individually, the artists’ works have been seen across the world and represent a diverse range of perspectives, as the artists hail from Vietnam, Kenya, Japan, and China, respectively. However, all four artists’ work sheds light on how mapmakers’ choices can alter societal impressions and therefore have long-term impact.


About Asia Society Texas Center

With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the rest of the world. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.

Credits

This exhibition is organized by Asia Society Texas Center

Exhibitions at Asia Society Texas Center are presented by Wells Fargo. The China Series is presented by East West Bank. The Japan Series is presented by Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas). Major support also comes from Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, Nancy C. Allen, and Leslie and Brad Bucher, as well as The Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance. Generous funding also provided by The Clayton Fund, Texas Commission on the Arts, Wortham Foundation, Inc., The Franci Neely Foundation, Olive Jenney, Nanako and Dale Tingleaf, and Ann Wales. Funding is also provided through contributions from the Friends of Asia Society, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing exceptional visual art to Asia Society Texas Center.

Special exhibition support provided by Leslie and Brad Bucher.

Presenting Sponsor

Wells Fargo


China Series Presenting Sponsor

East West Bank


Japan Series Presenting Sponsor

Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas)


Program Sponsors

City of Houston HAA


Additional Support

The Southmore Logo
Primary Topic

《香港賽馬會呈獻 -春之歌:潘玉良在巴黎》

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Hong Kong12 Sep 201806 Jan 201911:00am6:00pmWednesday 12 Sep 2018Sunday 6 Jan 2019

《香港賽馬會呈獻 -春之歌:潘玉良在巴黎》為「二十世紀中國女藝術家系列」第二個展覽,亦是香港首個大型潘玉良(1895-1977)的個人展覽,。潘氏出身貧苦,成長於五四運動變革時期,是首批前往法國學習藝術的中國學生之一。有別於同期留學西方後,返國開展藝術生涯的中國藝術家,她從1930年代直至逝世前都選擇馳騁於競爭激烈的巴黎藝術界。是次展覽將呈獻逾六十件肖像、裸體、風景、舞蹈人物繪畫及雕塑,展覽將探索潘氏第二度赴法時期的創作及融會中西情感的獨特風格。展覽由客席策展人易凱策展,並由黃熙婷助理策展。

歡迎大家在社交平台上分享展覽的體驗,記得加上 #ASHKPanyulin, #ASHKPanyuliang, #SongofSpring, #PanyulininParis, or #20CenturyChineseFemaleArtists的標記。

如欲了解更多,請按此進入展覽專網。

重要提示:是次展覽將展出一些裸體的畫作,建議未成年的觀眾在家長的指引下欣賞。

 

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關於系列

現代社會的女權和平等,從上一世紀以來一直是極具爭議的話題。近年來,儘管有才華的女性在不同領域上的成就較以往多了注目, 但眾多社會上的女藝術家代表性仍然不足,她們仍然未能得到充分讚譽,這情況在各個中國社區更為明顯。

然而,二十世紀中國女性藝術家的出現卻印證了中國社會的進步,同時也為經歷戰爭和災難這複雜歷史背景下的現代添上了新的定義。社會上的女性代表一方面備受爭議,另一方面則為當時大眾傳媒所追捧,這意識形態的力量在今天仍然存在。學術研究和展覽界別的注意力往往集中在現代中國男性藝術家身上, 以一個時代的女藝術家創意成就和影響力為題的展覽極為罕有,更鮮有以女藝術家個人為專題的展覽 。

亞洲協會香港中心於2017年推出二十世紀中國女藝術家系列 (「系列」),以爭取將女藝術家的故事發揚光大。 希望透過向香港觀眾展示她們重要的藝術成就,以提升公眾對她們的認知,令她們對中國現代作出的貢獻得以表揚。

現正展出的《春之歌:潘玉良在巴黎》為系列的第二個展覽。展覽承蒙香港賽馬會慈善信託基金的獨家贊助及支持,這亦是中國女畫家潘玉良(1895-1977)

關於展覽

《春之歌:潘玉良在巴黎》為系列的第二個展覽。展覽承蒙香港賽馬會慈善信託基金的獨家贊助及支持,這亦是中國女畫家潘玉良(1895-1977)首個在香港舉行的個人作品展。

潘玉良(1895-1977)是第一代於法國留學的藝術系學生。雖然生於女性難以獨立成專業藝術家的年代,但潘氏仍然以其別樹一幟的中西合璧的風格,成為用西方技巧現代化中國傳統藝術的先鋒。與此同時,作為現代中國其中一位最早的女性藝術系教授,她對學術的貢獻亦是不可多得。潘玉良的藝術之路與大部份留學生不同,潘玉良選擇了終生留在競爭激烈的巴黎,發展其藝術事業,不同於當時留學華人普遍選擇回國。

是次展覽主要集中以潘玉良在法國的第二個階段,探索她對中國藝術史的重要影響,四個展區將展出超過六十件作品,主題包括了肖像、 裸體、 城市與自然風光及舞蹈人像。展覽同時展出潘玉良珍貴的資料、影像,藉以深入探索她的藝術世界。

Exhibition Period

September 12, 2018 – January 6, 2019

展覽日期:

2018年9月12日 – 2019年1月6日

 

OPENING HOURS

Tuesday-Sunday:11 am – 6 pm

Last Thursday of Every Month: 11 am – 8 pm

Closed on Mondays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day

 

開放時間

星期二至星期日: 上午11時至下午6時

每月最後一個星期四:上午11時至晚上8時

逢星期一,聖誕節正日及元旦休館

 

Admission

Free

免費入場

Location

Chantal Miller Gallery
Asia Society Hong Kong Center
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Former Explosives Magazine

關於藝術家

潘玉良(1895–1977),屬於首批赴法修讀藝術的中國留學生,在鮮有女性自力更生的年代成為融會中西畫風、革新中國藝術的先驅。

潘氏在里昂、巴黎和羅馬等地學習近八年。入讀巴黎國立高等美術學院,潘氏成為首位亞洲藝術家贏得獎學金入讀羅馬美術學院深造畫功及雕塑技巧。她於1928年回中國,隨即被母校上海美術專科學校聘請為西洋畫主任,為首位國内擔任藝術學術高職的女性。由1931年起,她亦曾任教於南京國立中央大學藝術系,兼任上海美專繪畫研究所藝苑的研究員和導師。留國期間,她曾經舉辦四次個展及設立不同的藝術社。在1937年她二度赴法進修,尋找自己的視覺語言。

潘玉良在世期間一直留居巴黎。再赴法國後,潘氏的畫作在沙龍圈頻繁展出。於1955年,她成為首位分別被巴黎市以及巴黎國立現代藝術博物館納入收藏的中國畫家。她在藝術生涯中獲獎無數,於1959年的巴黎大學「THORLET」獎為她最感自豪的殊榮。

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導賞團

免費向公眾開放,無需申請

星期六 | 下午2:30 (英文) | 下午3:30 (廣東話)
星期日 | 下午2:30 (英文) | 下午3:30 (廣東話)

本中心為學校免費提供專為兩個年齡組別而設的導賞團

小學參觀 :針對6至12歲的學生。採用故事敘述和互動問題的形式,以吸引年輕學生。重點將放在潘玉良的個人故事和藝術的成就, 並鼓勵學生利用我們的工作紙來理解基本的藝術元素,如色彩、線條、圖案和構圖等,以表達情感。

中學參觀: 針對13至18歲的學生。重點在藝術概念和藝術史,讓學生了解西方基礎藝術培訓的要求、生活畫及寫生的重要技巧,以及西方藝術史上人體和女性裸體畫的意義。

學校參觀的申請為以先到先得。若要申請參觀,請在此處下載表格,並發送電子郵件至outreachhk@asiasociety.org。

繪畫比賽

《繪現真我─由潘玉良作品出發》

為鼓勵公眾參與藝術創作及推廣藝術欣賞,亞洲協會香港中心誠邀所有展覽的到訪者,藉參與是次比賽和展覽,分享他們從潘玉良的展覽中所獲得的啟發與想像,並與潘的藝術世界作交流。得獎及入圍作品將於麥禮賢夫人藝術館展出

比賽詳情
作品主題:《繪現真我——由潘玉良作品出發》

潘玉良的作品是情感的藝術表達和真我的視覺表現。她堅持「合中西於一冶」的藝術追求、一生共創作五千多幅油畫、水墨畫、素描等,並主要以眾多的人像和自畫像表達自我和情感。透過大膽的作風和細膩的畫像,潘玉良讓我們思考藉著藝術展現真我的課題。

你認為藝術有助於表達和認識自我嗎?

你從潘玉良的作品裡獲得了啟發和勇氣嗎?

誠邀你創作繪畫作品,從展覽中得到啟發繪出真我。參賽作品可取材自潘玉良任何的作品主題或藝術風格為創作的靈感。

參賽組別

A)兒童組:10歲或以下

B) 青年組:11-17歳

C) 公開組:18歲或以上

作品格式

•  參賽作品只限於平面創作;非繪畫部份不得超過整體作品的20%。

•  作品(連同畫框)不可大於100cm x 100cm。

•  參賽者須遞交不多於30字﹙中文或英文﹚的作品簡介。作品主題及物料須於申請表格中註明。

參賽者須於(google form link)提交參賽表格、作品相片﹙電子檔﹚及作品簡介。參賽者須保留原作,以便之後於展覽中展出。入圍作品將於2019年1 月11日以電郵方式通知。

評審準則

評審團將以下準則評審所有參賽作品:

 (1) 與主題的關連與闡釋;

(2)創意;

(3)創作技巧

獎項

每個組別將設冠軍、亞軍、季軍,與7個優異奬。每位得奬者將獲發亞洲協會商店購物券和嘉許獎狀,得獎及入圍作品將於亞洲協會香港中心麥禮賢夫人藝術館中展出。另外,冠軍、亞軍和季軍將獲發書券和展覽畫冊。

展覽開幕及頒奬禮:2019年1月19日
展覽日期:2019年1月19日至27日

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Presents Song of Spring: Pan Yu-Lin in Paris

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Hong Kong12 Sep 201806 Jan 201911:00am6:00amWednesday 12 Sep 2018Sunday 6 Jan 2019

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Presents - Song of Spring: Pan Yu-Lin in Paris is the first major presentation of Pan Yu-Lin (1895-1977) in Hong Kong and the second instalment in the 20th Century Chinese Female Artist Series. Born of humble origins, Pan came of age during the revolutionary May Fourth era and seized the chance to be one of the first Chinese students to study fine arts in France. Unlike most of her compatriots who built their artistic careers at home, Pan developed her unique style in the competitive Parisian art world from the 1930s until her death. With over sixty works of portraiture, nude, landscape, dance figure painting, and sculpture, this exhibition explores Pan’s second period in Paris, highlighting her artistic range and distinguished style that combines eastern and western sensibilities. This exhibition is guest curated by Eric Lefebvre, with Joyce Hei-ting Wong as assistant curator.

Visitors are welcome to share their experience on social media by tagging us #ASHKPanyulin, #ASHKPanyuliang, #SongofSpring, #PanyulininParis, or #20CenturyChineseFemaleArtists

 

Please visit the exhibition's minisite for more information.

Important note:  Nudity is depicted in this exhibition and parental guidance is recommended for younger viewers.

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About the Series

20th Century Chinese Female Artist Series

Female empowerment and equality in modern societies have been much debated topics dating back over a century. While the diverse achievements of female talents across different fields have gained better light in recent years, female artists remain an under-represented and under-appreciated segment in Western societies and even more so across Chinese communities. 

Yet the emergence of female artists in 20th century China was a testament to both the country’s social progress and the various redefinitions of modernity that were adopted in a historical context complicated by wars and disasters.  Female agency in society was among the issues argued and promoted in the mass media of the time and retains lasting ideological power today.  Moreover, the social value of art and aesthetic education, institutionalized as part of a modern education program, along with co-education, placed high expectations on female artists as symbols of China’s modernity.  However, in scholastic studies and exhibitions, attention has been focused on modern Chinese male artists. Exhibitions featuring the creative attainments and influences of their female counterparts from the period are few and far between, and rarely in monographic presentations.

Asia Society Hong Kong Center launched its 20th Century Chinese Female Artist Exhibition Series (“the Series”) in 2017 to reclaim the story of female artists.  The first of its kind in Hong Kong, the Series provides local Hong Kong audiences with important examples of their artistic accomplishments, and hopes to honor the female artists with the public recognition they deserve for their contribution to the making of modern China. 

The current exhibition, Song of Spring: Pan Yu-Lin in Paris, is the second in the Series. Exclusively sponsored by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, it is the first solo presentation in Hong Kong of the treasured works by the exemplary Chinese painter Pan Yu-Lin (aka Pan Yuliang, 1895-1977).

From a wider community context, the Series fits into the discourse on female empowerment and equality in Hong Kong today, where research indicates that women continue to face challenges in male-dominated industries as well as gender stereotypes in the media and the workplace.  A series of education programs entitled Jockey Club Art Education and Female Empowerment Series will be offered to children, students, families, and the general public, through which we will highlight achievements of women in various industries while connecting to the lives and careers of the unique female artists presented in the Series.


More information on the first exhibition in the Series and the related education programs are available here. 

About the Exhibition

Song of Spring: Pan Yu-Lin in Paris is presented exclusively by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, and represents the second installment in Asia Society Hong Kong Center’s 20th Century Chinese Female Artist Series. Belonging to the first generation of Chinese students to study fine arts in France, Pan Yu-Lin (aka Pan Yuliang, 1895-1977) was a pioneer in modernizing Chinese art with western painting at a time when it was rare for women to achieve independent careers as professional artists.  Pan was distinguished for her individual style that synthesized eastern and western sensibilities as well as her academic contributions as one of the first female art professors in modern China.  Unlike most of her compatriots who built their careers back home after overseas education, Pan came to live and develop her individual style in the competitive Parisian art world until her death. 

This exhibition explores Pan’s unique trajectory and significance to modern Chinese art history by focusing on her second period in France, with over sixty works across four chambers dedicated to the themes of portraiture, nudes, cityscape and landscape, and dance figure painting, alongside archival materials and videos that delve into a comprehensive look at the art world of Pan Yu-Lin.


Exhibition Period

September 12, 2018 – January 6, 2019

Admission: Free

Location:

Chantal Miller Gallery

Asia Society Hong Kong Center

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Former Explosives Magazine

9 Justice Drive Admiralty, Hong Kong

Opening Hours:

Tuesday - Sunday: 11am - 6pm

Last Thursday of every month: 11am - 8pm

Last admission:  30 minutes before closing

Closed on Mondays, Christmas Days and New Years Day

About the Artist

Pan Yu-Lin (aka Pan Yuliang, 1895-1977) belonged to the first generation of Chinese students to study fine arts in France. She was a pioneer in modernizing Chinese art with western painting at a time when it was rare for women to achieve independent careers as professional artists.

She studied in Europe for nearly eight years between Lyon, Paris, and Rome. At the National School of Fine Arts in Paris, Pan was the first Asian student to win a scholarship to study at Accademia del Belle Arti di Roma, where she studied sculpture and painting. She returned to China in 1928 and was immediately hired by the Shanghai Art Academy, her alma mater, as the head of western painting — the first woman to assume such a high academic position. She also taught at the Nanjing Central University Fine Art Department from 1931 onwards, and remained as a researcher and tutor at the Shanghai Art Academy’s painting research institute Yiyuan. Throughout her decade in China, she held four solo exhibitions and established various art societies. In 1937, she traveled to Paris again in search for her independent visual language.

Pan Yu-Lin remained in Paris until her death. Throughout her relocation to France, her works were widely exhibited in the salon circuit. Pan was the first Chinese artist to be collected by the City of Paris and followed by the National Museum of Modern Art in 1955. She won numerous awards overseas throughout her career, with her proudest achievement being the 1959 Thorlet award from the University of Paris granted by the municipal government.

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Gallery Guided Tours

Open to public free of charge.  No registration required

Saturdays | 2:30pm (In English) | 3:30pm (In Cantonese)

Sundays | 2:30pm (In English) | 3:30pm (In Cantonese)

Gallery Tour for Schools

The Center provides free docent-led tours of the exhibition to schools. Requests for school visits will be processed on a first-come-first-served basis. To apply the tour, please download the form HERE and email to outreachhk@asiasociety.org.

Art Competition

“Expressing Self – Inspired by Pan Yu-Lin”

To encourage participation in art creation and promote the appreciation of art, Asia Society Hong Kong Center invites all visitors to give in to their imaginations and engage in a dialogue with Pan Yu-Lin’s work and her world through this open art competition and exhibition.  Winning and selected works will be exhibited in the Chantal Miller Gallery.

Entry Guidelines
Themes of the entry:  Expressing Self – Inspired by Pan Yu-Lin

Pan Yu-Lin’s work is an artistic expression of her feelings and a visual representation of her true self.  She persists in “fusing East and West to become one” in her artistic pursuits.  Throughout her long lifetime, Pan produces over five thousands of artworks, comprising but not limited to oil paintings, ink wash paintings, and drawings.  She mainly projects herself and her feelings into her plenty of portraits and self-portraits.  Through her audacious style and exquisite artworks, Pan also makes us think about the questions of expressing self by art.

Do you think art is conducive to knowing and depicting self?  Does Pan’s work inspire you and give you courage?  Create a drawing or a painting to express your true self, as inspired by Pan.  The art work can be of any themes or styles inspired by Pan Yu-Lin’s art.

Entry categories

A) Children division: Aged 10 or under

B) Youth division: Aged 11 - 17

C) Open division: Aged 18 or above

Format of the entry

•     The art work should be two-dimensional (2D) only.  The non-painted or non-drawn parts should not exceed 20% of the whole work.

•     Framed art work size must be within 100cm x 100 cm.

•     An artist statement (not more than 30 words in either Chinese or English) is required to be submitted with the art work.  The title and materials should be stated in the application form.

 

Submission Period

September 12, 2018 to 12:00pm (HKT) January 6, 2019

Submission Method

Please go to (google form link) for entry form, artwork digital image(s) and artist statement submission.  Applicants are required to keep the original works for further exhibition.  Finalists will be contacted individually via email by January 11, 2019.

Judging Criteria

All submissions will be judged based on three criteria:

•     Relevance and interpretation of the theme

•     Creativity

•     Technical Merit of the art work

Prizes

Each division will have 3 winners (First, Second and Third Prizes) and 7 Excellence award winners.  All winners will receive a shopping voucher, a Certificate of Excellence and have their artworks showcased at an exhibition at Asia Society Hong Kong Center’s Chantal Miller Gallery.  The First, Second and Third prize winners will receive a book store voucher and an exhibition catalogue.

Award Ceremony and Exhibition Opening:  January 19, 2019
Exhibition Period:  January 19-27, 2019

Clouds Stretching for a Thousand Miles: Ink in Asian Art

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New York22 Jun 201812 Aug 201810:00am6:00pmFriday 22 Jun 2018Sunday 12 Aug 2018

Clouds Stretching For A Thousand Miles: Ink in Asian Art features selected recent acquisitions from the Asia Society Museum Collection and celebrates the versatility and enduring influence of the calligraphic ink tradition across Asia. Exemplary works by Gu Wenda, Huang Yan, Minjung Kim, Qiu Zhijie, and Sun Xun, displayed alongside two illuminated Qur'ans from China and Central Asia, reveal the innovative use of ink and calligraphy in visual expression, from the fourteenth century to the present, across Asia and the diaspora.

 

The title of the exhibition comes from the celebrated Tang Dynasty calligrapher and scholar Chang Yen-Yuan (c. 815–c. 875 CE), who likened the primary stroke of traditional calligraphic practice — the horizontal line — to "clouds stretching a thousand miles." This metaphor aptly describes the way contemporary Asian artists have embraced traditional calligraphic painting traditions and underscores the enduring importance of text and language across East Asian, West Asian, and Islamic art canons.

 

This presentation introduces ink works that are part of Asia Society's new collecting focus and continues the Museum's initiative to connect objects from the Traditional Collection to works from the Contemporary Collection through medium, techniques, and ideas that artists actively draw upon in the twenty-first century. Clouds Stretching for a Thousand Miles highlights the distinct art developments from the region and the creative, and sometimes subversive, methods that contemporary Asian artists have adopted to mine their respective cultures for inspiration.

Selected Works
Huang Yan - Chinese Landscape—Tattoo

Huang Yan (born 1966 in Jilin, China; lives and works in Changchun). Chinese Landscape—Tattoo, 1999. Chromogenic print. Asia Society, New York: Gift of Ethan Cohen in honor of Professor Jerome A. Cohen and Joan Lebold Cohen, 2016.1.1-13

Huang Yan's reinterpretation of traditional Chinese landscape painting challenges conventional artistic practices and creates a unique dialogue between the body and nature, and the past and present. In 1999 he began creating photographs that documented traditional landscape compositions, in the Song-dynasty style, painted onto the human body. Chinese Shan-Shui (Landscape) – Tattoo, 1999, is an early series of thirteen photographs that depicts a mountain landscape painted on a nude male torso in various poses. The title variously pays homage to the tradition of Chinese landscape painting while also alluding to society's increasing fixation with body art. By using the body as his canvas the artist attempts to reunite man and nature, which he believes have become estranged from one another in contemporary society.

 

Gu Wenda - Forest of Stone Steles #13

Gu Wenda (born 1955 in Shanghai, China; lives and works in New York). Forest of Stone Steles #13, 1998. Ink rubbing on rice paper. Asia Society, New York: Asia Society Museum Collection, 1998.2

Gu Wenda uses language as a medium to deconstruct meaning, challenge traditions, and examine the outcomes of cross-cultural exchanges. Forest of Stone Steles #13, and Forest of Stone Steles #33, both from 1998, exemplify Gu's play on the traditional art practice of creating ink rubbings. This series references the Stele Forest, a museum in the city of Xi'an that includes more than one thousand stone stele records of important political and cultural moments in Chinese history. These rubbings are from a series of steles created by the artist between 1993 and 2005 that record the translation of Tang dynasty poems into English by the American poet Witter Byner and published in his 1929 anthology "The Jade Mountain." Gu proceeds to phonetically translate the poem back into Chinese and re-interpret his translation back into English including the misinterpretations that naturally occur between these versions. His use of translation in this context highlights the fluidity of meaning and the subjectivity of interpretation over time and between cultures.

 

Image of an open 14th century Qu'ran from Central Asia

Qur'an. Ca. 1300. Central Asia. Ink, color, and gold on paper; Morocco leather binding. Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Acquisitions Fund, 2018.7

This rare Qur'an, the sacred scripture of Islam, survives from Central Asia, most likely the area of current day Uzbekistan. Writing transmits the word of God and therefore the art of writing is the most highly regarded of all the arts in the Islamic world. The sacred classical Arabic text was transmitted from the Iranian world across Central Asia to China. This Qur'an consists of fifteen lines of black muhaqqaqq calligraphy per page. The elaborate decoration includes gold and polychrome rosettes, illuminated roundels with blue ornamental outline in gold kufic calligraphy, and illuminated roundels with radiating finials, as well as illuminated panels.

 

Image of an open Qu'ran dating from the late 17th century

Qur'an. Ca. late 17th century. Western China. Ink, color, and gold on paper. Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Acquisitions Fund, 2018.8

The transmission of Islam to China was already underway in the eighth century; the impact that Chinese culture had on the production of the Islamic sacred text is clear in this illuminated Qur'an from around nine centuries later. Decorative motifs common to China, like the peony and geometric patterns, have been incorporated into the illumination. The calligraphy itself is in the style of script known as sini that developed in China. This style derived out of the form of calligraphy transmitted across Central Asia to China.

Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting

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New York27 Feb 201820 May 201812:00am11:59pmTuesday 27 Feb 2018Sunday 20 May 2018

'Gorgeous'

The New York Times

'Beautiful ... Riveting'

Tricycle

Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting features stunning paintings collected by Italian scholar Giuseppe Tucci during his 1926-1948 expeditions to Tibet, and striking photography of his travels. The paintings — on loan from the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome — are on view for the first time in the United States.

Guest curator Deborah Klimburg-Salter, University Professor Emeritus, CIRDIS, Institute for Art History, University of Vienna; and Associate, Department of South Asian Studies, Harvard University; with Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Senior Curator for Traditional Asian Art, Asia Society.

Purchase the richly illustrated book featuring works from this exhibition and more at AsiaStore.

Overview
The Namchung Mountain seen from the Kaliganga River between Kalapani and Lipulekh Pass, Kumaon, Uttarakhand, India. Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; Neg. dep. 6571/20. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.
The Namchung Mountain seen from the Kaliganga River between Kalapani and Lipulekh Pass, Kumaon, Uttarakhand, India. Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; Neg. dep. 6571/20. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.

The world knew very little about the Himalayan region when Italian scholar and explorer Giuseppe Tucci (1894–1984) began his work around one hundred years ago. His contributions to the understanding of Tibet, including Tibetan Buddhism, in the West have been enormous and the materials he was able to gather for future study impressive. Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting presents a selection of the paintings he acquired during his travels. Tucci obtained expedition permits that included permission to acquire and export original source materials for scientific study. The paintings he acquired were purchased, gifted, or found and deemed too badly damaged or incomplete for cult use by the Tibetan communities. Those in this exhibition, all recently conserved, are now in the collection and care of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art “Giuseppe Tucci” in Rome, to which Tucci and his wife Francesca Bonardi Tucci bequeathed all of their possessions.

Tucci’s life was framed by two World Wars, a worldwide economic depression, and—shortly after his last journey to Tibet—the destruction of Tibetan monastic culture. The turbulent times and the four years Tucci spent in the military during World War I—two of which were at the front line—had a profound effect on him. He was a highly intellectual, multi-lingual scholar with an antipathy to military solutions and a dedication to the pursuit of intercultural dialogue. During his lifetime, he received many high honors from many countries in Europe and Asia, and his scientific legacy is still fundamental to the research of Tibetan culture today. Tucci’s bibliography of more than four hundred entries attests to the expansiveness of his interests and talents. 

Tucci was also one of the most important explorers of the century. Among his scientific travels were eight major expeditions to Tibet, from 1928 to 1948, which are the focus of this exhibition. The selection of paintings and reproductions of photographs from three Italian photographers represent the roughly five thousand miles Tucci trekked across the Tibetan cultural zone, which extends far beyond the present borders of the Tibetan Autonomous Region in China. They also challenge us to envision very distant points in time and place: Italy at the beginning of the twentieth century, pre-modern Tibet, and the culture of ancient Tibet that expanded and blossomed from the twelfth century. 

Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting was organized by the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art “Giuseppe Tucci,” Rome. Unless otherwise noted, all objects in the exhibition are on loan from MU-CIV/MAO “Giuseppe Tucci,” Rome.

Guest curator Deborah Klimburg-Salter with Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Senior Curator for Traditional Asian Art, Asia Society.

The Journey

A Selection of Photography From Tucci's Expeditions to Tibet

Monastic dance at Kyi, Spiti, India. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1933; Neg. dep. 6079/6. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale)
Monastic dance at Kyi, Spiti, India. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1933; Neg. dep. 6079/6. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale)

The photographs included in the exhibition resulted from Giuseppe Tucci's eight Tibetan expeditions (1928-1948), which each averaged six months and not only were complicated to organize and provision, but also expensive. Tucci traveled under the Italian flag to facilitate negotiation for permits with other governments, and he struggled to secure public and private contributions. His failed attempts at documenting his earliest journeys with photography convinced him that each expedition needed a dedicated photographer with the skills to photograph in challenging environments-even inside dark monuments-and to develop the film along the way.

Concerned with the desperate condition of much of Tibet's cultural heritage, and receiving no response to his requests to the British government in India for preservation measures, he championed the most extensive, systematic photo-documentation effort ever made across the entire Tibetan cultural sphere. His expedition photographers were instructed to record monuments, cultural artifacts, and people and their occupations. The goal, Tucci wrote, was "the revealing and preserving, in so far as the record of photography may preserve, the remains" of this ancient civilization. The selection of photographs includes representative images of landscapes and towns, as well as monasteries where the paintings in this exhibition were created, displayed, or acquired by Tucci. 

Covering nearly five thousand miles on foot and horseback across the most difficult terrain and the highest plateau on earth was no easy task, and required that the photographers also needed to be adept mountaineers. Eugenio Ghersi, who accompanied two expeditions-1933 and 1935-was not only a photographer and mountaineer, but also a surgeon, hobby cartographer, and beer brewer. A uniquely talented and loyal travel companion to Tucci, Ghersi was the only photographer to keep a detailed diary of their journeys. The 1937 expedition photographer was the twenty-five-year-old Fosco Maraini, while Felice Boffo Bellaran was the photographer for the 1939 expedition. The long 1948 expedition to Lhasa and Central Tibet included the physician and photographer Regolo Moise, in addition to the photographers Pietro Francesco Mele and Prodhan, a Sikemese.

Today the majority of 14,000 prints, negatives, and fragments of film from the expeditions have been cataloged by The Tucci Photographic Archive project sponsored by IsMEO and now housed in the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci."

Giuseppe Tucci reorganizing the scattered pages of several manuscripts at his camp, Miang, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1933; Neg. dep. 6037/28. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Giuseppe Tucci reorganizing the scattered pages of several manuscripts at his camp, Miang, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1933; Neg. dep. 6037/28. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Mural paintings of the Buddha's life in Khardzong, Usukhar, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; Neg. dep. P-3420. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.)
Mural paintings of the Buddha's life in Khardzong, Usukhar, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; Neg. dep. P-3420. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.)
Buddha in the ruins with murals, Khardzong, Usukhar, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; P-3227. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.)
Buddha in the ruins with murals, Khardzong, Usukhar, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; P-3227. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.)
Crossing the Nyangchu River at Nesar, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6126/35. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Crossing the Nyangchu River at Nesar, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6126/35. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Ngor Monastery, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6105/08. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.)
Ngor Monastery, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6105/08. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.)
Tucci copying inscriptions from a stone pillar (rdo ring) at an unidentified location, possibly in U, Tibet. (Anonymous, 1948; Neg. dep. 8047/15. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Tucci copying inscriptions from a stone pillar (rdo ring) at an unidentified location, possibly in U, Tibet. (Anonymous, 1948; Neg. dep. 8047/15. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
The Spiritual Journey

The Path of the Sutra and the Path of the Tantra

The majority of paintings in this exhibition are religious paintings that are meant to serve as supports for meditation and ritual. They are intended to assist the practitioner on the path to awakening, or the attainment of bodhi, often called enlightenment. Tibetans recognize two paths of the Mahayana, which provide the primary structure for this exhibition. The goal of Mahayana is the attainment of Buddhahood for oneself and all sentient beings. The Path of the Sutra, path (yana) Sutrayana, or Paramitayana. The second path is Tantrayana, the esoteric path, or Path of the Tantra, also called Vajrayana or Mantrayana. Each path is based on different sacred texts. A sutra is a discourse attributed to a Buddha (often the historical Shakyamuni Buddha); a tantra is a discourse attributed to a tantric transformation of the Buddha that contains philosophical principals as well as instructions for ritual and meditation. Tibetans believe that the development of compassion combined with the distinctive meditational practices of the Path of the Tantras offers a quicker path to enlightenment.

The paintings in the exhibition are presented in six groups according to the invocation recited at the beginning of the Buddhist daily prayer in Tibet. All Buddhists begin their daily practice by taking refuge in the Three Jewels, which are fundamental to the Sutrayana in all Buddhist traditions: the Buddha (Shakyamuni Buddha); the Dharma (the Buddhist teachings); and the Sangha (the Buddhist community). In Tibet this invocation is often expanded to include the Three Roots of Tantrayana, so that the practitioner additionally vows to take refuge in the Lama (Guru); the Yidam (a personal meditational deity); and the Protectors (of the Dharma and the practitioner). 

Thangkas are devotional paintings dedicated to the figure placed at the center of the composition who is always larger than all other figures in the image. Within the categories of the Three Roots, this figure can be a Lama, a Yidam, or occasionally a Protector. Highly esteemed lamas appear at the top of many thangkas, representing the transmission of the teaching manifested in the painting. The Protectors of the Dharma are placed at the bottom of the thangka. An image of the practitioners and donor of the painting is sometimes found at the bottom of the painting as well, together with the lamas who perform the rituals associated with the painting.

Tea Leaf Jar. Edo period (1615–1868), 1670s. Japan, Kyoto Prefecture.
Amitayus. Ca. 16th century. Tsaparang or Tholing, Ngari (West Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 1011/837. Gift of Oliviero and Marzia Corcos. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

The subject of this painting is Amitayus, one of the three Long Life deities in Tibetan Buddhism. Amitayus is the emanation of Amitabha, the Jina Buddha of the West. Amitayus floats here in the middle of a cosmos inhabited by hundreds of tiny repetitions of himself. The composition is dominated by red, the color of the family of Amitabha Buddha. Amitayus holds the bowl of Amrita, or elixir of immortality, which flows down over the lotus throne and onto King Jigten Wangchug (d. 1540) and his eldest son Naggi Wangchug. The king patronized temples filled with monumental sculptures and mural paintings in Tsaparang, the capital of the Kingdom of Gu ge.

Giuseppe Tucci and Tsarong, Tibetan Minister of Finance for Chushul, August 1948. Tucci was consulting Tsarong's personal library. Lhasa, U, Tibet. (Prodhan, 1948; Neg. dep. 7014/07. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Giuseppe Tucci and Tsarong, Tibetan Minister of Finance for Chushul, August 1948. Tucci was consulting Tsarong's personal library. Lhasa, U, Tibet. (Prodhan, 1948; Neg. dep. 7014/07. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
The Red Temple in Tsaparang Monastery, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; Neg. dep. 8044/28. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
The Red Temple in Tsaparang Monastery, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; Neg. dep. 8044/28. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Eugenio Ghersi, Giuseppe Tucci, and members of the expedition in an unidentified location, Western Tibet. (Anonymous, 1933; Neg. dep. 6089/05. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Eugenio Ghersi, Giuseppe Tucci, and members of the expedition in an unidentified location, Western Tibet. (Anonymous, 1933; Neg. dep. 6089/05. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Path of the Sutra: Buddha

A sutra is a discourse attributed to a Buddha, usually Shakyamuni Buddha. The most frequently encountered image in all Buddhist art is the iconic image of Buddha seated in meditation and dressed in monastic robes. This image was first developed in India where the teachings of the Buddha originated. 

In Tibetan painting the iconography of the Buddha remains true to its Indian origins. The Buddha is often depicted with two attendants, usually his two principal students, one to each side, as in the fifteenth-century painting in this section. Buddhists study the spiritual biography of the Buddha as a paradigm for the progress to enlightenment. 

Shakyamuni in the Bhadrakalpa. 15th century. Tholing, Ngari (West Tibet). Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 992/825. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Shakyamuni in the Bhadrakalpa. 15th century. Tholing, Ngari (West Tibet). Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 992/825. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

This important thangka has an inscription in gold along the bottom margin that includes a rare mention of an artistic school-the Kashmiri tradition-in addition to a quote from the Bhadrakalpikasutra. Originally hidden under the silk frame, the inscription would never have been seen by anyone. The subject of this painting is the bhadrakalpa, an "auspicious age" in which there are one thousand buddhas. The style of the painting is closely related to that found in wall paintings in the temples in Tholing and Tsaparang, the religious center and the capital, respectively, of the Kingdom of Gu ge, West Tibet, which Tucci visited, documented, and photographed during his 1933 and 1935 expeditions.  

Shakyamuni Buddha. 15th century. Ngari (West Tibet). Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 963/796. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Shakyamuni Buddha. 15th century. Ngari (West Tibet). Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 963/796. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Tucci acquired this thangka during his 1933 visit to Luk Monastery in Ngari, West Tibet. His accounts praise the high quality of artworks in Luk Monastery. There are two lineages represented in this painting-that of the Gelug tradition and of the Kagyu tradition. Each lineage begins with the primordial buddha, Vajradhara, who is positioned at the center of the top row. Five Gelug tradition lineage holders are depicted to the right and ten Kagyu tradition lineage holders to the left. The small number of lamas shown in the Gelug tradition lineage indicates that the thangka must be from a relatively early date.

Shakyamuni Buddha. 18th century. Tibet. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 970/803. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Shakyamuni Buddha. 18th century. Tibet. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 970/803. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

In this image Shakyamuni is dressed in the patchwork robe of a monk and is seated in meditation posture on a lotus. Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug tradition, is depicted directly above Shakyamuni. They are each flanked by their principal disciples. The names of Shakyamuni's disciples appear below each in gold. They are Sha ri bu (Sariputra) and Mon gal bu (Maudgalyayana). Another inscription on the right, below Shakyamuni's lotus throne, may be translated "I prostrate myself to Shakyamuni."

Path of the Sutra: Dharma

The Buddha's teachings (dharma) are known as the Buddhadharma. In this gallery the teachings of the Buddha are presented in manuscript form. The Perfection of Wisdom, or the Prajnaparamita, is a Mahayana sutra first written in Sanskrit. It was translated for the first time into Tibetan during the Period of the First Dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet (7th-9th centuries) and became extremely important in Tibet. As is seen in the two examples on this panel, the text has different forms distinguished by the length of the text. 

In 1933, when Tucci's expedition photographer Eugenio Ghersi climbed up the mountain next to Tholing Monastery in order to take a photograph, he found a cave where folios from incomplete religious manuscripts had been buried. According to tradition, when sacred texts or images can no longer be used for cult purposes because they are defective they must be properly disposed of, such as by burial. 

The female Bodhisattva Prajnaparamita, the personification of the text, is frequently painted as in the thirteenth- to fourteenth-century folio from a manuscript that was no longer complete and thus could not be used for religious purposes and was retrieved from caves high up above Tholing Monastery in West Tibet.

Pancavimshatisahsrika Prajnaparamita. 13th-14th century. Tholing Monastery, Ngari (West Tibet). Pigments on paper. IsIAO, inv. 1330 A
Pancavimshatisahsrika Prajnaparamita. 13th-14th century. Tholing Monastery, Ngari (West Tibet). Pigments on paper. IsIAO, inv. 1

Sacred works of art are intended to support the efficacy of the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha. Sacred manuscripts such as these support the speech of the Buddha (gsung rten) as a means to transmit the Buddhist doctrine (Buddhadharma). This page is the first folio from a handwritten Tibetan manuscript of the Pancavimshatisahsrika Prajnaparamita, or The Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom in 25,000 Lines. On one side of the page is the four-armed goddess who is the personification of the Prajnaparamita text. She holds the book in her upper left hand and her upper right hand holds prayer beads. On the opposite side of the page is an image of Shakyamuni Buddha. His golden skin is one of the eighty-four auspicious signs of a so-called "great being."

Shatasahasrika Prajnaparamita. 11th-12th century. Tholing Monastery, Ngari (West Tibet). Pigments on paper. IsIAO, inv. 1329 F
Shatasahasrika Prajnaparamita. 11th-12th century. Tholing Monastery, Ngari (West Tibet). Pigments on paper. IsIAO, inv. 1329 F

Tucci found this folio with other fragments of a Shatasahasrika Prajnaparamita, the Tibetan translation of the original Sanskrit Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom in 100,000 Lines, in a cave located high above Tholing Monastery in West Tibet. The Prajnaparamita Sutra has several different versions that are identified according to their length; the longest is the Shatasahasrika. The archaic forms of Tibetan orthography suggest the relatively early date of this folio and that it was copied from a Tibetan translation prepared during the Imperial Period from the seventh to the ninth century. All the formal features of this manuscript page are characteristic of early canonical manuscripts from West Tibet, for example the style of the gold-skinned Buddha and his five colored mandorla. The two circles are reminders of the string holes used in the earliest canonical palm-leaf manuscripts, and the red and blue letters in the upper left hand corner identify the number of the volume.

Caravan approaching Lake Manasarovar, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; Neg. dep. 6041/08. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Caravan approaching Lake Manasarovar, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1935; Neg. dep. 6041/08. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Scribe writing in Gyantse, Tsang, Tibet. (F. Maraini, 1937; 37/2434. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.)
Scribe writing in Gyantse, Tsang, Tibet. (F. Maraini, 1937; 37/2434. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.)
Library in the main monastery of Gyantse Monastery, Tsang, Tibet. (F. Maraini, 1937; 37/1046. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.)
Library in the main monastery of Gyantse Monastery, Tsang, Tibet. (F. Maraini, 1937; 37/1046. Courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.)
Path of the Sutra: Sangha

The Sangha refers to the Buddhist community, including religious leaders, monks, and nuns, whose role is to preserve the Buddhadharma. In this gallery the Buddhist Sangha is represented by an incomplete but spectacular set of Arhat paintings from the seventeenth century. Arhats are believed to be monks who were among the earliest disciples of the Shakyamuni Buddha. They are considered to be perfected beings. And although spiritually realized, they remain on earth in order to protect the Buddhadharma.  

Thirteen of the sixteen Arhats are believed to have belonged to the original Buddhist Sangha and were entrusted by the Shakyamuni Buddha to protect and propagate his teachings. According to the Buddhist tradition, each Arhat occupies a particular position in the cosmos and together the Arhats protect the universe. In addition each Arhat has a specific place in the spiritual biography of the Buddha, as can be seen from their life stories. 

Traditionally a series of painted Arhats like the one this section would be placed inside the temple at the top of the wall around the altar. This set is unique because the original golden veils and blue silk frames have been preserved. They still bear notations in ink on the back that indicate where each painting is meant to be hung relative to a central image of the Shakyamuni Buddha. In this installation an Indian sculpture of the Buddha takes the place of the missing central painting. The Arhats are arranged according to the numbering system written in Tibetan on the back of each painting. There were originally eight Arhat paintings on each side of the central image, but two Arhats are also now missing from the right side. The first painting is placed to the Buddha's right. The first Arhat is followed by the paintings in the second through eighth position. The next painting is placed to the Buddha's left and the remaining seven paintings in the set follow.

Ajita Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 923/756. Placement as indicated on verso: 2nd from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Ajita Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 923/756. Placement as indicated on verso: 2nd from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Ajita Arhat, one of the thirteen original disciples of the Buddha, is shown here in his meditation cave on Mount Trangsrong. He is said to have been able to inspire discipline and deep meditation in everyone who saw him. The outer shawl of his monastic robes is pulled over his head, indicating that he is meditating. He is one of four Arhats responsible for protecting the Buddhadharma and practitioners who inhabit the western part of the Buddhist cosmos.

Vanavasin Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 924/757. Placement as indicated on verso: 5th from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Vanavasin Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 924/757. Placement as indicated on verso: 5th from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Vanavasin was one of the original followers of Shakyamuni Buddha and was personally initiated by him. He is said to inhabit a retreat on Saptaparni Mountain in India with his retinue of 1,400 Arhats. The tiger at his feet represents his isolated wooded retreat, where he meditates in solitude. He is one of four Arhats responsible for protecting the Buddhadharma and practitioners in the western part of the Buddhist cosmos.   

Kalika Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 925/758. Placement as indicated on verso: 4th from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Kalika Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 925/758. Placement as indicated on verso: 4th from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Kalika Arhat holds two large earrings which, according to legend, the gods of the Kamadhatu gave to him when he ascended to teach the Buddhadharma. The earrings appear again in the hands of one of the two gods depicted making offerings at the bottom right of the painting. Kalika is said to live in Tamradvipa, a mythological land, with a retinue of 1,100 Arhats.

Vajriputra Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 926/759. Placement as indicated on verso: 3rd from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Vajriputra Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 926/759. Placement as indicated on verso: 3rd from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Vajriputra Arhat is said to reside with 1,000 Arhats on the island of Sri Lanka, perhaps suggested by the magnificent peacocks at the bottom of the painting. One of the original followers of the Buddha, he is one of the four Arhats responsible for protecting the western part of the Buddhist cosmos. 

Cullapanthanka (or Cudapanthaka) Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 930/763. Placement as indicated on verso: 8th from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Cullapanthanka (or Cudapanthaka) Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 930/763. Placement as indicated on verso: 8th from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Cullapanthanka is the last, or eighth painting, on the Buddha's right-hand side. The two Arhats who occupied positions six and seven on this side are missing from the set. Cullapanthanka is said to have lived on Vulture's Peak, one of the Buddha's favorite spots for meditation, with a retinue of 16,000 Arhats. There, even wild animals were fond of listening to his discourses, as can be seen from the pair of birds to the Arhat's right and the dragon below them in the bottom corner. In this painting, a royal couple faces the Arhat and offers him a blue jewel. 

Angaja Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 998/830. Placement as indicated on verso: 1st from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Angaja Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 998/830. Placement as indicated on verso: 1st from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Angaja is the first among the Arhats and therefore his painting occupies the first spot to the Buddha's right in this series. The Buddha is said to have miraculously delivered Angaja at birth, though his mother had died and was being cremated when he entered the world. At the age of twenty-eight Angaja was initiated into the Sangha by Shakyamuni Buddha. Here the snow-capped mountains and the sleeping snow lion indicate the Arhat's abode on Mount Kailasha with an entourage of 1,300 Arhats. The stream flowing down on the right reminds the viewer that Mount Kailasha is the source of many important rivers in the subcontinent. 

Nagasena Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 933/766. Placement as indicated on verso: 6th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Nagasena Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 933/766. Placement as indicated on verso: 6th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Nagasena Arhat was born a prince in Northern India and belonged to the Kshatriya caste of warriors. One of the original followers of the Buddha, Nagasena is shown here holding his standard attributes: a beggar's staff and a treasure vase. He uses the staff to heal sickness and cleanses sentient beings of their sins with the vase, presented to him by the four kings of the four points of the compass. He is said to occupy Ngoyang, a sacred mountain, along with 1,200 followers. 

Panthaka Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 932/765. Placement as indicated on verso: 7th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Panthaka Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 932/765. Placement as indicated on verso: 7th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

One of the original followers of the Buddha, Panthaka Arhat was born in the holy city of Sravasti to a Brahmin family. According to tradition Panthaka lives in the Devaloka, a plane of existence inhabited by gods and celestial beings (devas), attended by 700 Arhats. He is one of the Arhats responsible for protecting the eastern part of the Buddhist cosmos. Here he holds a book as his attribute. The artists of these series often painted very imaginative interpretations of animals and heavenly beings. Here the marvelous miniature elephant to the Arhat's right has the paws of a lion and strangely formed ears, while in the opposite lower corner a heavenly being (Ghandarva) is dressed in leaves.

Kanakabharadvaja Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 927/760. Placement as indicated on verso: 3rd from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Kanakabharadvaja Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 927/760. Placement as indicated on verso: 3rd from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Kanakabharadvaja carries no attributes because he sits in meditation. He was born in the holy city of Sravasti and is one of the original disciples of the Buddha. He was known for his generosity and one source identifies the name of the place he dwells as Godhanya, where he is attended by 700 monks. He is also said to have an affinity for sweet music and fragrant smells. The symmetrical composition and lack of activity in this painting reflect the meditative atmosphere projected by the meditating Arhat. The pair of beautifully drawn cranes at the bottom of the painting demonstrate the reverence afforded him by birds and animals. 

Bakula Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 928/761. Placement as indicated on verso: 2nd from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Bakula Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 928/761. Placement as indicated on verso: 2nd from right. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Bakula was born into a Brahmin family in Sravasti, one of the eight Buddhist pilgrimage places because it is the scene of miracles performed by the Shakyamuni Buddha. Bakula lives in the legendary land of Uttarakuru. In this image his attribute, a mongoose (nakula) sits on his left leg and expels gems from its mouth into the offering platter placed in front of the footstool. 

Rahula Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 929/762. Placement as indicated on verso: 1st from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Rahula Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 929/762. Placement as indicated on verso: 1st from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Rahula is the natural son of Yashodhara and Prince Siddhartha, who became the Shakyamuni Buddha, and is one of the original followers of the Buddha. Rahula was initiated by Sariputra, one of the two closest disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha. The crown Rahula holds was a gift from the gods when he entered into the Trayastrimsa heaven to preach the Buddhadarma. Adherents of Buddhism believe he dwells on the mystical island of Priyanku accompanied by 1,100 Arhats. He is one of four Arhats responsible for protecting the eastern part of the Buddhist cosmos. 

Pindola Bharadvaja Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 931/764. Placement as indicated on verso: 4th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Pindola Bharadvaja Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 931/764. Placement as indicated on verso: 4th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Pindola was born to a Brahmin family in Rajagriha, one of the eight holy cities and Buddhist pilgrimage places. He is said to be one of the original disciples of the Buddha and resides on the island of Sharluipapho in the eastern world attended by 1,000 Arhats. He holds an Indian-style book and a filled begging bowl. Pindola's miraculous powers enable him to grant special wishes to those who invoke him, such as the two supplicants by his right arm. The mythical animal dancing below his throne and the man holding a staff, perhaps from Central Asia, in the lower left corner enhance the atmosphere of the exotic and mystical. He is one of the four Arhats responsible for protecting the eastern part of the Buddhist cosmos.

Gopaka Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 934/767. Placement as indicated on verso: 5th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Gopaka Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 934/767. Placement as indicated on verso: 5th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Gopaka, born in Northern India into a merchant's family, is the younger brother of Panthaka Arhat. Gopaka Arhat lives on Vulture's Peak with 16,000 attendants. His attribute is an Indian-style book. At the bottom of the painting two expressive snow lions depicted in contrasting colors represent his mountainous abode. 

Abheda Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 935/798. Placement as indicated on verso: 8th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Abheda Arhat. 17th century. Possibly Kham (East Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 935/798. Placement as indicated on verso: 8th from left. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Abheda was born in the holy city of Rajagriha into a Brahmin family. His attribute is the stupa which he holds in his hands. He is said to live with his 1,000 Arhat followers on the sacred mountain of Himavat (the Sanskrit word for the Himalayas), near the legendary land Shambhala. He does not sit on a throne but on a rocky outcropping, his Chinese-style boots resting on a stone. The setting symbolizes his distant secluded mountain abode. He was one of the original disciples of the Shakyamuni Buddha, who gave him the stupa in order to tame the dangers awaiting for him when he went to the northern countries to convert the nature spirits called Yakshas. A converted Yaksha with an exquisitely expressive face stands to the Arhat's right. Abheda is one of four Arhats responsible for the southern part of the Buddhist cosmos.

Interior of the main temple at Tashilunpo Monastery, Shigatse, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6133/19. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Interior of the main temple at Tashilunpo Monastery, Shigatse, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6133/19. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Path of the Tantra: Lama

The Lama, the Tibetan designation for a spiritual master, holds a central position in preaching and explaining the Buddhist liturgy and meditation practices. In Tibet a large number of paintings represent the principal Lamas of the various Tibetan Buddhist monastic traditions. The thangkas in this exhibition include those of the Gelug, Sakya, Drikung, Nyingma, and Kagyu traditions. The lamas from the different traditions can often be distinguished by the specific hats they wear. For example the Gelug tradition, to which the Dalai Lamas and Panchen Lamas belong, wear yellow hats. The other three major traditions-Nyingma, Sakya, and Kagyu-wear red hats.

For each of these traditions, every ritual text begins with an invocation that lists the entire lineage of transmission of the text. It is this lineage of lamas that establishes the authenticity of the teaching. The rows of persons, usually exclusively male, represented at the top and along the sides of the paintings in this gallery are the visual depiction of this invocation.

The transmission lineage begins at the top of each painting usually at the center, above the head of the central figure, but occasionally at the upper left, and continues down on each side. The line of transmission may begin with a deity, such as the primordial Buddha, Vajradhara, followed by one or more Indian Siddha, a perfected spiritual master who has attained psychic abilities, usually identified by his darker skin. The line may include a layperson, but usually the teachers are monks who wear the prescribed monastic robes.

Padmasambhava and the Teaching Activities of Guru Rinpoche. 18th century. U (Central Tibet). Tradition: Nyingma. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 917/750. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Padmasambhava and the Teaching Activities of Guru Rinpoche. 18th century. U (Central Tibet). Tradition: Nyingma. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 917/750. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Seated at the center of this painting is the eighth-century Indian Buddhist master Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, the "lotus-born" teacher and scholar. Below this image is the Lotus King, Padma rgyal po, another form of Guru Rinpoche. Surrounding the central figure are twelve scenes representing Guru Rinpoche's teaching activities and the narrative of his invitation to Tibet. 

Buton Rinchendrub. 16th century. Shalu Monastery, Shigatse, Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 994/827. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Buton Rinchendrub. 16th century. Shalu Monastery, Shigatse, Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 994/827. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Tucci recorded that he received this painting in Shalu Monastery, where the lamas assured him that the painting depicted the great fourteenth-century scholar-lama Buton Rinchendrub (1290-1364). His right hand is in a form of the vitarka mudra, indicating that he is teaching. At the bottom left of the painting, two standing lamas offer a mandala plate and a vase (bumpa) to the seated lama, who is conducting a tantric ceremony. The officiating lama is framed by a Chinese-style palace or temple which may refer to Shalu Monastery (founded in 1040), which was rebuilt by Buton Rinchendrub after being destroyed by fire.

Tsongkhapa and Scenes from His Life. 18th century. India. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 890/723. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Tsongkhapa and Scenes from His Life. 18th century. India. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 890/723. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

In this painting the central image of Tsongkhapa is surrounded by scenes from his life beginning at the bottom center and proceeding clockwise. The painting is noteworthy for the remarkably fine and detailed renderings of people, architecture, and nature, and is unusual in that it is based on a wood-block series from U in Central Tibet. When the brocade borders were removed from this thangka during restoration, an inscription was revealed that identifies it as the third on the left of a series of paintings. Tucci purchased this painting at Kyi Monastery in Spiti, Himachal Pradesh.

The Sakya Lamdre Lineage. 16th-17th century. Shalu, Shigatse, Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 881/714. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
The Sakya Lamdre Lineage. 16th-17th century. Shalu, Shigatse, Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 881/714. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

This painting belonged to an important set of eight paintings representing the Sakya tradition teachers of the Lamdre rgyud lineage. This painting is the fourth in the set. Because this is the esoteric or tantric path of the Sakya tradition, not only were the teachers, or lamas, important but also the Mahasiddhas, or Great Adepts. Gold inscriptions on the red border of the painting identify all the figures. The four lamas, organized in pairs, are seated in meditation posture. Their dignified presence contrasts with the playful representations of the Mahasiddhas, often with their consorts, performing miraculous feats throughout the surrounding landscape. This contrast is a skillful visual, symbolic synopsis of the two aspects of the Sakya tradition's esoteric lineage: the esoteric teaching of the path and its realization.

Lha'i rgyal po. 16th century. U (Central Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 969/802. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Lha'i rgyal po. 16th century. U (Central Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 969/802. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

The central figure in this painting, Lha'i rgyal po, the King of the Gods, is one of the previous mytho-historical persons in the incarnation lineage of the Dalai Lamas. The Avalokiteshvara Incarnation Lineage of the Dalai Lamas is a chain of rebirths beginning with Avalokiteshvara and progressing through several mytho-historical figures. The naming of the past lives of eminent lamas may be dated to the early twelfth century, but the elaborate Avalokiteshvara Dalai Lama Lineage dates to the lifetime of the Fifth Dalai Lama. Gold inscriptions assist us in identifying the secondary figures. This painting would have been part of a large series of thangkas, each representing one of the incarnations of the Dalai Lama Incarnation Lineage, typical of the school of the Gelug tradition. 

A statue of Tsongkhapa in the White Temple at Tsaparang Monastery, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1933; Neg. dep. 6099/34. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
A statue of Tsongkhapa in the White Temple at Tsaparang Monastery, Ngari, Tibet. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1933; Neg. dep. 6099/34. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Shalu Monastery, Shigatse, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6129/03. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Shalu Monastery, Shigatse, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6129/03. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
The monastery of Kyi, Spiti, India. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1933; Neg. dep. 6077/28. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
The monastery of Kyi, Spiti, India. (Eugenio Ghersi, 1933; Neg. dep. 6077/28. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
The Potala Palace, Lhasa: The Seat of the Dalai Lamas. (Prodhan, 1948; Neg. dep. 7710/02 + 8037/05. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
The Potala Palace, Lhasa: The Seat of the Dalai Lamas. (Prodhan, 1948; Neg. dep. 7710/02 + 8037/05. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)

The most powerful political symbol of the Dalai Lama as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara was the Potala Palace, named after the mythical residence of Avalokiteshvara, Mt. Potalaka, which is traditionally considered to have been located in southern India. In 1645 the Fifth Dalai Lama began construction of the palace on the site of the Emperor Songsten Gampo's seventh-century palace. The enormous complex was completed at the end of the seventeenth century by the Desi Senggye Gyatso, the Fifth Dalai Lama's last regent. 

Path of the Tantra: Yidam

The yidam, or personal meditation deity, is understood to be a manifestation of Buddha-mind or an enlightened mind. Therefore the yidam is considered to be the Root of spiritual accomplishment. There are three forms of yidam-peaceful, semi-wrathful, and wrathful-and each has different characteristics. The most common type of peaceful yidam is one of the five Jina Buddhas. The Jina Buddha sits in meditation and is sometimes dressed in royal finery, but above all can be identified by his hand gesture and the color of his skin (white, yellow, green, blue, or red). Each of the Jina Buddhas is associated with a family of deities who are depicted in the same color. Another peaceful yidam featured in two paintings in this gallery is Tara, who has always been a very popular cult figure in Tibet.

Only a yidam can occupy the center of a mandala. The yidam assumes a wrathful appearance when extraordinary powers are needed. These paintings serve to support the visualizations that are part of the meditational and ritual practice of the Path of the Tantra.

Green Tara. 16th century. Tsang (South-Central Tibet) or U (Central Tibet). Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 886/719. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Green Tara. 16th century. Tsang (South-Central Tibet) or U (Central Tibet). Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 886/719. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

This painting combines two forms of Tara as Savior as well as twenty-one Taras into one image. The large Tara at the center is flanked by her companions Marici on her right and Ekajata on her left. Her role as protector of eight perils is included at the edges and bottom of this work. Tara is considered both a bodhisattva and a buddha, and in her various forms she helps practitioners overcome difficulties on their path to enlightenment. The dense composition and vibrant coloration indicate that this magnificent painting was created either in Central or South-Central Tibet. The costumes of the donor figures at the center of the bottom row, and the architectural frame above Tara, which may refer to Shalu Monastery, both suggest a South-Central Tibetan origin.

Chakrasamvara Mandala Assembly. 15th century. Possibly Sakya Monastery. Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 960/793. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Chakrasamvara Mandala Assembly. 15th century. Possibly Sakya Monastery. Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 960/793. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Chakrasamvara is the main deity of the so-called Mother Tantras, a class of esoteric sacred texts within the category of the Highest Yoga Tantras (the Anutaratantra). Chakrasamvara is shown here in union pose with Vajravarahi, known in Tibetan art as yab yum, father-mother pose, and is a symbol for mystical union that developed out of Indian and Tibetan esoteric thought. It is not present in the Buddhist art of other cultures. Located at the bottom of the thangka, slightly left of center, a practitioner is depicted performing his daily ritual practice. He is most likely the man who commissioned this and the other paintings in the original series. Chakrasamvara was likely the donor's personal meditation deity, or yidam, as the entire series is dedicated to Chakrasamvara. This painting purportedly came from Sakya Monastery in South-Central Tibet.

Dorje Jigje. 15th century. Narthang, Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 941/774. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Dorje Jigje. 15th century. Narthang, Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 941/774. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Tucci acquired this painting in Narthang in South-Central Tibet. The distinctive stylistic features, such as the lotus base with fringed petals, suggest that the painting was also created in this region. The painting is dedicated to the yidam, or personal meditation deity, Dorje Jigje (Vajrabhairava in Sanskrit). He is represented here as the "lonely hero," that is without a consort. In this image Dorje Jigje is surrounded by a representation of the eight charnel grounds that, as Tucci explained in Tibetan Painted Scrolls (1949), symbolize "the eightfold conscious activity which keeps us bound to life and hence to death." Sakya lineage figures and deities frame the image. At the bottom left of the painting the donor of the painting is depicted in a scene that probably represents the ritual consecration of the painting. The donor, his family members, and the officiating lama are seated under a blue and red canopy. The donor and a woman that is probably his wife wear the elaborate dress and headgear associated with the nobility of Tsang during that period.

Eighteen-Deity Mandala of Chagna Dorje. 16th-18th century. Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Pigments on cloth. Tradition: Sakya. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 950/783. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Eighteen-Deity Mandala of Chagna Dorje. 16th-18th century. Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Pigments on cloth. Tradition: Sakya. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 950/783. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

This extremely fine and well preserved painting appears to have been inspired by a fifteenth-century painting from Ngor Monastery of the Sakya tradition. The schematic presentation of the lamas and other figures surrounding the central mandala, however, suggests a later date of the sixteenth to eighteenth century. This mandala features the wrathful Chagna Dorje embracing his partner Dorje Dzedenma. His feet trample on Brahma and Chandra, who symbolize non-Buddhist beliefs that need to be overcome. Eight charnel grounds that symbolize the eight kinds of sensual or mental activities, along with a fire circle, surround the lotus of the mandala. The row of figures at the top of this painting represent the Sakya lineage that handed down the teaching of this mandala. The row at the bottom of the painting includes an offering scene between the protector deities.

Interior of the main assembly hall ('du khang) at Sakya Monastery, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6125/11. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Interior of the main assembly hall ('du khang) at Sakya Monastery, Tsang, Tibet. (Felice Boffa Ballaran, 1939; Neg. dep. 6125/11. Courtesy of Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e l'Oriente (Is.I.A.O.) in l.c.a. and Ministero Degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale.)
Path of the Tantra: Protectors of the Dharma

Those who follow the Path of the Tantra also rely on Protectors of the Dharma and Practitioners, who are the Root of enlightened Activity. In the daily invocation the Protectors are asked to protect the mandala that is the sacred space in which the ritual takes place. In the graphic mandala that is often represented as a Palace Mandala, the Protectors guard the four gates to the center of the mandala. This symbolism derives from built architecture where sculptures of Protectors flank the entrances to sacred spaces, such as temples.

The Protectors of the Dharma is a large category and the only one presented in the exhibition that is defined slightly differently by each Tibetan tradition. Each school has preferences for specific Protectors, for example Palden Lhamo is the preferred Protector of the Gelug tradition. 

Vaishravana. 14th century. Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 965/798. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Vaishravana. 14th century. Tsang (South-Central Tibet). Tradition: Sakya. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 965/798. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

This compelling painting with its strong and simple composition and subtle color palette is the earliest in the Tucci collection from the Museum of Civilisation-Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci" in Rome. The figure at the center of this painting is Vaishravana, the king of the north, represented in his form as a wealth-bestowing deity. He holds a club crowned with a wish-granting jewel and a bag in the form of a mongoose spitting out pearls. The small nagini to his left is his consort, Pema Tsukpuma. This painting was originally part of a larger group of paintings dedicated to the gods of wealth. Tucci appears to have acquired this painting at Ngor Monastery in South-Central Tibet. The archaic figure style, the simple geometric composition with minutely depicted secondary figures isolated in square fields, and the small number of lamas in the top row of the painting all suggest an early date around the fourteenth century.

Palden Lhamo. 18th century. Tibet. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 944/777. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Palden Lhamo. 18th century. Tibet. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 944/777. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

This dramatic "Black Thangka" shows the wrathful deity Palden Lhamo surrounded by whorls of smoke and fire painted in gold and red. Palden Lhamo, the most important protectress of Tibet, is also the protectress of the Gelug tradition, and the principal guardian goddess of the city of Lhasa. Here, she appears as the Army-repulsing Queen. She is mounted on a mule saddled with a human skin and who has an eye at the base of its tail. At the upper right of the painting is a practitioner of the Gelug tradition performing the ritual associated with Palden Lhamo. The aesthetic impact of this thangka is reinforced by the original silk and brocade frame.

Garuda. 16th century. Nako, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 964/797. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Garuda. 16th century. Nako, Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 964/797. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Tucci obtained this painting in Nako Village in 1933 in Kinnaur, India, an area that from the tenth century was the western most district of the powerful Kingdom of West Tibet. While the wall paintings from the five surviving temples of Nako from the early twelfth to eighteenth century testify to a vibrant and distinctive painting tradition, this is the only early portable painting that can be definitely attributed to Kinnaur. The subject of this painting is a mythical bird known as a Garuda. A Garuda protects against negative influences, especially poisons. In Buddhist philosophy the three poisons are defined as attachment (craving), hatred, and delusion (ignorance). The primary colors and archaic composition and figure style seem to reflect earlier Tibetan ritual paintings. At the bottom left of the painting are depictions of the donor and his family. Their elaborate dress is typical of West Tibet as known from surviving examples from Tabo Monastery in neighboring Spiti district, also in India. 

Black Garuda. 18th century. U (Central Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 981/814. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Black Garuda. 18th century. U (Central Tibet). Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 981/814. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Black Garuda is a wrathful protector, whom Buddhist practitioners would ask to transmute sickness, harmful spirits, and negative karma by reciting the protective formula written on the back of this thangka. This four-line verse is surrounded by the pacifying mantra, om a hum, repeated seven times. The Black Garuda is depicted here transmuting all negative influences to protect the practitioner or the person for whom the ritual associated with the Garuda is being performed. This painting is an example of a "Black Thangka," which features gold on black paint. Above the Garuda's head is a lama of the Gelug tradition. He is flanked by the Maitreya Buddha and the wrathful protector Vajrapani. The silk frame was already a valuable offering when it was added to the painting at the time it was created. The brocaded silk satin is Chinese and can be attributed to the fifteenth to sixteenth century. 
 

The Tibetan Cosmos


The vast Tibetan plateau, the highest region on Earth, contains two of the world's tallest mountains and is the source of many of the region's major waterways. The vast horizon, the seemingly limitless sky, and the bouts of extreme weather experienced on the plateau have shaped the human and historical geography of the Tibetan cultural zone.

The original religions of this region had complex systems of ritual and prayer dedicated to many spirits and natural phenomena. The Bon religion, one of the oldest indigenous religions in Tibet, is the modern expression of one of these ancient religions. Followers call their religion Eternal Bon (yung drung Bon). According to legend, the religion can be traced to the teacher Tonpa Shenrab, who was thought to have lived in a mythical land to the west of Tibet. The earliest role of the Bon priest was to assure that the spirit of the departed passed safely into the next world.

From the time Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the seventh century CE, Bon and Buddhism began to influence each other. By the eleventh to twelfth century Bon institutions resembled Buddhist institutions. Bon art is mostly known from recent centuries and has different regional styles, as well as a superficial resemblance to Buddhist art. Bon iconography, never the less, is unique and follows its own canonical sources and ritual practices. 

Tibetans also sought to understand their world through scientific inquiry. Their system is adapted from the Indian five categories of knowledge. An important subdivision of this inquiry is divination and astral sciences, which are related to other fields of knowledge in Tibet such as medicine and mathematics. The astrological chart in this section was used for divination. Such inquiries are of great importance in Tibet, with calculations sought at both the highest institutional levels as well as in daily life.

Bon Deity Tsewang Rigzin. 19th century. Possibly Amdo (East Tibet). Tradition: Bon. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 922/755. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Bon Deity Tsewang Rigzin. 19th century. Possibly Amdo (East Tibet). Tradition: Bon. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 922/755. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Tucci received this thangka from Namkha Jigme Dorje in Himachal Pradesh, India, during his 1931 expedition. A master of the Dzogchen tradition, Namkha Jigme Dorje had first been educated in the Bon tradition and acquired the painting in West Tibet. Tucci called him "one of the most cultivated men I met in Tibet." The subject of the painting is the Bon Long Life deity Tsewang Rigzin. The image is meant both as a support for meditation and as a votive offering to secure the efficacy of the long-life ritual for the person for whom the ritual is performed.

Eight-Buddha Mandala and the Life of Tonpa Shenrab. 18th century. Tibet. Tradition: Bon. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 974/807. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Eight-Buddha Mandala and the Life of Tonpa Shenrab. 18th century. Tibet. Tradition: Bon. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 974/807. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

This work is a representation of an eight-Buddha mandala surrounded by scenes of what appear to be the life of Tonpa Shenrab, the real Buddha of our cosmic age and the founder of Bon. As is evident in this painting, Bon, the indigenous religion of Tibet, adopted and adapted elements associated with Buddhism as this foreign religion spread throughout Tibet. 

Astrological/Divination Chart. 19th century. Tibet. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 982/815. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Astrological/Divination Chart. 19th century. Tibet. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 982/815. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

The diagram shown here is called a sipaho, which generally is used as a charm to protect the worshipper from all negative influences from planets, stars, elements, semi-gods, and demons. The central figure is the cosmic tortoise surrounded by flames. A divination chart of Chinese origin-consisting of the nine numerical squares, the eight trigrams, and the animals of the cycle of twelve years-is painted in the middle of its belly.

Rahu. 19th century. Tibet. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO "Giuseppe Tucci," inv. 946/779. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome.
Rahu. 19th century. Tibet. Tradition: Gelug. Pigments on cloth. MU-CIV/MAO 'Giuseppe Tucci,' inv. 946/779. Image courtesy of the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art 'Giuseppe Tucci,' Rome.

Rahu, the subject of this painting, is depicted in his wrathful form as Sachog Gyalpo, the king of the planets whose body is covered with one thousand eyes. The lower part of his body is that of a snake and he stands in a sea of blood. His right hand holds a Makara-banner and his left hand holds a bow made of animal horn and an arrow. His nine heads are crowned by a raven's head.

Credits

Major support for this exhibition is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, John and Fausta Eskenazi, Lisina M. Hoch, and an anonymous donor.

Generous support is provided by Misook Doolittle in honor of Chae Ok Rollison, Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky, and Carlton Rochell Asian Art.

Additional support is provided by the Ellen Bayard Weedon Foundation, the Blakemore Foundation, and Trace Foundation.

Asia Society appreciates the support of Susan L. Beningson and Steve Arons, John and Berthe Ford, and James J. Lally.

Support for Asia Society Museum is provided by Asia Society Global Council on Asian Arts and Culture, Asia Society Friends of Asian Arts, Arthur Ross Foundation, Sheryl and Charles R. Kaye Endowment for Contemporary Art Exhibitions, Hazen Polsky Foundation, Mary Griggs Burke Fund, Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and New York State Council on the Arts.

Related Programs


Buddhism & Beyond is a series of programs exploring Buddhism, its practice, and its popularity in contemporary culture, organized in conjunction with Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting.


KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Keynote Address: Moving Borders: Tibet in Interaction with its Neighbors
Friday, May 4, 2018 • 6:30-8:00 pm

Andrew Quintman, Yale University, gives the Keynote Address to introduce a day-long symposium which will take place at Asia Society on Saturday, May 5. As part of Free Admission Fridays the museum is open from 6:00 to 9:00pm.


SYMPOSIUM
Moving Borders: Tibet in Interaction with its Neighbors
Saturday, May 5, 2018 • 9:30 am-6:00 pm

International scholars, art historians, and curators focus on the moving borders of the Tibetan cultural zone across the centuries, from the Imperial period to the present, including the Western exploration of Tibet.

 


PAST PROGRAMS


RETROSPECTIVE FILM SERIES
Pema Tseden: Celebrating a Tibetan Voice
January 27-28, 2018

Pema Tseden was born in 1969 in Amdo, in the Tibetan region of Qinghai Province. He is widely recognized as the leading filmmaker of a newly emerging Tibetan cinema and the first director in China to film his movies entirely in the Tibetan language.


DISCUSSION
The Miracle of Mindful Meditation
Thursday, February 15 • 6:30-8:00 pm

ABC news anchor and author of 10% Happier, Dan Harris and leading Buddhist scholar Dr. Thupten Jinpa.


MEMBERS-ONLY OPENING TEA RECEPTION & LECTURE
Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting
Tuesday, February 27 • 4:00-8:00 pm

4:00 pm Tea reception

5:30 pm Docent–led tour

Galleries open until 6:30 pm

6:30 pm Lecture: Walking With Tucci: A Visual History of Tibet

Join art historian and exhibition guest curator Deborah Klimburg–Salter as she introduces the extraordinary group of works from the Museum of Civilisation/Museum of Oriental Art "Giuseppe Tucci," Rome, featured in Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting. Klimburg–Salter was research director for the Guiseppe Tucci Photographic Archive and guest curator for the Tucci collection (MU-CIV / MAO '"Giuseppe Tucci").


All programs are subject to change. For tickets and the most up-to-date schedule information, visit AsiaSociety.org/NYC or call the box office at 212-517-ASIA (2742) Monday through Friday, 1:00-5:00 pm.

Related Content


VIDEOS


NEW YORK, February 20, 2017 — 'Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting' is the first-ever U.S. showing of the paintings collected by Italian scholar Giuseppe Tucci during his 1926-1948 expeditions to Tibet. The recently restored paintings are on loan from the collection of the National Museum of the Oriental Art (MNAO), Rome, and span the 13th through 19th centuries. They are presented together with photography taken during Tucci's eight major expeditions. (34 sec.)


NEW YORK, April 17, 2017 — Adriana Proser, John H. Foster Senior Curator for Traditional Asian Art at Asia Society Museum in New York, provides an inside look at the Tibetan thangka paintings on display in the exhibition she co-curated, Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Panting. (4 min., 57 sec.)

 

ARTICLES

'Unknown Tibet: The Tucci Expeditions and Buddhist Painting' Opens to American Audiences for First Time
Asia Society Museum's highly anticipated exhibition explores Tibet through the eyes of Italian explorer Giuseppe Tucci.

A Guide to Decoding Buddhist Symbolism in Tibetan Art
Understand the significance of specific Buddhist symbols frequently found in Tibetan art.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club Presents — Painting Her Way: The Ink Art of Fang Zhaoling

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Hong Kong27 Sep 201731 Dec 201712:00am12:00amWednesday 27 Sep 2017Sunday 31 Dec 2017

The Hong Kong Jockey Club presents Painting Her Way: The Ink Art of Fang Zhaoling with a selection of paintings and calligraphy by the distinguished female artist Fang Zhaoling (1914-2006). After having received both the Western-style education newly available to a modern woman and the master-disciple training of a traditional Chinese painter, Fang developed a personal style of remarkable originality. Her sustained artistic achievements and contributions to modern Chinese culture also shed light on women’s changing roles in the twentieth century. The exhibition, part of Asia Society Hong Kong Center’s 20th Century Chinese Female Artist Series, is guest curated by Kuiyi Shen and Julia F. Andrews, with Joyce Hei-ting Wong as assistant curator. 
 

Visitors are welcome to share their experience on social media by tagging us #ASHKFangZhaoling #PaintingHerWay

Visit the exhibition's website for more information

如欲瀏覽中文版,請往此。

About the Series

20th Century Chinese Female Artists

Female empowerment and equality in modern societies have been a much debated topic dating back over a century. While the diverse achievements of female talents across different fields have gained better light in recent years, female artists remain an under-represented and under-appreciated segment in Western societies and even more so across Chinese communities.

Yet the emergence of female artists in 20th century China was a testament to both the country’s social progress and the various redefinitions of modernity that were adopted in a historical context complicated by wars and disasters. Female agency in society was among the issues argued and promoted in the mass media of the time and retains lasting ideological power today. In scholastic studies and exhibitions, however, attention has been focused on modern Chinese male artists. Exhibitions featuring the creative attainments and influences of their female counterparts from the period are few and far between, and rarely in monographic presentations.

Asia Society Hong Kong Center’s 20th Century Chinese Female Artists Exhibition Series (“the Series”), the first of its kind in Hong Kong, aims to reclaim the story of female artists. By providing local Hong Kong audiences with important examples of their artistic accomplishments, we hope to honor them with the public recognition they deserve for their contribution to the making of modern China.

From a wider community context, the Series fits into the discourse on female empowerment and equality in today’s Hong Kong, where research indicates that women continue to face challenges in male-dominated industries as well as gender stereotypes in the media and the workplace. Through education programs for children, students, families, and the general public, we will highlight achievements of women in various industries while connecting to the lives and careers of the unique female artists presented in the Series.

The first exhibition in the Series focuses on the life and works of Fang Zhaoling, and is made possible by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust.
 

About the Exhibition

Painting Her Way: The Ink Art of Fang Zhaoling is presented exclusively by The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. The exhibition features a selection of paintings and calligraphy by the distinguished female artist Fang Zhaoling (1914-2006).

Fang was one of the most innovative Chinese painters to emerge in the last decades of the 20th century. Her work is original, distinctive and powerful. She was among the first female generation in China to benefit from Greater educational opportunities and female artists like her who fully realized their careers were relatively few.

Beyond biography and artistic development, the exhibition also considers ink painting and how Fang, as a diasporic artist, played a particularly significant role in its revival after chaotic reforms in the mid-century. It addresses the period of development between traditional ink art of the past and its new direction, showcasing Fang as a bridge between two generations.
 


Exhibition Period:

September 27 – December 31, 2017

Exhibition Venue: 
Chantal Miller Gallery
Asia Society Hong Kong Center
The Hong Kong Jockey Club Former Explosives Magazine
9 Justice Drive, Admiralty, Hong Kong

Opening Hours:
Tuesday - Sunday: 11 am — 6 pm
Last Thursday of Every Month: 11 am — 8 pm
Closed on Mondays 

Free Admission
 

About the Artist

Fang Zhaoling (1914-2006) was born in Wuxi, Jiangsu, China. She was one of the most innovative Chinese painters to emerge in the last decades of the twentieth century. In her artistic passage from childhood to adult, she studied with three of China’s leading painters, Qian Songyan, Zhao Shaoang, and Zhang Daqian, achieving technical mastery of the medium as practiced in three very different ways. Her master-disciple patterns of training in Chinese painting intersected with the modern Western style education she received at The University of Manchester, The University of Hong Kong, and Oxford University. During her lifetime she exhibited widely in Japan, Europe, and the United States as well as elsewhere in Asia, but it is only with the distance of time that the path-breaking nature of her art and career have become most evident.

In 1951 Fang Zhaoling exhibited with her tutor, Zhao Shaoang at the first Chinese art show in Japan since the war. She then exhibited in various group and solo exhibitions including the Musee d’Orsay in 1953, Oxford University in 1957, the Royal Academy Summer Show in 1967, Hong Kong Museum of Art in 1978, Shanghai Art Museum in 1983. She was at the same time remarkable in her perseverance, her unwavering lifelong pursuit of her art, and her ultimate artistic success. In this, she was a model example of the “new woman” so much debated by theorists of the early twentieth century, a woman who through education and travel achieved self-realization that enabled her to contribute to world culture at the highest level.  

 

Gallery Guided Tours

Open to public (free of charge). No registration required

Saturdays | 2:30pm (English) | 3:30pm (Cantonese)
Sundays | 2:30pm (English) | 3:30pm (Cantonese)

Last Thursday of Every Month | 7:00pm (English) 


Special Announcement:

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the English tour on December 17 is canceled. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.

《香港賽馬會呈獻—道無盡:方召麐水墨藝術展》

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Hong Kong27 Sep 201731 Dec 201712:00am12:00amWednesday 27 Sep 2017Sunday 31 Dec 2017

香港賽馬會呈獻《道無盡:方召麐水墨藝術展》敍述二十世紀中國女藝術家方召麐(1914-2006)的傑出藝術生涯 。展覽包括水墨畫和書法作品,展示方氏如何結合中西藝術教育和實踐,發展出獨創風格。方氏的藝術成就揭示了現代女性對於現代中國社會文化的貢獻。展覽由客席策展人沈揆一安雅蘭,以及助理策展人黃熙婷合作策劃,並為亞洲協會香港中心二十世紀中國女藝術家系列之一。

歡迎大家在社交平台上分享展覽的體驗,記得加上#ASHKFangZhaoling #PaintingHerWay的標記。

如欲了解更多,請瀏覽這裡

Click here for the English version

關於系列

二十世紀中國女藝術家系列

現代社會的女權和平等,從上一世紀以來一直是極具爭議的話題。近年來,儘管有才華的女性在不同領域上的成就較以往多了注目, 但眾多社會上的女藝術家代表性仍然不足,她們仍然未能得到充分讚譽,這情況在各個中國社區更為明顯。

然而,二十世紀中國女性藝術家的出現卻印證了中國社會的進步,同時也為經歷戰爭和災難這複雜歷史背景下的現代添上了新的定義。社會上的女性代表一方面備受爭議,另一方面則為當時大眾傳媒所追捧,這意識形態的力量在今天仍然存在。學術研究和展覽界別的注意力往往集中在現代中國男性藝術家身上, 以一個時代的女藝術家創意成就和影響力為題的展覽極為罕有,更鮮有以女藝術家個人為專題的展覽 。

亞洲協會香港中心二十世紀中國女藝術家系列 (「系列」) 開創先河,為女藝術家故事爭取發光發亮。 透過向香港觀眾展示她們重要的藝術成就,以提升公眾對她們的認知,令她們對中國現代作出的貢獻得以表揚。

若然以較廣泛社區為宏觀背景,研究指出香港今天的女性在各行各業內仍然面對著由男性主導的挑戰,在媒體和職場上就繼續受到性別定型的規限,可見系列的主題理念,正好配合香港現時女權和平等的議題。我們將透過為小朋友、學生、家庭及公眾設計提供的各項教育活動, 特顯女性在不同行業上的成就,並同時將之連繫到系列中各獨特女藝術家的生活和事業生涯。

系列的首個展覽以方召麐生平及作品為題,承蒙香港賽馬會慈善信託基金的支持,展覽得以舉行。為配合展覽,特意創立賽馬會藝術教育及「妍亮人生」計劃,為本地不同社區的社群提供教育講座和活動。

關於展覽

展覽日期:2017年9月27日 – 12月31日

展覽場地:
麥禮賢夫人藝術館
亞洲協會香港中心
香港金鐘正義道9號香港賽馬會復修軍火庫

開放時間:
星期二至星期日:上午11時至下午6時
每月最後一個星期四:上午11時至晚上8時
逢星期一休館

免費入場
 

關於藝術家

方召麐(1914-2006) 生於中國江蘇無錫,為二十世紀末最前衛的中國畫家之一。她師從國畫大師錢松岩、趙少昂及張大千,技巧集各家大成。藝術家的傳統藝術訓練融合在曼徹斯特大學、香港大學及牛津大學所受現代西方教育,畫技別樹一幟。

她曾在日本、歐洲、美國和亞洲多地展出,更於1951年與老師趙少昂在東京舉行戰後首個中國藝術展覽。方召麐其後在巴黎奧賽博物館(1953年) 、英國牛津大學(1957年) 、英國皇家藝術研究院(1967年) 、香港藝術館(1978年)和上海美術館(1983年)等博物館展出。

她憑藉堅毅精神,對藝術的熱忱和成就,成爲「新女性」的代表。「新女性」一詞源自二十世紀早期,形容以教育及遊歷實踐自我的女性,概念當時備受爭議。

公眾導賞團

開放予公眾參與 (費用全免)。毋需另作登記。
逢星期六 | 下午二時三十分(英語)| 下午三時三十分(粵語)
逢星期日 | 下午二時三十分(英語) | 下午三時三十分 (粵語)

每月最後一個星期四 | 下午七時正(英語)


特別公告:

12月17日的英語導賞團經已取消。如有不便,敬請原諒

In Focus: An Assembly of Gods

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New York26 Sep 201725 Mar 201812:00am12:00amTuesday 26 Sep 2017Sunday 25 Mar 2018

This exhibition features a large and marvelously detailed Chinese pantheon painting featuring a range of Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian, and popular Chinese deities. The religious traditions to which these gods belong have coexisted in China for well over one-thousand years. While the discrete religious and philosophical traditions maintained their integrity, over time deities, and sometimes even historical figures, were co-opted by popular religions, from which syncretic imagery of pantheon paintings and prints emerged.

Depictions of pantheons are traditionally displayed in Chinese homes on New Year’s Day when, popular belief holds, chief gods visit earth for an annual inspection at the close of the lunar year. Images of the deities were displayed in the courtyards of family homes together with offerings on altars in anticipation of the superhuman arrival. The gods included in these images have varied over the course of time, and even from town to town and family to family. This work dates to the latter part of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), from the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century, when pantheon images flourished in mainland China.

The importance of the time that has passed over the course of the year and the divine reckoning that follows is emphasized in this painting. Three of the Four Daoist Meritorious Officers who guard time by day, month, year, and season (sizhi gongcao) hold their reports in respectful offering to major deities. The Meritorious Officer who guards the seasons, for example, kneels before the Daoist Jade Emperor at the center of the heavens and offers his report, followed by his colleague, the Officer who guards the days, on horseback. At the bottom of the painting, the one who guards the months, on horseback, offers his report to the God who Rids Dwellers of Evil Spirits as he begins his rounds, and the fourth, the one who guards the year, gallops toward the City God with his account.

Heaven, Earth, and Water—the three realms (sanjie) that are overseen by the Three Great Emperor-officials of Daoism who appear at the center right of the painting—provide the settings for the assembly of gods. The deities appear in a complex, hierarchical bureaucracy consistent with a traditional Chinese world view. Major celestial deities appear at the top and center, and gods dealing with more earthly matters at the lower part of the composition. The artist rendered the landscape, figures, and architecture in the fine line or ink outline (baimiao) technique. He carefully defined the architecture with ruled lines (jiehua). Finally the artist, or the artist and his assistants, began to apply color, although it appears this process was never completed. Why a painting of this quality might have been left incomplete remains open to speculation.

This painting includes eighty-two labels identifying more than half the figures depicted. Through this display and ongoing research into China’s rich and complex religious traditions, we are able to learn more about the relationship between art and belief, and how traditions are adapted and change within China’s diverse population.

This exhibition is part of Asia Society Museum’s ongoing In Focus series, which invites viewers to take an in-depth look at a single, significant work of art.
 

Identification of the Deities

This assembly of gods underscores the complexity of Chinese religion, which as it shows can be much more nuanced than the categories Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian might suggest. Popular belief changed and adapted across time and space. The painting is remarkable for the skill with which the artist has captured the images of gods, for the written identification of the deities, and for the great number of deities illustrated. The painting includes eighty-two labels identifying nearly half the deities depicted. Numbers have been superimposed on the reproduction of the painting inside this brochure to aid in identifying the labeled deities as follows.

The uppermost part of the heavenly realm in the pantheon painting features Buddhist deities. Guardians and merciful protectors of people, appear in the upper left corner and the upper right corner of the painting:

1. Shakyamuni Buddha (Sajiamouni fo, 釋迦牟尼佛) is the historical Buddha, an Indian prince who at the age of twenty-nine renounced his family and kingdom to seek enlightenment, which he is said to have attained late in the fifth century BCE. He is located at the top center with an elaborate umbrella suspended over him.
2. Bodhisattva Guanyin (Guanyin pusa, 觀世音菩薩) is the bodhisattva of mercy. As with all bodhisattvas, Guanyin postponed reaching nirvana, or enlightenment, for the sake of saving others. The crown and jewels identify this deity as a bodhisattva rather than a buddha.
3. The Four Vajras (Sida jingang, 四大金剛) represent the tantric Buddhist concepts of body, speech, mind, and wisdom. Here each wields a sword and three are depicted as fierce deities with bulging eyes and grotesque bodies.
4. Peacock King (Kongquemingwang fo, 孔雀明王佛), one of the so-called maharaja bodhisattvas who rides on a peacock, is the golden figure next to Manjushri Bodhisattva.
5. Manjushri Bodhisattva (Wenshu pusa, 文殊菩薩), the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, holds a sword to cut away delusion and is depicted as a small golden figure to Shakyamuni’s left.
6. Welcoming Buddha (Jieyin fo, 接引佛) is the small golden figure to Shakyamuni’s right.
7. Lord Lao (Lao Jun, 老君) is the golden figure to the left of Welcoming Buddha. Lord Lao is another name for Laozi, who originated as the fifth-century BCE historical figure popularly credited with founding the Daoist philosophy. Here he appears in what believers say is his original form, the supreme celestial being of Daoist worship.
8. Each of the Four Great Heavenly Kings (Sida tianwang, 四大天王) holds his symbolic item—from left to right—a sword, the musical stringed instrument known as a pipa, an umbrella, and a serpent. Together, these four deva kings of the four quarters are often found guarding the sacred space of Buddhist temples.
9. Bodhisattva of Great Compassion (Dabei pusa, 大悲菩薩) is often regarded as the same deity as Guanyin. Dabei Pusa’s numerous arms represent almighty power and the ability to know everything and reach everyone.
10. Skanda (Weitou pusa, 韋陀菩薩) is a guardian bodhisattva also known as Weitou (韋馱). He is seen here in one of his iconic positions, resting his weapon horizontally across his arms with his palms together in front of him.
11. Buddha of Exalted Virtue (Chongde fo, 崇德佛) is seated below Shakyamuni Buddha to his left.
12. Tathagata (Rulai fo, 如来佛) is seated below Shakyamuni Buddha to his right. This is the form of the historical Buddha when he was on earth and in the midst of his transformation into the Buddha.
13. Maitreya the Buddha of the Future (Miqin fo, 彌勤佛) the Buddha of the Future, is seated below the Buddha of Exalted Virtue.
14. Zhangjia Buddha (Zhangjia fo, 章迦佛), seated next to the Tathagata and flanked by monks wearing the hats of the Tibetan Buddhist Gelug School, is most likely a Rinpoche, or Spiritual Leader, of the Gelug School.
15. Maitreya Buddha (Mile fo, 彌勒佛), also called the Laughing Buddha (Xiao fo, 笑佛) or Fat Buddha (Pang fo, 胖佛), is a localized folkloric Maitreya known for his optimism and contentment. He is also a bringer of good fortune and luck.
16. Ksitigarbha (Dizang pusa, 地藏菩薩) is the bodhisattva who vowed to see all hells emptied before he entered the state of nirvana, or enlightenment. Like Guanyin and Dabei Bodhisattva, his eyes are cast downward to represent his compassionate nature. 

The deities labeled in this detail of the upper central part of the painting include the highest deities in both Confucian and Daoist traditions.

17. The Jade Emperor (Yuhuang dadi, 玉皇大帝), the highest ruler in the Daoist belief system who governs all deities, is seated at the center. He is often depicted as an emperor seated on a throne, wearing robes and a crown from the Han tradition. Here, a luminous halo shines behind him and he is flanked by two young attendants.

To the right and left of the Jade Emperor are four Daoist mythological creatures who guard the earth.

18. The Vermilion Bird (Zhu que, 朱 雀), who guards the southern corner of earth and represents the summer season. Here, the bird is depicted in human form, but the third eye on his forehead indicates a sense of otherworldliness.
19. The Black Tortoise (Xuan wu, 玄 武), who guards the northern corner of earth and represents the winter season. Here, he is in human form, but the third eye on his forehead indicates otherworldliness.
20. The Blue/Green Dragon (Qing long, 青 龍), who guards the eastern corner of earth and represents the spring season. Here, the dragon is represented as a human with extraordinary red hair.
21. The White Tiger (Bai hu, 白 虎), who guards the western corner of earth and represents the autumn season. He is depicted in human form, but has a feline nose.

Seated below this group are three important Confucian figures.

22. Confucius (Kongzi, 孔子), the major Chinese philosopher who contributed to the formation of Confucianism. His ideas on the matters of social ethics, family relationships, and governmental responsibilities became major foundations of Chinese culture. Here, he wears an honorable mortar-board-shaped headdress and layers of robes, giving him a sense of volume and importance.
23. Yan Hui (顏回), one of Confucius’s most respected disciples and often worshiped in Confucian temples along with Confucius. Here, he is depicted with a beard and an honorable mortar-board-shaped headdress, looking composed and wise.
24. Zilu (子路), one of Confucius’s eldest disciples and known for his frank and straightforward personality, as well as his faithfulness to his teacher. His clean-shaven face makes him look like a young disciple.
25. The Divine Official (Ling guan, 靈官) a Daoist guardian deity. He appears in this painting to specifically represent the Fire Divine Daoist Official (Wang Linguan, 王靈官), who is associated with fire and often depicted with red hair and a weapon in hand.
26. Great Emperor Perfected Martial (Zhenwu dadi, 真武大帝) is a Daoist deity with a national cult and stands close to the Jade Emperor in this painting. The Jade Emperor sent him down to earth to subdue an army of demon-kings ravaging the universe.
27. The Goddess of Mount Tai (Taishan shengmu, 泰山聖母), also known as Bixia yuanjun (碧霞元君), is a protector of women and children. Riding a colorful phoenix, she is depicted here as a beautiful young woman.

The deities in the upper left of the painting are the Five Sacred Peaks in China. They are powerful cosmic gods in charge of various realms and fields.

28. Southern Sacred Mountain (Nanyue tianqi, 南嶽天齊) governs creatures with scales and shells that live in the water.
29. Northern Sacred Mountain (Beiyue tianqi, 北嶽天齊) governs all rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans in the world, and also looks after all walking animals, including reptiles and insects.
30. Eastern Sacred Mountain (Dongyue tianqi, 東嶽天齊) governs the underworld and has the ability to determine life and death, and to call upon spirits. The most powerful of the Five Sacred Peaks, he is depicted here in a calm upright position to elicit reverence.
31. Western Sacred Mountain (Xiyue tianqi, 西嶽天齊) governs all types of metals as well as birds.
32. Central Sacred Mountain (Zhongyue tianqi, 中嶽天齊) governs swamps, river valleys, canals, and forests. He stands in profile with his back toward the audience and looks gravely at the Eastern Sacred Mountain.

Daoist deities in charge of various tasks appear in both the central right-hand side and the central left-hand side of the painting. 

33. Heaven-aiding Thearch (Xietian dadi, 協天大帝), also named Guan Yu (關羽), is a third-century warrior who appears as a protagonist in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguo yanyi). He came to be worshiped as a Daoist god of wealth. Sitting behind a desk and in front of a painted screen, he is depicted here as an important bureaucratic official.
34. Red Robe (Zhuyi, 朱衣) is a Daoist god who is an assistant to the God of Literature. As the distributor of examination outcomes, he is accompanied by two young attendants who carry the test results. Students also venerate Red Robe for support during examinations.
35. The God of Literature (Wenchang dijun, 文昌帝君) governs all literary matters. He is a popular deity and worshiped in temples across China. Dressed in a scholar’s official robe, he wears a composed expression and holds a scroll in front of him. To his right is his companion deity Kuixing.
36. Largest Star in the Big Dipper Constellation (Kuixing, 奎星) is a stellar spirit and the companion deity to the Daoist God of Literature. He governs the matter of examinations. Holding a brush and standing on a dragon, this deity is commonly worshiped by students undergoing examinations.
37. Dark Altar (Xuantan, 玄壇), a Daoist guardian figure who is believed to be the mythical figure Zhao Gongming (趙公明). Zhao Gongming is venerated as both the God of Prosperity (Cai shen, 財神) and the God of Pestilence (Wen shen, 瘟神). He holds a swirl-like sword up in the air, looking fierce as he confronts a tiger.
38. The Meritorious Officer who Guards the Hours (Shi zhigongcao, 時職功曹) keeps a record of the labor of all humanity, specifically in the measurement of hours. He used to be found depicted in temples throughout China. With his back to the viewer, he kneels in front of The Jade Emperor and presents him with his official report.
39. The Meritorious Officer who Guards the Days (Ri zhigongcao, 日值功曹) keeps a record of all the activities of humanity in the measurement of days, and reports it to his superiors. In the pre-modern period he was found in temples throughout China. Riding on a horse, he follows immediately behind The Meritorious Officer Who Guards the Hours.
40. Erlang God (Erlang shen, 二郎神) a Daoist drain god that prevents flooding and drought, oversees water irrigation and the harvest. Attended by two servants, he stands proudly as he examines the land below him.

The deities labeled in the central right-hand side of the painting include the Three Great Emperor-officials of Daoism wearing mortar-board headgear with strings of dangling pearls.

41. The Earthly Official (Di guan, 地官), who is in charge of the Five Emperors of the Five Sacred Mountains and of the Earthly Immortals of all places. On the fifteenth day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, he is believed to come to the human world, inspect the sins of men, and absolve them.
42. The Heavenly Official (Tian guan, 天官), who oversees the emperors of all the heavens. On the fifteenth day of the first month of the lunar calendar, he visits the human world to inspect and judge the sins and blessings of men. Like the other Great Emperor-officials he holds an audience tablet (hu, 笏) before his chest.
43. The Water Official (Shui guan, 水官), who is in charge of the immortals residing in water. On the fifteenth day of the tenth month of the lunar calendar, he descends to the human world to inspect sins and good fortune, and eliminates the misfortunes of men. Here he has turned to face the Jade Emperor.
44. Sangharama (Qielan fo, 茄藍佛 also written as 伽藍佛) is a Buddhist guardian deity. Wearing a blue robe with golden embroidery, he smiles good-humoredly as one of his attendants in red dances comically.

Three celestial functionaries appear under the peach tree depicted below the Three Great Emperor-officials.

45. The Stellar God of Prosperity (Luxing, 禄星), the sixth star of the Wenchang cluster (Ursa Majoris), is believed to dictate a person’s prosperity, status, and influence, including success in the imperial examinations. He is shown here holding a baby in his arms, a reference to one of the other names he is known by: Immortal Zhang Presenting a Baby (Songzi zhang xian, 送子張仙).
46. The Stellar God of Good Fortune (Fuxing, 福星) the star of the South Pole (Canopus), wears red robes, has a long beard, and holds in his left hand a scepter with a cloud-shaped decorative element (ruyi) at the top. He is worshiped to bring prosperity and money.
47. The Stellar God of Immortality (Shouxing, 壽星), the planet Jupiter, is identifiable by his elderly characteristics, including a white beard, elongated bald head, and the peach-wood stick he holds. He is venerated to bring long life.

To the left of these Stellar Gods, two deities stand aboard an elegant boat floating on waves.

48. The Mother of Dragons (Longmu, 龍母), who as a human woman is said to have raised five infant dragons with whom she formed a strong filial bond.
49. White Dragon (Bai long, 白龍), a dragon king, who is a Daoist deity believed to be Lord of the Yellow River and controls flooding.
50. Medicine King (Yao wang, 藥王), a Daoist deity known for his invention of medicines and worshiped for his blessing of good health. Clad in an exuberantly red robe, he stands on a tiger-like animal and stretches his arms and legs dynamically in all directions.
51. Old Grandfather Zhao (Laozhao ye, 老趙爺) is an attendant of the Child Bestowing Goddess. Wearing robes in plain colors and a simple headdress, he holds two children in a basket-like container.
52. Child Bestowing Nanny (Songzi huamu, 送子花姆) is a fertility goddess who oversees matters of childbirth and childrearing. Standing underneath a roof and holding a child in arms, she wears an elegant hair piece and a pair of delicate earrings.
53. Bean God (Dou shen, 豆神) is located at the upper right and most likely was worshiped for his protection of the bean crop.
54. God of Pestilence (Wen shen, 瘟神), with flaming-red hair and beard, is positioned next to the Bean God.
55. The Five Commissioners of Pestilence (Wuwen shizhi, 五瘟使者) stand to the left of the God of Pestilence. One has the head of a tiger and holds a banner, and the others have the heads of an ox, cock, horse, and goat, and each holds a tablet (hu) before his breast as Chinese officials did at court when addressing the emperor.
56. The Pagoda-bearing Heavenly King (Tuota tianwang, 托塔天王), who was introduced to China as the Buddhist Guardian of the North, is dressed in purple and holds both a pagoda and a sword.
57. The Elderly God of the Year (Zhenniantaisui, 值年太歲), stands next to the Pagoda-bearing Heavenly King, dressed as an immortal, and appears to move forward as if blind to what is before him. Projecting from his eye sockets are arms with an eye in each hand’s palm.
58. The Immortal Liu (Liu daxian, 柳大仙) is Chunyanglüzu’s disciple and is depicted at his side. The gourds he holds and wears around his waist are symbols of immortality.
59. The Immortal Chunyanglüzu (Chunyanglüzu, 純陽呂祖) the scholarly figure seated next to a table, is one of the Eight Immortals venerated by Daoists and is considered by some to be the leader of this group. The sword he carries on his back is said to dispel evil. He originated as a ninth-century scholar and poet prior to being regarded as a deity.
60. The Immortal Child of Prosperity (Zhaocai tongzi, 招財童子), who brings affluence and good fortune. He is often depicted as a child but also occasionally portrayed as a teenager, as here.
61. The Immortal Official of Profitability (Lishi xianguan, 利市仙官), the bringer of wealth, prosperity, and fortune, is one of the Gods of the Five Paths to Wealth. Popular among devotees, he is sometimes worshiped alone without the other four deities.
62. Gods of the Five Paths to Wealth (Wulu caishen, 五路財神) are the chief officials of the divine Ministry of Wealth. From the eighteenth century on, they were the primary focus of those worshiping the God of Wealth (Wutong shen, 五通神) in China’s prosperous Jiangnan region.
63. Cao Shen (曹參), seated and wearing red, was the second chancellor of the Western Han dynasty. Originally a historical figure from the second century BCE, he played an important role in the founding of the Han dynasty and is said to have used Daoist techniques in his governing style.
64. Xiao He (蕭何), seated next to Cao Shen, is a second-century BCE Chinese statesman who served Liu Bang, the founder of the Han dynasty, during the insurrection against the Qin dynasty. He is also a significant figure for Daoists because he assembled Daoist scholars in the region of Qi to teach him how to carry out benevolent governance.

In the lower left-hand corner of the painting are deities of Daoism and popular religion who oversee the everyday lives of common people. 

65. The Three Reporting Officials (Subao sanci, 速報三司) are the City God’s bureaucratic officials, who govern the military, rites, and the issuing of bureaucratic documents. They are seen here standing in a row, but looking in indifferent directions.
66. Land God (Zhenzhaitudi, 鎮宅土地) is a deity local inhabitants look to for the exorcism of evil spirits and to guard their village, town, or region. Wearing a blue robe, he is depicted as an old man with grey hair and a wrinkled face.
67. God of Joy (Xi shen, 喜神) is an auspicious Daoist deity who often appears at festive events, especially weddings. His smiling eyes and relaxed composure convey a sense of joyfulness unseen in the other gods in this painting.
68. God of Nobility (Gui shen, 貴神) is a god of astrological origin who often appears in Daoist divination practices. Turning his pale clean-shaven face toward the branch that he holds in his hand, he seems to be looking for a sign of divination.
69. Horse King (Ma wang, 馬王), commonly known as Ma linguang (馬靈官), is a Daoist guardian deity that protects horses and cattle. His three bulging round eyes, bright red hair, and six strong arms convey his ferocity.
70. Household God (Ao shen, 奥神), also called Dizhu shen (地主神), is a household protector. He stands close to Hearth God, with whom he works closely to look after a household.
71. Cattle King (Niu wang, 牛王), or Ox God, is a protector of domestic animals. Gesturing forward, he seems to be giving instructions to a nearby boy in red and green holding a small water buffalo.
72. The Veritable Lord God of Fire (Huodi zhenjun, 火帝真君) looks after kilns and workshops that use fire. He wears an exuberantly red robe and has red hair and three crescent-shaped eyes.
73. Hearth God (Zao shen, 竃神) is a guardian who oversees the kitchen and food in a household. In this painting, he looks over his shoulder at the Household God.

The deities labeled in the bottom left-hand corner of the painting include the guardians of homes, villages, cities, and rivers.

74. Duke of the Local Land (Tu gong, 土公), Earth God and guardian of local land for a specific district, town, or village, he often appears with his wife, the Earth Goddess, as he does here. He is commonly depicted as an affable elderly man with a staff in hand.
75. Earth Goddess (Tu mu, 土母), a guardian of local land for a specific district, town, or village, she is commonly depicted as an amiable elderly woman with a staff in hand.
76. City God (Duchenghuang, 都城隍), a Daoist official who serves as a supernatural judge or magistrate in a city. He often wears a stern expression, exhibiting his righteous and just nature as an official.
77. The Meritorious Officer who Guards the Months (Yue zhigongcao, 月值功曹) keeps a record of all activities of humanity in the measurement of months, and gives reports to his superiors. In premodern times he and the three other Daoist Meritorious Officers were widely worshipped and found in temples throughout China. Turning his horse in a three-quarter view, he presents his documents respectfully to the Land God.
78. Mountain God (Shan shen, 山神) is the spirit of the mountain. Wearing a helmet and holding a twisted pole weapon in hand, he is represented here as a warrior.
79. Shen Shu (神荼), the elder of the two brothers Shen Shu and Yu Lu known for their power over evil spirits. The brothers catch harmful ghosts and feed them to tigers. The siblings are pasted on entrance doors as door-gods to ward off evil spirits.
80. Yu Lu (鬱壘), the younger of the two brothers Shen Shu and Yu Lu, who are door gods.
81. The Meritorious Officer who Guards the Years (Nian zhigongcao, 年值功曹), keeps a record of the labor of all humanity, specifically in the measurement of years. He was formerly found in temples throughout China. Rushing into the composition on horseback, he holds up a scroll, most likely his report, delicately above his head.
82. The Lord of the River (Hebo jiangjun, 河伯將軍), a spirit of the river, who is believed to be the water god of the Yellow River. Wearing a helmet and resting a sword in his right arm, he is depicted here as a military official.

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Inspired by Zao Wou-Ki: Works by New York City Students

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New York16 May 201706 Aug 201712:00am12:00amTuesday 16 May 2017Sunday 6 Aug 2017

Inspired by Zao Wou-Ki is part of a series of exhibitions that presents the work of New York City students created in response to the great artistic traditions of Asia. This year the exhibition presents student artwork inspired by the Asia Society fall 2016 exhibition No Limits: Zao Wou-Ki. By displaying these fresh interpretations of Asian arts, we hope to encourage other young visitors to exercise their creativity.

Organized by Asia Society Museum in collaboration with Studio in a School.

Find out about the learning opportunities Asia Society offers.

Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia

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New York07 Mar 201704 Jun 201712:00am12:00amTuesday 7 Mar 2017Sunday 4 Jun 2017

"Astonishing"

"Full of lessons big and small"

The Wall Street Journal

In 1998, Indonesian fishermen diving for sea cucumbers discovered a shipwreck off Belitung Island in the Java Sea. The ship was a West Asian vessel constructed from planks sewn together with rope — and its remarkable cargo originally included around 70,000 ceramics produced in China, as well as luxurious objects of gold and silver. The discovery of the shipwreck and its cargo confirmed what some previously had only suspected: overland routes were not the only frequently exploited trade connections between East and West in the ninth century. Whether the vessel sank because of a storm or other factors as it traversed the heart of the global trading network remains unknown. Bound for present-day Iran and Iraq, it is the earliest ship found in Southeast Asia thus far and provides proof of active maritime trade in the ninth century among China, Southeast Asia, and West Asia.

The objects in this exhibition attest to the exchange of goods and ideas more than one thousand years ago when Asia was dominated by two great powers: China under the Tang dynasty and the Abbasid Caliphate in West Asia. Specifically, the cargo includes some objects of great value and beauty, and demonstrates the strong commercial links between these two powers, as well as the ingenuity of artists and merchants of the period. Moreover, the sheer scale of the cargo shows that in the ninth century Chinese ceramics were greatly popular in foreign lands and that Chinese potters mass-produced thousands of nearly identical ceramics for foreign markets. Ceramics found in the wreck range from humble Changsha wares to those that reflect elite taste such as celadon ware from Yue kilns and white ware from Xing kilns that were valued for their beauty and elegance.

In the past the common historical narrative described major global maritime networks connecting Asia to the rest of the world first emerging in the fifteenth century as western explorers and adventurers asserted a role in the region. With the discovery of the shipwreck near Belitung we now know that important, complex, and dynamic networks of maritime trade already connected disparate cultures across the globe as early as the ninth century.

Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia is co-organized by Asia Society and the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore. Objects are from the Khoo Teck Puat Gallery, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore. The Tang Shipwreck Collection was made possible by the generous donation of the Estate of Khoo Teck Puat in honor of the Late Khoo Teck Puat.

Pre-order the illustrated Tang Shipwreck Collection book published by Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, online at AsiaStore.

Asia Society Executive Vice President Tom Nagorski discusses Secrets of the Sea with Museum Director and Vice President for Arts & Cultural Programs Boon Hui Tan

Trade Routes in Ninth-Century Asia

Ninth-century Asia was dominated by two great powers: China under the Tang dynasty and the Abbasid Caliphate in West Asia with its capital at Baghdad in modern Iraq. The Southeast Asian kingdom of Srivijaya—which dominated the sea routes through Sumatra, Java, and the Malay Peninsula—lay at the critical connection between East and West. These distinctive and far-flung lands were joined through overland and maritime trade.

The overland Silk Route that connected China with Central Asia and West Asia during the Tang period is well known, but only now are we beginning to understand the full importance of the maritime trade routes that also linked these regions. Compared to the long overland journey on camels or horses, maritime transport meant that fragile, but heavy loads could be exported in bulk—in the case of this one shipwreck that meant over twenty-five tons of ceramics—from China to West Asia. The use of maritime routes became even more popular during the Tang dynasty when the Arab conquest in the west and civil war in China made overland travel increasingly dangerous and resulted in its diminishing use through the eighth century.

The discovery of the shipwreck confirms that sea routes had become a lucrative alternative route for trade by the ninth century. To reach the coast, the contents of this particular vessel had already traveled through an internal shipping network along rivers and canals that gathered a range of products, including ceramics, gold and silver works, and bronze mirrors, from all over China at one or two ports, probably the major port of Yangzhou or further south at Guangzhou. When it sank off Belitung Island, the West Asian ship appears to have been heading south, possibly to trade for valuable spices like nutmeg and clove with the Southeast Asian empires of Srivijaya and Sailendra, prior to sailing homeward with objects, spices, and other goods from China and Southeast Asia. The ship had likely carried glass, spices, and minerals to China, where they were traded for silk, ceramics, and lead (which may have on-loaded in China as ballast). India and Southeast Asia contributed goods and crewmen to this network of trade.
 

The Discovery

In 1998 fishermen diving near Belitung Island saw an unusual mound about three feet high rising from the sea floor. Upon further exploration they discovered the mound was composed of coral-encrusted ceramic bowls, many of which were still intact. The discovery of these bowls and the rest of the nearby shipwreck soon came to the attention of Indonesian government authorities. As it turned out, the unique construction of the sunken ship was unlike locally built vessels. Each of the ship’s timbers was fastened with stitching—not nails or other iron fastenings, or even wooden dowels. Archaeological research revealed that the ship is West Asian in origin and that its keel (the chief structural element that extends downward from the center of the ship’s bottom) measures more than fifty-feet long. The vessel had been constructed with wood from Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and Arabia in a technique that still survives in the ancient ship-building tradition of Oman. Many of the ceramics onboard were perfectly preserved, neatly packed and protected by the silty floor of the sea. As the cargo and vessel were closely examined, the importance of the discovery and recovery became even clearer: it was the first wreck of an ancient Middle-Eastern ship to be found and excavated. 

The Controversy Surrounding the Recovery

The ship was carrying a small amount of cash in the form of Chinese bronze coins (seen here) and large silver ingots. The presence of the coins on the ship suggests some of the earliest evidence of their acceptability in Southeast Asian markets. (Photography by Michael Flecker, 1999)

The wreck discovered by the fishermen lay in shallow water less than two miles from Belitung Island, making it vulnerable to looting and accidental destruction from fishing. Reports of looting emerged early on and the Indonesian government—its resources simultaneously focused on economic troubles and quelling related racial riots—authorized a salvage company, Seabed Explorations, to recover the cargo. Over the course of two seasons in 1998 and 1999 the company retrieved some 60,000 objects.

Some have argued that commercial salvage as deployed for this site was not the most appropriate way to recover the ship and cargo. If an academic underwater archaeological excavation had been conducted there would have been more documentation, but this also would have required significantly more time and financial resources. The Indonesian Government settled on a quicker and completely legal process that made it possible for them to move recovered objects to conservation and storage facilities. The cargo was preserved largely intact from looting and at the same time valuable information was recorded.

This exhibition and its related programming provide an opportunity to discuss underwater cultural heritage and the complex questions surrounding archaeology, preservation, commercial salvaging, looting, and international law. The recovery and sale of the cargo by Seabed Explorations were commercial transactions, which is problematic. The wreck, however, is one of the most important discoveries from the last fifty years and it is important that we share this historic story of global interaction.

The Crew: Life on Board

Changsha bowls from the wreck tightly packed inside a storage jar. (Photography by Michael Flecker, 1999)

The recovery of the ninth-century wreck yielded no human remains nor records indicating who manned the ship. It can be assumed that traders from West Asia probably chartered the ship, and that it is likely there were at least a few Chinese crew on board. The ports throughout Asia in the ninth century were cosmopolitan hubs. The populations of the Chinese trading ports at Ningbo, Guangzhou, and Yangzhou included Arabs, Chams (from central Vietnam), Indians, Malays, and non-Muslim Persians. Nearly all the space on the ship, including below deck, was given over to stowing the cargo, meaning that the crew would have suffered a great deal of exposure as they led their lives on deck. These conditions combined with the other hazards of the journey meant that some of the crew very likely died along the way and new men would have been recruited at ports where the ship stopped.

Objects recovered from the wreck support the theory that the ship’s crew was multi-ethnic. Tools used for everyday ship maintenance and personal possessions originating from across Asia were found with the wreck. They include weights and a scale bar of the kind used in Indonesia; a Chinese inkstone for grinding ink; and bronze spoons, ceramic lanterns, kettles, a mortar and pestle, a grindstone, and roller of the kind used in Southeast Asia. Lead weights of unknown origin used as sinkers for fishing nets, a Chinese needle for mending sails, and ivory game pieces of unknown origin were also recovered.

The crew had to combine ballast with the cargo to keep the ship stable in the water. If the ship sat too high in the water, it would be in danger of capsizing; too low and it could be swamped by waves. The crew adjusted the ballast at every port of call as cargo was loaded on and off. There were lead bars found in the wreck that it is assumed were used as ballast. Despite the skill of its crew and having sailed thousands of miles, the ship never reached its final destination. It is unclear what caused the ultimate demise of ship and man. It is likely to have been the result of a storm, a crash into a reef near where the wreckage was found, or a combination of the two.

The Cargo: Storage Jars

A diver for Seabed Explorations GBR with a storage jar from the wreck during the excavation and recovery. (Photography by Michael Flecker, 1999)

The wreck contained many storage jars made in Guangdong Province in southern China. Storage jars with a wider opening held as many as 130 Changsha ceramic bowls tightly stacked in coils inside and padded with straw. Thanks to this space-saving packing method, as well as the silt of the seabed, many of the bowls were able to survive intact for over 1100 years. Jars also served other functions: one was filled with nine lead ingots, while several were found full of star anise, a fragrant spice from China.

After centuries underwater, many of the jars became encrusted with coral. Others were restored to their original state, but only through many hours of painstaking work by conservators. Once cleaned some jars were found to bear inscriptions. These may be merchant’s marks.

The Cargo: Xing Ware

Chinese white wares were immensely desirable, both within China and abroad. By the latter part of the Tang dynasty Xing ware was frequently extolled in Chinese poetry and literature for its beauty and used as a symbol for taste and wealth. Its appearance was likened to that of silver. Xing ware has been discovered throughout Southeast Asia and West Asia and it was likely considered among the most valuable cargo onboard the ship. The three hundred white ceramics found in the shipwreck are of high quality and were probably very expensive even in the ninth century. The Xing kilns in Hebei Province in northern China produced the most sought-after Chinese white wares. The wares are thinly potted, trimmed into precise shapes, and evenly covered with a fine white glaze that, once fired at high temperatures, gives the ware a pure white body. In West Asia, Abbasid caliph courtiers were so entranced by this durable, white ware that potters from Basra strove to duplicate them using the local yellowish clay and an opaque white glaze.

The Cargo: Yue Ware

Yue ware is gray-bodied and covered with olive-green glaze, the appearance of which was likened to jade. The production of this kind of ceramic dates back as far as the fourth-century BCE. During the Tang period, when the shipwreck pieces were made, a group of kilns in Zhejiang Province produced them. Yue wares were held in high esteem both domestically, where the finest pieces were offered as tribute to the court, and abroad. Around two hundred Yue wares were recovered from the shipwreck. By the latter part of the Tang dynasty, Yue ware was frequently praised in Chinese literature for its beauty and used as a symbol of taste and wealth, much like Xing ware, some of which the ship also carried. For the world outside China the aesthetics of the high-fired clay and glaze were highly appealing as was its comparative resilience that made it more difficult to chip and crack than local products. Yue wares have been found in Southeast Asia, Japan, Iraq, Iran, and even Egypt.

The Cargo: Gongxian Ware

The Gongxian kilns of inland China were noted for their production of tomb wares, but in the ninth century in response to the burgeoning trade of China’s south and southeastern ports, they created colorful daily-use wares for export. The bodies of these wares were covered with a white coating of slip and over this both copper and cobalt were used as coloring agents in glazes. The bright green seen on the Gongxian objects is the result of copper while the rich blue on the dish comes from cobalt.

The approximately two hundred pieces of green-splashed white wares discovered with the shipwreck represent the largest cache of this type of ware recorded to date. The pieces were located at the ship’s stern along with the other items of higher value. The desirability of these ceramics in the Abbasid Caliphate (covering what today includes Iran, Iraq, and surrounding regions) is supported by many finds in West Asia, including in Samarra, Iraq, the former capital of the Abbasids, where an example of Gongxian ware decorated with a lozenge with vegetal palmette projections was found.

Long-necked ewer. China, probably Henan Province. Gongxian kilns. Tang dynasty, ca. 825–50. Glazed stoneware with copper-green splashes over white slip. H. 40 1/2 x W. 9 x D. 10 1/4 in. (102 x 23 x 26 cm). Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2005.1.00900 1/2 to 2/2. Photography by Asian Civilisations Museum, Tang Shipwreck Collection

This large ewer is one of the finest ceramics found in the shipwreck. The incised lozenge motifs with leafy fronds is an Iranian design seen on other objects in the wreck, which suggest that much of the cargo was destined for the Persian Gulf. The overall form of the ewer is based on that of objects produced in metal, as is evident from the rim surrounding the base, and the thinness of the handle. The ewer is difficult to hold and balance, and may have been made purely for decoration. The stopper, shaped like a dragon’s head, roughly fits the mouth of this ewer, but may have belonged to another vessel.

 

Four-lobed bowl with dragon medallion. China, probably Henan Province, Gongxian kilns. Tang dynasty, ca. 825–850. Stoneware with pale copper-green glaze over white slip. H. 5 x D. 14.5 in. (12.7 x 36.8 cm). Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2005.1.00396. Photography by Asian Civilisations Museum, Courtesy of John Tsantes and Robert Harrell

The Cargo: Blue-and-White Ceramics from the Gongxian Kilns

Potters in both China and West Asia contributed to the ninth-century creation of the earliest known blue-and-white ceramics. The blue of blue-and-white ceramics is created with cobalt, which was a specialty of Iran. Painting with cobalt blue was a practice that appears to have started with Basran potters. However, it was China that had the natural resources to exploit to create attractive, hard white ceramics. The potters of the Gongxian kilns were able to take the Iranian method of painting with cobalt blue on ceramics and apply it to their own ceramic output. Three blue-and-white dishes retrieved from the shipwreck suggest that Gongxian potters combined cobalt blue with white ceramics in an effort to cater to the demands of the Abbasid Empire (covering what today includes Iran, Iraq, and surrounding regions).

The Gongxian potters painted a lozenge pattern with flowers at the corners on one object included in th exhibition. This design appears on a variety of objects bound for the Abbasid, where the design originally developed. The blue-and-white dishes discovered with the ship are the first and earliest complete Chinese blue-and-white ceramics known to exist to date.

Dish with floral lozenge decoration. China, Henan Province. Gongxian kilns. Tang dynasty, ca. 825–50. Glazed stoneware with cobalt-blue pigment over white slip. Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2005.1.00473. Photography by Asian Civilisations Museum, Courtesy of John Tsantes and Robert Harrell

The Cargo: Changsha Ware

Changsha ewers trapped in a coral concretion on the top of the wreck mound. (Photography by Michael Flecker, 1999)

The Changsha kilns operated in the central southern Chinese province of Hunan, outside China’s centers of commerce. Changsha wares were popular in both domestic Chinese and foreign markets. Changsha bowls of the type in the cargo have been found on Java and throughout Southeast Asia, which confirms that Chinese ceramics were traded in the region in the ninth century. It is likely that the ship was headed to Java to trade for valuable spices such as nutmeg and clove. A Changsha bowl, from among the 55,000 recovered from the shipwreck, helped date the entire group through its inscription. The bowl has the Chinese date that is equivalent to 826, the last year of the reign of Tang Emperor Gaozu, inscribed into the clay.

Changsha wares were painted with brown, green, and red iron- and copper-oxide-based pigments. The patterns were hand painted and surprisingly varied. The majority are designs based on forms from nature like flowers, leaves, mountains, clouds, or birds. Imagery with ties to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, like hybrid sea creatures known as makara, also appear on the bowls. Several examples recovered from the wreck feature calligraphy, often in the form of a poem. Molded decoration of date palms, birds, or lions were also used to further embellish some vessels, as is the case with the ewers on view, which were some of the most popular products from the Changsha kilns.

Stacks of Changsha bowls deep within the wreck mound. (Photography by Michael Flecker, 1999)

Bowl with decorative inscription in cursive script. China, Hunan Province. Changsha kilns. Tang dynasty, ca. 825–50. Glazed stoneware with underglaze iron-brown. H. 2 x W. 6 in. (5.1 x 15.2 cm). Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2005.1.00580. Photography by Asian Civilisations Museum, Courtesy of John Tsantes and Robert Harrell

The style of cursive calligraphy on this bowl is reminiscent of the great Tang-dynasty calligrapher Huaisu (737–after 798), a famed Changsha resident. His wild cursive style is said to be due in part to the influence of wine. The presence of Huaisu-style calligraphy on this bowl attests to the pride with which Changsha residents regarded his brushwork.  

The Cargo: Gold and Silver

A round, silver box containing a set of small, lobed, silver-gilt boxes recovered from the wreck. (Photography by Michael Flecker, 1999)

More than thirty gold and silver objects created in Tang China were recovered from the Belitung shipwreck. Their location when discovered suggests that they had been concealed in the hold of the vessel. The presence of these was a great surprise to scholars and their discovery ranks among the most important Tang gold and silver finds to date.

The group includes beautifully ornamented vessels for entertaining, including cups and dishes made of solid gold, a wine flask of gilt silver, and silver bowls and platters. The cargo also included fourteen silver boxes for holding cosmetics, incense, and medicines. Whether these rare, valuable goods were bound for use in diplomatic exchange, entertaining high-ranking visitors to the recently docked ship, trade negotiations, or sale to wealthy elites is unknown. It is likely that the objects were manufactured in a workshop located in the east coast Tang Chinese craft centers of Yangzhou, Zhenjiang, or Shaoxing. In addition to these extraordinary objects, eighteen silver ingots and gold foil were also found with the wreck.

Square-lobed dish with insects, flowers, knotted ribbons, and swastika (wan, “10,000”). China. Tang dynasty, ca. 825–50. Gold. H. 1 1/4 x W. 6 x D. 4 in. (3.5 x 15.5 x 10 cm). Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2005.1.00922. Photography by Asian Civilisations Museum, Tang Shipwreck Collection

The swastika, an image that was transmitted to China with Buddhism via India, is read wan in Chinese and means “10,000.”

 

Four-lobed oval box with deer and lion decoration. China. Tang dynasty, ca. 825–50. Silver, parcel-gilt. H. 1 x W. 3 1/2 x D. 2 1/2 in. (2.5 x 8.9 x 6.4 cm). Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2005.1.00865 1/2 to 2/2. Photography by Asian Civilisations Museum, Tang Shipwreck Collection

 

Fan-shaped box with parrot and duck decoration. China. Tang dynasty, ca. 825–50. Silver, parcel-gilt. H. 1 x W. 3 1/2 x D. 2 1/2 in. (2.5 x 8.9 x 6.4 cm). Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, 2005.1.00868 1/2 to 2/2. Photography by Asian Civilisations Museum, Tang Shipwreck Collection

The Cargo: Mirrors

Chinese mirrors were generally cast of a copper alloy with enough tin to create a silvery color. One side is often elaborately decorative while the other is smooth and highly polished to create a reflective surface. The examplles found with the wreck are blackened from centuries under water. There were twenty-nine Chinese mirrors discovered in the shipwreck, most likely for trade rather than personal use by the crew. The majority of the mirrors are decorated with popular Tang Chinese patterns of lions, grapevines, and flying birds.  

Global Trade at the Time of the Belitung Shipwreck and Beyond

The Jewel of Muscat, a ship constructed based on the Belitung wreck and evidence of early West Asian shipbuilding, during sea trials off Oman. (Photography by Michael Flecker)

It is likely that the ship carrying the objects set sail from West Asia during the height of ninth-century maritime trade activity with China and Southeast Asia. This especially active period began around 829, when a Chinese edict granted imperial protection to foreign merchants operating in Guangdong, Fujian, and Yangzhou, and lasted to 879, the year Guangdong was sacked and large numbers of foreign merchants were killed by rebel leader and wealthy salt merchant Huang Chao and his followers.

China’s sea trade again became vigorous during the Song dynasty (960–1279) when ships began carrying Chinese goods from ports in East Asia to east Africa. The Chinese government also sent missions to Southeast Asia to encourage trading and Chinese ships began to challenge the prowess formally held by Indian and Arab merchant ships.

A new pattern of maritime trade emerged in the fourteenth century as Asia, Europe, and parts of Africa became more closely linked and long voyages were replaced by shorter journeys. The Malays, Javanese, and other peoples of Southeast Asia were especially active in interregional trade during this time. Melaka, on the Malay Peninsula, became the southeastern terminus for the great Indian Ocean maritime trading network and is said to have been the most active port in the world with a free trade policy and 15,000 merchants.
Beginning in the fifteenth century Europeans started to assert a role in the region, starting with the Portuguese explorers and adventurers. The Portuguese conquered Melaka in 1511, followed by the Spice Islands of Eastern Indonesia a few years later. Over the next several centuries the Spanish, the Dutch, the English, the French, and finally North Americans came to play major roles in Asian maritime trade.

The Ship

Forefoot of Jewel of Muscat showing sewn planks. (Photography by Alessandro Ghidoni, 2009)

The objects in Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia were once part of the cargo on a ninth-century wooden vessel. The discovery of this wreck gave us the first Maritime Silk Route trading ship constructed to ply the waters from West Asia to East Asia that we have been able to study. Parts of the stem, keel, keelson, floors, frames, beams, beam shelf, and a significant portion of planking survived the ravages of the ocean and time.

The Jewel of Muscat was a vessel based on the remains of the Belitung wreck. From the wreck, specialists could see that the planks of the ship were stitched together with rope, a technique that originated in the Arab world and still survives in Oman today. In the case of sewn-plank vessels, the shell of the hull is assembled first and then the framing is fitted, because it is not possible to sew planks where frames are in the way. To assure that the boat is water-tight, each plank has to be perfectly fitted to the next.

Sewing the stem to the forward end of the keel on Jewel of Muscat. (Photography by Alessandro Ghidoni, 2008)

 

Fitting Jewel of Muscat frames inside the shell of the hull. (Photography by Alessandro Ghidoni, 2009)

 

Jewel of Muscat just before launching in the Gulf of Oman. (Photography by Alessandro Ghidoni, 2009)

Related Programs & Events

LECTURE
Green, Blue, and White: The Tang Shipwreck Ceramic and Precious Metal Cargo and Global Trade in Medieval Asia
Monday, May 2• 6:30 pm

Scholar and curator John Guy explores the unique insights that shipwreck archaeology can bring to our understanding of historical trade and exchange.


SPECIAL EVENT
The Tang Dynasty Ball
Thursday, April 27

Please join us for a reception featuring live musical entertainment, fusion cuisine, dinner, and dancing.


PERFORMANCE
Soul Journey: Traditional Nanyin Music Reimagined
Wednesday, April 26 & Friday, April 28

Singapore’s Siong Leng Musical Association was founded in 1941 to promote and preserve traditional Nanyin music and Liyuan Opera.


EXHIBITION SYMPOSIUM
Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia
Keynote Address, Friday, April 21

Co-organized by Asia Society and the Tang Center for Early China at Columbia University.


MEMBERS-ONLY LECTURE
Connecting Empires: Shipwrecks, Ceramics, and Maritime Trade in Ninth-Century Asia
Tuesday, March 7 • 6:30 pm

Join Stephen A. Murphy for an in-depth perspective on the groundbreaking exhibition Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Dynasty Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia. Murphy is curator for Southeast Asia at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore, and curator-in-charge for the Tang Shipwreck Gallery.


All programs are subject to change. For tickets and the most up-to-date schedule information, visit AsiaSociety.org/NYC or call the box office at 212-517-ASIA (2742) Monday through Friday, 1:00-5:00 pm.

Credits

Secrets of the Sea: A Tang Shipwreck and Early Trade in Asia is co-organized by Asia Society and the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore. Objects are from the Khoo Teck Puat Gallery, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore. The Tang Shipwreck Collection was made possible by the generous donation of the Estate of Khoo Teck Puat in honor of the Late Khoo Teck Puat.

 

The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of Oscar Tang and Agnes Hsu-Tang, Ph.D. 

Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Mary Griggs Burke Fund; the Singapore Tourism Board; the National Heritage Board, Singapore; and Lisina M. Hoch. 

Additional support is provided by ICBC (Industrial & Commercial Bank of China).

Exhibition opening and lifestyle programming

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