Category Archives: Mongolia

Artists to undertake Himalayan journey in footsteps of Padmasambhava

6 August, 2013

TigersNest The Tiger’s Nest hermitage in Bhutan, one of the many Himalayan power spots associated with Padmasambhava.

On September 7, a team of American artists will begin a seven-week journey of creative discovery across Himalayan Asia, tracing the life and enduring resonance of Padmasambhava, the “Lotus-born” master who is said to have tamed the wild Asian frontiers, blazing the trail for the region’s enduring Buddhist way of life more than 1,200 years ago.

Entitled “Triptych Journey,” the project’s newly revamped website will allow you to follow in real time the poetry, visual artistry, film clips, and dance inspired by the power spots associated with Padmasambhava in Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal, and India. Continue reading


Exhibition showcases the tremendous aesthetic and material diversity of prayer beads from across Asia

Art Daily
3 August, 2013

Prayer Coral Prayer Beads, Tibet; 19th century coral, turquoise, jade, dzi, clay and silk; Rubin Museum of Art; Gift of Anne Breckenridge Dorsey; C2012.8.

NEW YORK, NY.- Created from precious and semi-precious stones, ivory, wood, seeds, and bone, the prayer beads explored in the Rubin Museum’s exhibition, Count Your Blessings: The Art of Prayer Beads in Asia, exemplify the aesthetic and material diversity and devotional importance of these objects from across Buddhist Asia. Opened on August 2, 2013, the exhibition examines the origins, uses, and significance of prayer beads in the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, and Burma. The nearly 80 featured sets of prayer beads come predominantly from the private collection of Anne Dorsey, who gathered them over 20 years while traveling throughout Asia looking for rare and complex examples—approximately 40 of the works on display have been given to the Museum’s permanent collection.

On view through March 24, 2014, the exhibition delves into the histories and varied uses of prayer beads, emphasizing how their arrangement, complexity, materiality, and visual attributes reference their symbolic meaning, practical use, or status. The show addresses the importance of the structure and number of beads in a set to their function in religious practice. Count Your Blessings also includes a few select examples of prayer beads from the Christian, Islamic, and Hindu traditions to help orient audiences and provide parallels with more familiar objects of similar purpose, such as rosaries. Tibetan scroll paintings or thangkas depicting prayer beads as the prominent attributes of the subjects lend an additional visual experience to the exhibition of predominantly three-dimensional objects.

“Count Your Blessings provides us with an opportunity to explore shared cultural approaches to the use of prayer beads in personal devotional practices, chanting, recitation of mantras, and as signs of status, and to highlight their enduring significance from centuries ago to the present day,” said Rubin Museum Curator Elena Pakhoutova. “Prayer beads find expression outside of their immediate cultural context and play a role in our contemporary existence. We are excited to help our diverse audiences find connections between the prayer beads’ traditional meanings and their own lives, and to share the exquisite beauty in their creation.”

The installation will feature interactive components, including a touch screen that will show photographs of contemporary practitioners throughout Tibetan areas of the Himalayas using prayer beads. Various examples of prayer beads made of different materials will allow visitors to experience them in the traditional way, as they would be by Buddhist practitioners. Visitors will also be able to view and read descriptions of select and most representative prayer beads on their hand-held devices and listen to a podcast as well as an audio tour.

Highlights from the exhibition, include:
• A set of turquoise prayer beads from 19th-century Tibet made of turquoise, bone, and silver. Turquoise, considered a jewel and highly regarded by Tibetans, is one of the best materials for prayer beads. Together with beads made of carved bone, which serve as separators, the set is suitable for wrathful deity practices. Its materials denote the high status of its owner. It once belonged to a princess of Derge, in eastern Tibet. The set is among those given to the Museum by Anne Dorsey.
• Rudraksha prayer beads from 19th-century Tibet made of rudraksha, silver, ivory, amber, agate, carnelian, turquoise, and two copper ear picks. Dried berry of the rudraksha tree is named after the wrathful god Rudra, a manifestation of Shiva. In Buddhism, they are employed in the mantra recitations of wrathful deity practices. Rudraksha, the “eye of Rudra/Shiva”, is said to be especially associated with the Ancient (Nyingma) Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The lore of the legendary Indian master Padmasambhava’s visit to Tibet tells a story of his “rosary,” made of rare six-lobed rudrakshabeads that broke. When they were picked up, a few of the beads remained on the ground, and these took root, becoming the source of six-lobed beads treasured by Tibetans. The set is among those given to the Museum by Anne Dorsey.
• Wooden prayer beads with six large separator beads from 19th–20th-century Japan. This unusual set consists of 540 beads and belongs to the Japanese Shingon Buddhist School. Six large separator beads have hollowed out interiors and glass “windows” with bronze frames, which contain small wooden sculptures of deities identified by inscriptions.
• A pressed incense hand “rosary” from 20th-century China made of pressed incense, rose quartz, and kingfisher feather. This hand rosary set exemplifies the combination of the aesthetic, medicinal, and symbolic attributes ascribed to the beads. The pressed incense wrapped in kingfisher feathers would emit a faint fragrance while handled, as it would be heated by the warmth of the fingers. The kingfisher bird is a traditional Chinese symbol of well-being and longevity. The set is among those given to the Museum by Anne Dorsey.


Mongolia: Preservation Challenges Confront Trove of Buddhist Texts

February 13, 2013
Pearly Jacob Mongolia

mongolia text

A staff worker shows off some of the manuscripts crowding the storage rooms at the National Library of Mongolia. With limited storage space, library staff make best use of available room, minding the fragile state of the documents as best they can. (Photo: Pearly Jacob)

The National Library in Ulaanbataar has become an invaluable repository for Buddhist manuscripts in a region where many originals were destroyed under communist rule. Among the highlights is a collection of Sanskrit verses by Nagarjuna, a 2nd-century Indian Buddhist philosopher. But the museum has also had trouble maintaining and cataloguing the collection.

Scholars believe it to be the world’s largest treasury of ancient Buddhist texts. The sheer immensity of the collection held in the National Library of Mongolia has prevented a proper tally to date. Continue reading

Photo Essay: Mongolia’s Nomads

Global Oneness Project
By Taylor Weidman

Residents of Ulaanbaatar set paper lanterns afloat.

Residents of Ulaanbaatar set paper lanterns afloat at an event celebrating the birth of Buddha.

Mongolian pastoral herders make up one of the world’s last remaining nomadic cultures. For millennia they have lived on the steppes, grazing their livestock on the lush grasslands. But today, their traditional way of life is at risk on multiple fronts. Alongside a rapidly changing economic landscape, climate change and desertification are also threatening nomadic life, killing both herds and grazing land. Due to severe winters and poor pasture, many thousands of herders have traded in their centuries-old way of life for employment in mining towns and urban areas. Most herders who stay on the steppe push their children to pursue education and get jobs in the cities believing that pastoral nomadism is no longer a secure or sustainable way of life.

This essay features a selection of images from the book, Mongolia’s Nomads: Life in the Steppe, sold by the Vanishing Cultures Project. Proceeds go towards supporting cultural initiatives in Mongolia.


Shamanic Skies: contemporary masters from Mongolia

Atlanta, GA

7:00pm — 10:00pm
exhibit will run through September 7th

For more than two thousand years the Mongols have dominated the center of the Silk Road. Here, under the guidance of the great Khaans like Genghis and Kublai, the ancient traditions of shamanism and Indo-Tibetan Buddhism merged into a profound stream. The vast influence of Mongolia on Euro-Asian civilization is only now being fully appreciated.

KAI LIN ART is delighted to join in the celebration of this inspiring and magical legacy by hosting an exhibition with some of Mongolia’s greatest young artists whose works bring together the integrity of tradition and the creative impulse of the contemporary aesthetic…


Buddha in the Yurt

Buddha in the Yurt
Buddhist Art from Mongolia

Edited by Carmen Meinert

Distributed for Hirmer Publishers
With Photographs by Achim Bunz
840 pages | 550 color plates | 9 1/2 x 11 2/5
Cloth $179.00 ISBN: 9783777443515 Published March 2012 For sale in Canada, Mexico, and the USA

Since the introduction of Buddhism to Mongolia in the seventeenth century, art has emerged as an important component of Buddhist culture. Drawing on a large privately owned collection of Mongolian and Tibetan art, this volume reproduces a carefully chosen selection of paintings, scrolls, statues, shrines, amulets, tablets, and ritual implements dating as far back as the eleventh century. From Zanabazar’s bronze cast Buddhas to the numerous gorgeous images of Indian siddhas, Tibetan masters, protective deities, and boddhisatvas, the objects reflect the broad scope of artistic influences in Buddhist art ranging from Tibet to the Qing Dynasty in China. Accompanying each illustration and adding depth to the volume are descriptions that situate the work within Buddhist iconography and the rich symbolism of the Tantric Buddhist tradition. At the end of the volumes are comprehensive English and Russian glossaries (and respectively German and Mongolian glossaries with 450 entries each; for all entries the respective translations in four languages are provided (Mongolian, Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese).

All of the artworks appear here for the first time in print, making this an essential addition to the literature on East Asian religion, culture, and art. Continue reading

Types of Buddhist dance

The UB Post (Mongolia)

The ‘tsam’ performance with masks is a pantomime mystery play, and for this reason these performances are part of ceremonial services held by Buddhists. The word is of Tibetan origin and means dance. Today we present the genres of ‘tsam.’

Milaraspa tsam
Milaraspa tsam is named after the Tibetan hermit Mila. It is based on the legends of the life of the famous poet and recluse of the Red Church, Mila with the Cotton Cloth. The tsam contains dialogues for actors, which were also put down in hand-written textbooks. The best known of these textbooks is called ‘Dance of the Protector of the Thunderbolt.’

Geser tsam
The God of War Geser was considered to be the patron saint of the family of the Manchurian Emperor. He guaranteed good luck for the hunt and he was the destructor of enemies and demons. He is also called “The Son of Heaven.”

There are several well-known performances of the Geser Tsam, including in the west, in the monastery of the Holy Chutuktu Ulaguksan and in the vassal monastery of the ruler Dalai Choinchor-wan; these two monasteries, situated in Northern Mongolia also contained a faculty for studying mystics.

In Eastern Mongolia in the monastery of the ruler Sansaraidordschi in today’s city of Tschoibalsan (Bajan-Tumen) in Eastern Aimak the monastery even included a Geser temple.

Erlik tsam
This is the ‘Dance of the Iron Palace’ The main role in this tsam is Erlik Nomun Khan, the Lord of the Law, also known as ‘Choijoo’ (God of Death).