Seminar by Visiting Scholar Chen Xufeng

News item posted on: February 2nd, 2011
Seminar on Environmental Liability Insurance in the Tibetan Region: An Assessment of Needs

Professor Chen Xufeng (Dechen)

On Monday, February 7th the University of Virginia Tibet Center hosts Visiting Scholar Chen Xufeng (Dechen) for a discussion of her research at the intersection of insurance law and the environment in China.

Chen Xufeng (Dechen) is an Associate Professor of Law at Minzu University in Beijing. Her research focuses on insurance law and environmental legal issues. Professor Chen has been a visiting scholar at the University of Virginia Tibet Center from 2010-11.

– UVA Campus: Nau Hall 342 at 5-6pm on Monday, February 7, 2011

Lecture by Bruce Rich

News item posted on: January 21st, 2011
A Call for a New Global Ethic from Ancient India

A Public Talk by Bruce Rich

The University of Virginia Tibet Center, the Center for South Asian Studies, and the Department of Religious Studies co-host author Bruce Rich for a discussion of his book “To Uphold the World: A Call for a New Global Ethic from Ancient India”.

In 1991, Bruce Rich traveled to Orissa and gazed upon the rock edicts erected by the Indian emperor Ashoka over 2,200 years ago. Intrigued by the stone inscriptions that declared religious tolerance, conservation, nonviolence, species protection, and human rights, Rich was drawn into Ashoka’s world. Ashoka was a conqueror who converted to Buddhism on the heels of a bloody war, yet his empire rested on a political system that prioritized material wealth and amoral realpolitik. This system had been perfected by Kautilya, a statesman who wrote the world’s first treatise on economics. In this powerful critique of the current wave of globalization, Rich urgently calls for a new global ethic, distilling the timely messages of Ashoka and Kautilya while reflecting on thinkers from across the ages—from Aristotle and Adam Smith to George Soros.

About the Speaker: Bruce Rich is a Washington, DC-based attorney who has served as senior counsel on international finance and development issues for major environmental organizations such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Rich has published extensively in environmental and policy journals, as well as in newspapers and magazines such as The Financial Times, The Nation and The Ecologist. He is the author of “Mortgaging the Earth”, a widely acclaimed critique of the World Bank and reflection on the philosophical and historical evolution of the project of economic development in the West. He has been awarded the United Nations Environment Program ‘Global 500 Award,’ the highest environmental prize of the United Nations, in 1988, and also won the World Hunger Media Award in that year for the best periodical piece on development issues.

– UVA Campus: Gibson Hall, Room 211

Lecture by Trent Pomplun

News item posted on: October 4th, 2010
Jesuit on the Roof of the World, Fr. Ippolito Desideri’s Mission to Tibet

Trent Pomplun, Associate Professor of Theology University of Loyola-Maryland

The St. Anselm Institute begins its 10th Annual Public Lecture Series at the University of Virginia on Thursday October 7th. We happily welcome back Trent Pomplun, Loyola University-Maryland Associate Professor of Theology. Professor Pomplun is a UVA alumnus, where he received his doctorate from the Department of Religious Studies.

Trent Pomplun is the author of numerous scholarly articles, coeditor of The Blackwell Companion to Catholicism (Basil Blackwell), and the author of the recent and widely acclaimed Jesuit on the Roof of the World: Ippolito Desideri’s Mission in Tibet (Oxford).

Prof. Pomplun’s 7:00pm talk on October 7 will focus on the fascinating trials and adventures of Ippolito Desideri, the Jesuit missionary priest who circumnavigated the globe and several cultures during his time in Tibet from 1715 to 1721.

The University of Virginia Tibet Center and the Department of Religious Studies are cosponsors of this public lecture. All are invited and welcomed to attend.

Lecture by George Dreyfus

News item posted on: September 29th, 2010
Can a Buddhist Be a Skeptic?

George Dreyfus, Jackson Professor of Religion, Williams College

In this talk, George Dreyfus will examine the nature of Madhyamaka arguments and the range of their interpretations within the Tibetan tradition by focusing on a particular author, Patsab Nyimadrak, an important Tibetan thinker from the eleventh century. The talk will shed light on these works from a historical perspective and reveal the pivotal role that Patsab Nyimadrak played in the transmission of Indian Buddhism to Tibet. Further exploration of these writings within the Tibetan philosophical tradition will confirm his originality as a unique example of thorough skepticism within this tradition. This event will conclude by reflecting on the nature of skepticism and the role that it can play within a Western appropriation of Buddhism.

Sponsored by the East Asia Center at the University of Virginia / Co-Sponsored by The Tibet Center

Lecture by Sun Shuyun

News item posted on: September 19th, 2010
Tibetan Dialogue:  Bridging the Gap?

Sun Shuyun, Filmmaker and Author

Writer and Filmmaker Shuyun Sun in Tibet

Writer/filmmaker Sun Shuyun will present her five-part BBC series A Year in Tibet. The film, made by a Tibetan and Han Chinese team in 2006-2007, followed the lives of eight ordinary Tibetans for a year in Gyantse, Tibet. It has been broadcast in over forty countries, including on the main channel of Chinese Central Television.  Sun Shuyun will discuss the reception of the film, and the accompanying book of the same title, in China and the West and by the Office of the Dalai Lama. She will also reflect on what this might imply for media communication on Tibetan questions.

After graduating from Beijing University, Sun Shuyun undertook an MPhil at Oxford with Micharl Aris focusing on British policy towards Tibet. As well as her film and book A Year in Tibet, she has directed and helped to make some of the most watched films on China for British and American televisions, including 1421: China Discovered AmericaMummies of the TakalamakanChina Atlas, and Half the Sky. She also wrote two other critically acclaimed books: The Long March and Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud, the story of her retracing the 7th century monk Xuan Zang’s journey from China to India and back.

Co-sponsored by the East Asia Center at the University of Virginia

UVa Directions/Map to: Nau Hall – New South Lawn Building

The Perspectives of a Contemporary Abbot

News item posted on: May 27th, 2010
The Perspectives of a Contemporary Abbot

Geshe Lharampa Yonten Dhamchoe

Geshe Lharampa Yonten Dhamchoe

Join the UVA Tibet Center for a talk by the 79th abbot of Drepung Gomang monastery in India where Geshe Lharampa Yonten Dhamchoe will share his perspectives on Tibetan Buddhist monastic organization.

In 2009, His Holiness the Dalai Lama appointed Geshe Lharampa Yonten Dhamchoe as the 79th Abbot of Drepung Gomang Monastery, South India. Khen Rinpoche is a highly accomplished scholar with over 30 years teaching experience who specializes in Madhyamika (Middle Way) Philosophy.

Learn more: Drepung Gomang Monastic College

UVa Directions/Map to: Cocke Hall

Minorities Studies and Tibet Research: A Seminar on Minzuxue

News item posted on: March 31st, 2010
Minorities Studies and Tibet Research in the PRC

A Seminar on Minzuxue with Professor Liu Zhiyang

On January 28, Visiting Professor Liu Zhiyang led a seminar on minorities studies and Tibet research in the PRC. The seminar provided UVa students and faculty a opportunity to learn about a research and scholarly field that has undergone a significant transition over the past generation.

A professor at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, Liu Zhiyang himself specializes in Tibetan studies and has conducted extensive field research, both in Lhasa and in the Tibetan-Yi corridor of Pingwu county and elsewhere on the Sino-Tibetan frontier. He has been resident at the University of Virginia through the Tibet Center over the past academic year.

In his seminar, Professor Liu discussed the meaning and direction of minzu xue in China. He also spoke on the direction that China’s Tibetan studies (zang xue) are heading. In particularly, he discussed the complexity of the term minzu. The concept has denoted different meanings at different times. Its translation into English has, correspondingly, led to some confusion. Today, according to Professor Liu, it is a politicized concept.

Liu Zhiyang contrasted the development of minorities studies with the discipline of anthropology (renleixue). Considered politically suspect, anthropology was eliminated as a field of study in China in favor of minorities studies. Today, the two fields have converged, with the one clear distinction that Chinese anthropology also includes within its purview the study of cultural difference among the “Han” nationality, while minorities studies does not.

Professor Liu recently returned to Guangzhou where he will continue teaching anthropology, minorities studies and Tibetan studies.

Contemporary Art in Lhasa, a Visual Introduction

News item posted on: March 15th, 2010
Contemporary Art in Lhasa, a Visual Introduction

by Ian Alsop

the-artistsContemporary Art in Lhasa explores the world of the young Tibetan artists who walk the borderline of artistic expression in a fast-changing world. Lhasa is a place which inhabits the imagination of so many people, but where the reality may come as a bit of a surprise. The talk will offer an introduction to the vital contemporary art scene in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and the artists who inhabit it. The presentation will draw heavily upon recent photographs.

Ian Alsop has been traveling regularly to Lhasa since his first trip in 1986, and since 1993 has represented several of the contemporary artists of Lhasa at his gallery in Santa Fe New Mexico. He also wrote one of the first articles on the subject for Orientations June 2007.

Ian Alsop lived in Kathmandu, Nepal from 1970 to 1988, where he eventually learned the Newari language and became a student of Nepalese cultural history. From 1980 he was involved in a project to produce a classical Newari dictionary, which is presently available on-line at He has written numerous articles on Nepalese and Tibetan art and culture in Orientations, Arts of Asia, and Artibus Asiae, and was a contributor to the MacMillan Dictionary of Art , The Art of Tibet: Towards a Definition of Style and the Marg volume on the Art of Nepal. He is also editor of an online Journal, He and his wife Lois own and run a gallery of Asian fine art in Santa Fe, Peaceful Wind, and the associated gallery of Himlayan Contemporary art, PWContemporary now both managed by their son Vajra.

Lhasa artists ca. 2005 – photo by and copyright Lois Conner


Lecture by Daniel Winkler – The Mushrooming Fungi Market

News item posted on: February 26th, 2010
The Mushrooming Fungi Market – Transforming rural Tibet

By Daniel Winkler, Tibeto-ecologist

Daniel Winkler in Nantong.

Daniel Winkler in Nantong.

The collection of wild edible fungi has a long-standing history in Tibet. Today, a wide variety of mushrooms is collected to supplement rural income. Because of the lucrative economic return, rural Tibetans have increased their gathering activities substantially. The trade of Dbyar rtswa dgun ‘bu (dongchong xiacao), as Tibetans know caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis), has developed into the main source of income in rural Tibet. It accounts for 40 percent of rural cash income and is spurring a globally unique commodification of fungi in the TAR. In 2008 the value of the best-quality Dbyar rtswa dgun ‘bu in Lha sa (Lasa) traded for around CN ¥80,000 (nearly US $12,000) per pound. The value of the 50 ton annual harvest of Cordyceps in TAR surpassed the value of the industry and mining sector in 2004. Most county agencies have established a permit system and require collectors to obtain licenses. The ever-growing economic importance of these fungi raises concerns regarding sustainability of current harvest levels and regarding the social impact of this annual income.

Daniel Winkler is a freelance “Tibeto-ecologist”. Trained as a geographer and ecologist (LMU in Munich and FU Berlin) Daniel specialized in rural development for High Asia. Daniel works as an environmental consultant and researcher living in Kirkland, Washington – USA. For the last twenty years his research and professional work focused on the environment of the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. Daniel’s special interest is balancing local landuse, nature-based income generation, and resource management to secure conservation and sustainable development for rural communities. Daniel has published in scientific journals on topics ranging from forest ecology and forestry to traditional landuse practices and medicinal plants and in recent years especially mushrooms. Most of his papers and much more (photo essays etc.) can be found on his website Daniel is also frequently leading tours to Tibet [].

Sponsored by TSGP and the Tibet Center at the University of Virginia

Lecture and Book Signing by Arjia Rinpoche – Surviving the Dragon

News item posted on: February 25th, 2010
Surviving the Dragon

Surviving the Dragon by Arjia Rinpoche

Surviving the Dragon is the story of Arjia Rinpoche’s growing up as the reincarnated abbot in Kumbum, one of Tibet’s major monasteries. His life in Tibet was one of great oscillations between fame and suffering. As a child, he was treated like a living Buddha; as a young man he emptied latrines during the Cultural Revolution. Then after the death of Mao Tse Tung, he rose to prominence within the Chinese Buddhist bureaucracy. He became Vice-chairman of the Buddhist Association of China and was slated to become its Chairman. At the height of his rise, he decided to flee China to the US, after being pressured to become tutor to the boy whom the Chinese government had controversially named the 11th Panchen Lama instead of the candidate selected by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The conflict was especially difficult for Arjia Rinpoche, since the 10th Panchen Lama had been his own teacher. As a result of his feeling that this would compromise his integrity as a Buddhist teacher in Tibet, he fled into exile rather than yield to the pressure.

Surviving the Dragon opens a window to events from inside Tibetan-Chinese history during the final half of the twentieth century, a conflict that continues today between China and its ethnic minorities.

Arjia Rinpoche will present the book to the public by giving a talk about his life and events in Tibet that took place during the time period of the book. In addition, he will sign copies of his book after the talk.

About the Author

Arjia Rinpoche is one of the most prominent Buddhist teachers and lamas to have left Tibet. At age two, he was recognized by the Panchen Lama as the 20th Arjia Danpei Gyaltsen, the reincarnation of Lama Tsong Khapa’s father, Lumbum Ghe, and the throne holder and abbot of Kumbum Monastery. He has trained with lineage teachers, such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Panchen Lama, and Gyayak Rinpoche–from whom he received many sacred teachings and ritual instructions.

During the Cultural Revolution, Arjia Rinpoche was forced to attend Chinese schools and work in a forced labor camp for sixteen years, yet secretly continued to practice and study with his tutors. Following the Cultural Revolution, Rinpoche served as Abbot of Kumbum, one of the greatest of monasteries in Tibet. He oversaw renovations in the monastery and the reestablishment of monastic studies, and also launched a variety of other projects, including:

    Red Cross Organization in Kumbum
    Disaster Relief Project for local villages
    Clinic for villagers run by monks of the Tibetan Medical Institute and
    School for local village children

In 1998, due to the strained political climate in Tibet, Arjia Rinpoche went into exile, stating that he would not compromise his spiritual beliefs and practices. He escaped to the United States and started the Tibetan Center for Compassion and Wisdom (TCCW) in Mill Valley, California. In 2005, he was appointed Director of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center (TMBCC) in Bloomington, Indiana by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Presently, he directs both TCCW and TMBCC. Both centers are dedicated to the preservation of Buddhist teachings, art and culture within and outside of Tibet and Mongolia.

Arjia Rinpoche is the only Tibetan high lama of Mongolian descent. Throughout his life, Arjia Rinpoche was tutored by specialized teachers in the area of Buddhist philosophy, sutra and tantra teachings, as well as in Buddhist art and architectural design.