Lecture by Yongdrol K. Tsongkha, Life Among the People of Choni

News item posted on: July 7th, 2009
Life Among the People of Choni:
A Lost Tibetan Kingdom
Yongdrol K. Tsongkha

Yongdrol K. Tsongkha

Choni is a beautiful place on the north-eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. Still rarely known to the western world, it was a Tibetan Principality with over 500 years of history and a vital cultural centre on the Chinese-Tibetan Borderlands. Eighty years ago, Joseph Francis Rock (1884-1962), one of the last classic explorers, geographer, linguist and botanist, set foot on the Tibetan Plateau, embarking on his extensive expeditions in this area. His remarkable article in National Geographic in 1928, “Life Among the Lamas of Choni,” was the first written piece to vividly reveal to the world the mysteries of the religious festivals in Tibetan monasteries. His works and studies were testimony to a lost culture and tradition. His extraordinary visual materials of the Chinese-Tibetan borderlands and its people is unique and remains invaluable to the history of this region. Beyond this, the man is a fascinating character and his personal papers are rich in the texture and personality of their author.

Eighty years later, this carefully crafted documentary follows in the footsteps of this legendary explorer. By blending over 500 original photographs from Rock’s expeditions with modern images, and by weaving an extensively research chronology via narration and excerpts from his dairies, the film not only shows how eastern Tibet looked in the 1920s, but also portrays how the same places and people look now. It is a memorial meeting of the east and west, a long lasting dialogue between the past and the present.

Lecture by Chu Shulong, China’s "Tibet Issue" in a Changing Global Era

News item posted on: April 3rd, 2009
China’s “Tibet Issue” in a Changing Global Era:
A View From Beijing
Professor Chu Shulong

Chu Shulong at the University of Virginia, April 8, 2009

Dr. Chu Shulong is a Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the School of Public Policy and Management and is the deputy director of the Institute of International Strategic and Development Studies at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. From September 2006 until June 2007 he was a visiting fellow at the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC. He was previously director for the North American Studies Division of the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations. He is also a Professor at China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Party School and an advisor to China’s Central Television (CCTV) international reporting. Dr. Chu’s research covers political theory and Chinese politics, international relations, focusing on U.S. China policy and the Sino-U.S. relations, Asian security, and Chinese foreign and security policies. His most recent publications include The Sino-US Relations in the Post-Cold War Era; Basic Theories of International Relations; The World, the U.S., and China; Political Theories; and a forthcoming book, The Peaceful Rise and Development: China’s Foreign Strategy and Policy. Dr. Chu received a B.A. from Dalian Foreign Languages University, an M.A. in Law from the Beijing University of International Relations, and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the George Washington University.

Autonomy and Nationalities Law in China: A Panel Discussion by Katherine P. Kaup, Peng Qian and Tashi Rabgey

News item posted on: March 3rd, 2009
China’s Nationalities Law: Prospects for Reform and Autonomy

Katherine P. Kaup, Furman University

Peng Qian, Central University for Nationalities, Beijing

Tashi Rabgey, University of Virginia

Sponsored by the East Asia Center

Lecture by Abraham Zablocki, The Dalai Lama and Taiwan

News item posted on: March 3rd, 2009
The Dalai Lama and Taiwan: The Globalization of Tibetan Buddhism and its Implications for Tibet, Taiwan, and China

By Abraham Zablocki, Agnes Scott College

The global spread of Tibetan Buddhism reveals a model of transnational complexity that extends our understanding of the dynamics of globalization. This paper explores the rapprochement between Taiwan and Tibetan exiles settled in South Asia and the consequences of this rapprochement for relations between both parties and China.
Tibetan Buddhism’s booming popularity in Taiwan created important religious and patronage links between the Tibetan diaspora and Taiwanese Buddhists, while also generating a framework for a transformed Tibetan-Taiwanese political relationship. These changes are simultaneously rooted in two very different cultural imaginaries: the mystique enjoyed by Tibetan tantric Buddhism in imperial-era China, and the global emergence of the Dalai Lama as an icon of transnational popular appeal. By exploring the intersection of these two imaginaries in the case of contemporary Tibetan Buddhism in Taiwan, the paper argues for an understanding of globalization and transnational complexity that can accommodate the interplay of multiple non-Western paradigms of tradition, modernity, and change, without using the West as the baseline against which globalization need be understood.

Sponsored by the East Asia Center and the Department of Anthropology

Lecture by John Flower, Reversing the Flow

News item posted on: March 3rd, 2009
Reversing the Flow: Place, Protest, and Hydraulic Engineering in Western Sichuan
By John Flower, Sidwell Friends, UVa

“Reversing the Flow: Place, Protest, and Hydraulic Engineering in Western Sichuan” explores the 2004 protests against the Pubugou dam in Hanyuan County as a case study of how cultural landscape informs local understandings of, and resistance to, global development schemes. The presentation maps out the many layers of meaning and historical memory in Hanyuan that the dam construction stirred to life, and looks more broadly at the current “re-engineering” of the fragile ecological and ethnic border zone along the Himalayan escarpment in western Sichuan.

Sponsored by the East Asia Center

Lecture by Dr. Amy Heller, Hidden Treasures from Dolpo

News item posted on: March 2nd, 2009
Hidden Treasures from Dolpo: Recent discoveries of Tibetan Manuscripts, Paintings and Sculptures

By Dr. Amy Heller, independent scholar affiliated with the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS, Paris), “Langues et Cultures de l’Aire Tibétaine”

The Tibet Center presents: Dr. Amy Heller will speak on the library of ancient (late 11th -15th centuries) Tibetan manuscripts discovered in Dolpo, a Himalayan region of Nepal, dr04_1244culturally closely connected with Tibet. She will set this discussion within the larger context of western Himalayas and Tibet. The presentation will include mural paintings and sculptures in metal and clay as well as the study of the manuscript illuminations and their dedications. Her book on this discovery is to be published by Serindia this spring.

Sponsored by the East Asia Center, Department of Religious Studies, Department of Art, and the South Asia Center

Lecture by Padma'tsho, A Cham Ritual of Padmasambhava

News item posted on: March 1st, 2009
A Cham Ritual of Padmasambhava in Tibetan Buddhism


By Padma’tsho, Southwest Nationalities Institute (Chengdu)

The first part of my talk explains that the Cham ritual of Padmasambhva is made up of three elements: the ritual of offering and reading scriptures; performing the Cham; and the empowerment of Padmasambhava, known as Lotus Light. The second part of my talk illustrates the Cham ritual of Padmasambhva. The Cham lasts ten days. Each of the two days of the Cham has its own meaning, called Skya-vchams and Dngos-gzhibut, each day requires a different means of performance. The Cham ritual of Padmasabhva has a total of eighteen parts and one of these parts has seventeen sections, so all together there are thirty-seven parts performed on the tenth day. In this talk, I will interpret the Cham ritual of Padmasabhva from four perspectives.

Sponsored by the East Asia Center

Lecture by Dr. Geoff Childs, Development Approach in Rural Tibet

News item posted on: February 1st, 2009
Development Approach in Rural Tibet

By Dr. Geoff Childs, Associate Professor, Sociocultural Ph.D., Indiana University

The Tibet Center presents: Rural Tibet is in the throes of major changes. Recent research has revealed that a number of intersecting factors have prompted most farming households to employ a new economic paradigm—“going for income,” i.e., seeking non-farm income outside of the village. As a result, over the past decade the rural economy has been transformed from one heavily reliant on subsistence farming to one where 75 percent of the average a2692household’s income derives from off-farm activities. Consequently, a new rural Tibet is emerging wherein farming households are making complex cost-benefit decisions about how to employ their human and non-human resources to participate in China’s new market economy. Along with this paradigm shift, the recent reorientation of the state’s development priorities in China’s Eleventh Five-Year Plan (2006-10) is also beginning to impact rural Tibet in ways that previous five-year plans have not. The current plan calls for a new “people-first” (ch. yiren weiben) approach to development in which the state commits large sums of money not only for large infra-structure programs, as in the past, but also for programs that reach directly to village households. The purposes of this paper are to analyze how the policy shift is being operationalized, and how it is impacting the lives of rural Tibetans.

Sponsored by the East Asia Center, Religious Studies, and the Department of Anthropology

Lecture by Manla Kyi, Language and Education Policy in Tibet

News item posted on: December 24th, 2008
The Development of Language and Education Policy in Tibet

By Manla Kyi (Manlaji), PhD Candiate, Faculty of Education, University of Hong Kong

Manla Kyi at the 2009 Education Symposium

Manla Kyi at the 2009 Education Symposium

Manla Kyi has extensive experience in teaching, research, and development work in Tibetan areas. Her research interests include language policy, language and minority rights, and multiculturalism in education. In the 1990s, she served as an English teacher and administrator at Qinghai Nationalities University in Xining, Qinghai Province, P.R.China. She has also worked as a program officer in education projects for a non-government organization in Tibetan areas of China. She holds a Master of Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and is currently completing a doctorate at the University of Hong Kong.

Lecture by Janet Gyatso, Intellectual History of Tibetan Medicine

News item posted on: December 24th, 2008
The Way of Humans in a Buddhist World:
Towards an Intellectual History of Tibetan Medicine

By Janet Gyatso, Harvard Divinity School’s Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies

Professor Janet Gyatso of Harvard University is one of the most important figures in Tibetan and Buddhist Studies, and is well known for her brilliant lectures in terms of content and style.

Janet Gyatso is a specialist in Buddhist studies with concentration on Tibetan and South Asian religious culture. Her books include Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary; In the Mirror of Memory: Reflections on Mindfulness and Remembrance in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism; and Women of Tibet. Her current book project is on traditional medical science in Tibet, its relation to modernity, and its relation to Buddhism. She has also been writing on conceptions of sex and gender in Buddhist monasticism, and on the current female ordination movement in Buddhism. Previous topics of her scholarship have included visionary revelation in Buddhism; issues concerning lineage, memory, and authorship; philosophical questions on the status of experience; and autobiographical writing in Tibet. Professor Gyatso was president of the International Association of Tibetan Studies from 2000 to 2006, and is now co-chair of the Buddhism Section of the American Academy of Religion. She teaches lecture courses and advanced seminars on Buddhist history, ritual, and ideas, and on Tibetan literary practices and religious history. In both teaching and writing she draws on cultural and literary theory, and is concerned to widen the spectrum of intellectual resource for the understanding and interpretation of Buddhist history. She leads an ongoing reading group for graduate students in Buddhist studies, and is the faculty director of the Buddhist Studies Forum. She is currently the director of Graduate Studies in the Committee on the Study of Religion, and is also a member of the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations as well as the Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies. She has chaired the Committee for the Study of Women and Gender, and is leading the development of a new track for the training of Buddhist lay ministers and leaders in the master of divinity program at the Divinity School. Professor Gyatso taught at Amherst College before coming to Harvard as the Divinity School’s first Hershey Professor of Buddhist Studies.

Co-sponsored by the Tibet Center, Center for South Asian Studies, Religious Studies Department, and the A&S Special Lectures.