Hi guest, Register | Login | Contact Us
Welcome to Phayul.com - Our News Your Views
Wed 21, Aug 2019 11:28 PM (IST)
Search:     powered by Google
Photo News
Statements &
Press Releases

Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
News Discussions
News Archives
Download photos from Tibet
 Latest Stories
Expelled nuns subjected to psychological and sexual abuse in Chinese detention centers: Tibetan researcher
His Holiness reassures Tibetans of his "excellent health"
Tibetans in Dharamshala march in solidarity with Hong Kong
CTA will lobby for a revised, updated Tibet Policy Act : President Sangay
OHHDL Secretary says Chinese people's support inevitable to resolve Tibet issue
Panellist at "Second 5-50 Youth Forum" suggests CTA pay more attention to art and culture in Tibet
Integrate but don’t assimilate: CTA President at the inaugural ceremony of the Second 5-50 Youth Forum
Standoff between protestors and police in Hong Kong continues into 11th week
Case No. 20 reviews procedure of Representative’s dismissal
Three monks from restive Ngaba held incommunicado in Chinese prison
 Latest Photo News
Nearly 3000 Students from eight countries listened to teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Three day annual teachings for youth began today. June 3, 2019. Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is being escorted to the teaching site at Tsuglakhang temple, May 13, 2019. Phayul Photo: Kunsang Gashon
More than a thousand Tibetans, Uyghurs and supporters protest in Paris to denounce China's repression in Tibet. Xi Jinping will be on an official visit to France from Monday. Under a canopy of flags with snow lions, protesters marched from the Trocadero Human Rights Square to the Peace Wall at the other end of the Champ de Mars. 25 March 2019. Phayul photo/Norbu Wangyal
more photos »
Tibet: The sound of artifacts disappearing
Los Angeles Times[Tuesday, January 29, 2008 14:40]
How much more of the world's treasures do museums need?

By Craig Childs

Photo courtesy <a href="http://woeser.middle-way.net/" target="_blank">Woeser’s Blog</a>
Photo courtesy Woeser’s Blog
January 29: In old lhasa, holy city of Tibet, stands the sacred Jokhang Temple. Inside Jokhang is a golden statue of Buddha, the most revered statue in Tibet. It was brought as a dowry from China in the 7th century, when a Chinese princess married a Tibetan king. The statue marks not only the wide-scale introduction of Buddhism to Tibet but a crucial union in a long history of alliances and wars between two nations.

Pilgrims by the thousands arrive daily in Lhasa, masses of them walking in the same sacred direction around Jokhang. The fact that the statue is still there to worship is a surprise. Tibet, like so many places, has been scraped out like a gourd, its antiquities smuggled away.

There are plenty of buyers, and most of them are not in Lhasa. The biggest sellers of Asian artwork in Japan, Europe and the U.S. have dealers handle all the logistics, ushering artifacts through customs so collectors don't have to.

Last week, federal agents raided four Southern California museums, seeking artifacts and records linked to the owner of the Silk Roads Gallery in Los Angeles and to an alleged art smuggler. The gallery has been a favorite of celebrities and discerning nabobs, offering a large selection of Ming and Qing dynasty Buddhist statuary as well as pieces from across East Asia, including Tibet.

How much more of the world's artifacts do we need?

In museum collections across the country, ancient bowls are stacked because there is no more room. I have walked the astonishing corridors locked within the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the overstocked storage space of the Peabody at Harvard University -- four stories of towering pre-Columbian ceramics. I say enough is enough.

A recent study of collections held in public trust in the United States found that 40% of all stockpiled artifacts are in unknown condition. Curators who actually work with their collections -- rather than in well-paid office positions -- complain of bags splitting open and boxes decaying. Some artifacts are being "de-accessioned" -- sold to collectors -- or in some cases, as with samples and specimens, tossed in the trash.

A young Tibetan boy rests at a ruined Buddhist site in Tibet. (Phayul.com / photo courtesy Woeser’s Blog)
A young Tibetan boy rests at a ruined Buddhist site in Tibet. (Phayul.com / photo courtesy Woeser’s Blog)
Shift your focus off the raids in Los Angeles for a moment. Look back to Tibet, where, for every artifact on display or in storage somewhere else in the world, there is a hole. A hole in a shrine, a hole in a tomb, a hole in a people's history. The statue at Jokhang is one of the fortunate few that remain. Nearly all the rest are replicas.

If a missing artifact has not been smuggled out, it has probably been destroyed. When the Chinese overthrew Tibet in 1960, tanks leveled the monasteries.

Looking for tangible remains of Tibetan history, I traveled to a remote monastery northeast of Lhasa, once one of the oldest in Tibet. In its day, it was a fortress of golden spires pointing at the sky. Now, you can buy pieces of it and scavenged statues from shady characters.

What is here now is but a meager reconstruction. I met a young monk who explained that when Chinese soldiers came in 1950, they killed or imprisoned the monks living here. But one monk escaped. He fled into the mountains with a set of 1,000-year-old texts. These were the holiest of writings in this part of Tibet, the founding prayers from the earliest days of Tibetan Buddhism. They belonged to this monastery alone.

For decades, the monk kept these texts hidden. In the early 1980s, the political climate began changing, and the monk reemerged with them. With the prayers returned, the monastery could be rebuilt.

Now pilgrims have begun to come back, leaving offerings of money and carved stones. After spending five days in the monastery, I finally asked to see the ancient texts. The young monk took me into a room filled with sculptures of gods and kings, all recent purchases from Nepal and India. He unlocked a small wooden door and pulled out a block of parchment wrapped in tanned leather. The sheave of long, narrow parchments were covered front and back with intricate calligraphy, an ancient script that few but lamas can read.

Something like this would perhaps be auctioned at Sotheby's for several thousand dollars. The actual price is the history of a monastery and the lives of monks.

Every artifact that passes through our borders comes with a silent story such as this. Knowing that we have emptied much of the world of these precious secrets, this would be a good time to stop and breathe, and to let go our grip.

When the monk finished showing me the texts, he wrapped them and returned them to their safe place. There they will remain for as long as the monks can hold on to them.

Craig Childs is the author, most recently, of "The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild."
Print Send Bookmark and Share
  Readers' Comments »
Be the first to comment on this article

 Other Stories
IUSY World Congress’ Resolution reaffirms Tibet as an independent state
China reports bird flu outbreak in poultry in Tibet
Tibet: The sound of artifacts disappearing
Grand Losar Fiesta in Kathmandu to go big
Deaths Related to Olympic Stadium Construction Under Scrutiny
Photo Galleries
Phayul.com does not endorse the advertisements placed on the site. It does not have any control over the google ads. Please send the URL of the ads if found objectionable to editor@phayul.com
Copyright © 2004-2019 Phayul.com   feedback | advertise | contact us
Powered by Lateng Online