CHS Seminar | Early Buddhist Figural Art in Zangskar

The Centre of Excellence for Himalayan Studies is organising a seminar that features a talk by Dr Rob Linrothe, Associate Professor Emeritus of Art History at Northwestern University, on the topic “Early Buddhist Figural Art in Zangskar: Tracing Sources Upstream" on Wednesday27 March 202412 PM.

Abstract of the talk: A reconsideration of the early Buddhist figural art of Zangskar contributes to the effort of unlocking our understanding of Zangskar from the prison of a miniature Tibetan Shangri-la, as it were. The in situ remains literally illustrate that before Zangskari artists and patrons were aware of Tibetan Buddhist sculpture and painting—perhaps even before there was any recognizably Tibetan Buddhist sculpture and painting for them to be aware of—they were making art aligned in form and meaning with those on their southern, western, and northwestern borders. Visual evidence from Zangskar presents a history that needs to be unmoored from Tibet or from that of Tibet. Early Buddhist figural art in Zangskar exhibit several different early modes of visual language that can be traced to the cultures surrounding the western Himalaya, including Tibet and Nepal, but not exclusively so.  In fact, the earliest such images are more usefully compared to contemporary art in Kashmir, Gilgit, and Himachal Pradesh, with late Gupta art of eastern India tantalizingly if distantly visible in the background.  To be sure, these are initial attempts to take seriously and account for works that are generally ignored or passed over.

This presentation derives from a chapter in a forthcoming book, Early Matters: Essays on the History of Buddhist Art in Zangskar, Western Himalaya, to be published in the spring of 2024 by Studio Orientalia, with more than 550 original photographs.