Seeing and Being Seen: The Cultural Roles of Tibetan Thangka

Feb 13 10:00–11:30am
Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Ave., Cambridge

Yi Na (Yeshi Lhamo) (Associate Professor, Institute of Ethnic Literature, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences; HYI Visiting Scholar 2018-19)
Chair/discussant: Gregory Nagy (Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University)

*Please note early (10 am) start time*

Co-sponsored with the Fairbank Center

Thangka originally is a kind of scroll painting depicting Tibetan Buddhism images on textile. There are always contradictions that seem impossible to reconcile in contemporary Thangka art caused by differentiated cultural roles of Thangka. Thangka’s cultural meaning and role are disparate for different people: In the eyes of ordinary art admirers, Thangka is a painting full of Tibetan characteristics. In the eyes of traditional Thangka artists, Thangka's drawing process is the practice procedure, and finished product and placement environment forms a religious setting. Commonly, people will concentrate on how to "see" Thangka, as well as how to understand what Thangka “say.” However, the leadoff meaning of Thangka includes the coexistence and symbiosis of seeing and being seen. Through the eyes of Buddhas, we can observe how the viewed field is constructed by these two.