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The Ethics of Collective Sponsorship

Virtuous Action and Obligation in Contemporary Tibet

Jane Caple

A significant strand of anthropological work on Buddhist generosity practices in Theravādin and Tibetan Buddhist societies has examined their role in reproducing and reinforcing social and economic hierarchies. Inspired by the recent ‘moral turn’ in anthropology, this article addresses the moral dimensions of these practices by analyzing debates, decisions, and judgments about what to sponsor and how to do so during times of accelerated ‘modernizing’ change. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in northeastern Tibet (Amdo) conducted between 2008 and 2015, I focus on a mode of collective sponsorship that has, in different contexts, been considered good, problematic, or even wrong. The moral grounds for such evaluations show that sponsorship is evaluated and experienced not only as a Buddhist practice but also as a social and economic practice with direct consequences for both individuals and communities. The moral stakes of generosity practices are shown to extend beyond individual ethics to the common good.

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Jacques Samson

This reading of Hergé's Tintin au Tibet uses the notions of 'the daydream' and 'the haunting idea' in order to approach the text not at the level of its plot, but at that of the imaginary that underlies it, whose presence is betrayed through two series of obsessive reiterations and wordplays around the name of Tchang, the lost object of Tintin's quest. A digression via Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass establishes it as an important intertext, prefiguring Hergé's album in a number of ways: the metaphorical function of the chess game and its close association with the state of dreaming or daydreaming, and the way in which the use of language, particularly the proper name, becomes analogous to dreamwork as words exceed their literal meaning and slide along the signifying chain, destabilising meaning and identity. The article then focuses on Tintin au Tibet, demonstrating the key importance of the famous large panel on the second page, in which the word 'Tchang', cried out by Tintin on waking, is substituted by Hergé for any images of the dream itself. The reverberation of the word, and of words resembling it, is tracked through the remainder of the text, along with a more generalised problematic around proper names and a compulsive tendency to repetition, symptoms of an unconscious grappling with the elusiveness and fluctuating nature of self and other, ontological questions that linger after narrative resolution has been achieved.

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The White Cotton Robe

Charisma and Clothes in Tibetan Buddhism Today

Magdalena Maria Turek

Contextualized in discussions around charisma as originally conceived by Max Weber, this article examines the case of Tsültrim Tarchin, a charismatic adept from Eastern Tibet whose everyday dress consists of a specialized garment, a white cotton robe. Earned as a mark of virtuosity in the Tantric tummo practice and worn as a sign of an ascetic lifestyle, this robe functions as a key instrument in Tsültrim Tarchin’s charismatic actions. More than a repository of power and beyond insignia that signify privilege or superiority, the religious garment I consider in this article does not merely channel the routinized charisma of the lineage. It also effectively augments the master’s personal power through the performativity of its symbolism, while its real potency lies in structuring all meanings within the master’s network of influence.

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George Johnston’s Tibetan Interlude

Myth and Reality in Shangri-La

Paul Genoni and Tanya Dalziell

In 1945 Australian war correspondent and later novelist George Johnston undertook a journey on the Tibetan Plateau with fellow American correspondent James Burke. Johnston later wrote about this adventure in his memoir Journey Through Tomorrow (1947) as part of a wider account of his travels in Asia during the Second World War. This article considers the Tibetan section of his narrative with a focus on the influence of English novelist James Hilton’s Lost Horizon, with its depiction of a Tibetan utopia in the form of the lamasery of Shangri-La. In doing so the article considers Johnston’s text as an example of the challenge faced by travel writers in negotiating the territory between myth and reality in representing the ‘truth’ of their experience, and as a narrative that avoids the worst of the orientalizing traits of many other travelers’ accounts of Tibet.

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Assessing and Adapting Rituals That Reproduce a Collectivity

The Large-Scale Rituals of the Repkong Tantrists in Tibet

Nicolas Sihlé

lineages distributed across some of the villages, with rarely more than one such family line per village. 8 However, in some areas, for instance, in parts of the Himalayas or of Amdo/northeast Tibet, one finds larger concentrations at the village level

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The Elementary Economies of Dechenwa Life

Fortune, Vitality, and the Mountain in Sino-Tibetan Borderlands

Giovanni da Col

This article presents some images and conceptual structures surrounding notions of fortune and luck among Dechen Tibetans in southwest China and reflects on the strategies for negotiating the integrity of persons and other 'social containers'. First, it analyzes the problem in separating the multifarious manifestations of fortune connected to the well-being and vitality of persons and households. Secondly, it examines the ethnographic concepts arising from the interface between fortune and sovereignty by illustrating the cosmological imagination surrounding contemporary state rituals focused on the cult of Mt. Khawa Karpo. Finally, musing on the relation between vitality, containership, and alterity, the article highlights how tracing the flows of fortune problematizes the divide between interiority and exteriority, or the question of where the outside and the inside of a being or a society begin.

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The Artist at Work

Reading Originals in the Musée Hergé

Raphaël Taylor

The opening of the Musée Hergé at Louvain-la-Neuve in 2009 promises to have a significant effect on the reception of Hergé's works. Curated by Joost Swarte, it makes available to the public a broad and regularly updated selection of original artwork. This article considers what can be learned through a close inspection of Hergé's originals for Les Aventures de Tintin. A general description of their material features is followed by close readings of two examples (a sheet of pen-and-ink drawings and a sheet of preparatory pencil drawings) from Tintin au Tibet ['Tintin in Tibet']. By adopting a suitable reading method, we can recover hidden aspects of Hergé's creative process, thereby gaining a better understanding of how ideas for his bande dessinée narratives were developed and finalised during the act of composition.

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The Mule Caravans of Western Yunnan

An Oral History of the Muleteers of Zhaozhou

Ma Jianxiong and Ma Cunzhao

Mule caravans established a network across physical, political, and ethnic boundaries that integrated Southwest China, Southeast Asia, and Tibet. This article is a first exploration of this little-known mobile network. Based mainly on oral history, it focuses on the mule caravans based in Zhaozhou in western Yunnan from the late Qing to the 1940s, when the first motor roads were constructed. The investigation assembles horse and mule technologies and trade organization in detail in order to reconstruct the role and standing of transporters and their networks in local society, in the regional setting, in a volatile political environment, and in the face of challenging natural conditions.

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Smith in Beijing, Stalin in Urumchi

Ethnicity, political economy, and violence in Xinjiang, 1759–2009

Chris Hann

The extraordinary growth rates of China’s “reform socialist” economy have helped to finance not only the United States’ debt but also large-scale transfers to the country’s underdeveloped regions. Yet violence in Tibet in 2008 was followed in July 2009 by major rioting in Xinjiang. This article approaches the latter events through the analysis of contemporary labor markets, socialist policies toward ethnic minorities, and the history of Xinjiang’s incorporation into the Manchu empire. Theoretical inspiration for this longue durée analysis is drawn from Adam Smith, via Giovanni Arrighi’s recent reassessment of the Smithian market model; anthropological work points to flaws in this vision.

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By the shores of white waters

The Altai and its place in the spiritual geopolitics of Nicholas Roerich

John McCannon

The artist Nicholas Roerich, famous for his expeditions (1925-1928 and 1934-1936) to Central Asia and the Himalayas, was deeply fascinated by the Altai Mountains, which he visited in 1926 (even though he had emigrated from Soviet Russia in 1918). His interest in the region had partly to do with his scholarly theories about the origin of Eurasian cultures. Even more important were Roerich's occult beliefs. Ostensibly artistic and academic in nature, Roerich's expeditions were part of a larger effort to create a pan-Buddhist state that was to include southern Siberia, Mongolia, and Tibet. In the Altai, Roerich aimed to locate the legendary land of White Waters (Belovod'e) and build his capital there. Support for this 'Great Plan' came from American followers of Roerich's mystical teachings. In addition, by representing himself to Soviet authorities as someone who might foster anti-British resentment and pro-Russian feelings among the populations of Central Asia and Tibet, Roerich briefly piqued their interest. The Great Plan was never realised, but Roerich continued to believe in the Altai's magical properties.