Spring 2018 Events:

Each semester the UVA Tibet Center hosts several internationally renowned scholars, researchers, organizers, and other experts to speak on Tibet’s past, present, and future. Additional Tibet- and Himalaya-related events from around the university are also posted here.


Secular and Political Mural Art from Himalayan Lands: Sikkim, Nepal, and Bhutan

A Lecture by Historian John Ardussi

Monday, March 26th, Rouss Hall 410, 5:15-6:45pm

Students of Himalayan cultures will be familiar with the many forms of Buddhist and Hindu art, whose primary focus is the portrayal of saints, deities and meditative objects such as the mandala.  In recent decades, influenced by modernity and globalizing culture, there have arisen forms of mural art focused on socio-political themes. In this lecture I will cover three very different examples from Sikkim, Nepal, and Bhutan. We will examine the work of emerging artists from these countries, discussing the origin of their distinctive visual iconographies and the international political milieu in which they are connected in terms of relationships with China, Tibet, and India.

Dr. John A. Ardussi is a private scholar and senior research fellow at the University of Virginia, Religious Studies Dept.  He received his PhD (1977) in Asian Civilizations from Australian National University with a thesis on the history of Bhutan. His research focuses on 16th century – recent Himalayan history, culture and economics. He has written extensively on Bhutan and Tibetan studies.

Co-sponsored by the East Asia Center and the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.


Old Solutions for New Problems: How Documentation of Cultures Contribute to Sustainable Development in Bhutan

Lecture by Bhutanese Scholar Karma Phuntsho

Wednesday, March 28th, Nau Hall 342, 5:30-7:00pm

Photo of Karma Phuntsho by Matthieu Ricard.

In the absence of military might or economic power, Bhutan has often claimed that its sovereignty hinges on its rich cultural heritage. Culture is also seen as the main bulwark against the negative and disrupting influences of modernization and globalization. Yet, very little study has been undertaken so far to chart and assess the significance of Bhutan’s cultural heritage as a whole. The project “Documentation of Bhutan’s Oral Traditions” administered by University of Virginia has provided the first opportunity to comprehensively study Bhutan’s oral and intangible cultures. Besides recording the vanishing and endangered cultural ideas and practices in digital recordings, the project could systematically study the evolution of Bhutan’s cultural traditions, create an extensive inventory of the diverse practices, enhance scholarly discourse on culture, and help shape the course of Bhutan’s future through a better articulation of its cultural situation, needs, prospects and policies.

(Dr) Lopen Karma Phuntsho is the Director for Shejun Agency for Bhutan’s Cultural Documentation and Research. He was a Research Associate at Department of Social Anthropology and Spalding Fellow for Comparative Religions at Clare Hall, Cambridge University and a researcher at CNRS, Paris. Dr Phuntsho finished full Tibetan Buddhist monastic training in Bhutan and India before he joined Balliol College, Oxford to read Sanskrit and Classical Indian Religions. He received a D.Phil. in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford. He was also a visiting fellow at Harvard, a lecturer at Ngayur Nyingma Institute, Mysore and acting abbot of Shugbseb Nunnery, Dharamsala before he joined Oxford.

Dr Phuntsho’s earlier works were in Buddhist philosophy, epistemology, Tibetan language and religion. His current researches focus on Bhutanese historiography, socio-cultural changes in Bhutan and intervention through education, books and manuscripts in the Buddhist Himalaya and the exploration and preservation of Bhutan’s cultural heritage. He is a leading expert on Bhutan and the author of several books and numerous articles. He founded the Loden Foundation, a charity to promote education and entrepreneurship in Bhutan.

He is the author of the books Mipham’s Dialectics and the Debates on Emptiness: To Be, Not to Be Or Neither (2005), History of Bhutan (2013) and The Autobiography of Terton Pema Lingpa (2015), among others.


Buddhist Murals in the Caves of Ngari, Western Tibet

A Lecture by Zhang Changhong (Palace Museum, Beijing)

Thursday, April 19th, location and time TBA

This event is part of the UVA East Asia Center Spring Lecture Series.

In the past decades, many Buddhist caves with exquisite murals have been found in Ngari, TAR, China which reflect the revival and flourishing of Buddhism in the remote western Tibetan area from the end of the tenth century to the seventeenth century. The discovery of these caves provides important materials for the study of Tibetan Buddhist art history and religious culture.In this lecture, a brief introduction to the Buddhist murals in the caves of Ngari will be given, along with a preliminary dating based on the analysis of the artistic style and themes of the murals. Murals from ten representative caves of different periods will be presented.


Zhang Changhong received her B.A, M.A. and Ph.D in Archaeology and Museology from Sichuan University. From 2000 to 2015, she worked and taught in the Center for Tibetan Studies of Sichuan University, Chengdu, China. As of 2016, she is an associate professor and then a professor in 2017 with the Palace Museum, Beijing. She is also the Deputy Editor-in-chief of Journal of Tibetan Studies published by the Center for Tibetan Studies of Sichuan University. For the 2017-18 academic year, she is a coordinate research scholar of Harvard Yenching Institute.