Spring 2017 Events:

Each semester the UVa Tibet Center hosts several internationally renown scholars, researchers, organizers, and other experts to speak on Tibet’s past, present, and future.

Friday, April 14th at 2pm

Wang Tingyu will present “Witchcraft, Ritualized Language, and War: Language Performance as an Borderland Interaction from the Archives of the Two Jinchuan Campaigns” in Nau 342.

Abstract: Contemporary discussions of rGyalrong Tibetans in Northwest Sichuan usually fall into debates regarding ethnicity, religion, and cultural authenticity, approaches which all constitute attempts to draw boundaries between rGyalrong and others so that rGyalrong Tibetans may be defined within fixed categories. This talk will suggest another approach which involves exploring the structure of borderland interaction that the Qing Empire brought to this area, and which can be revealed through an examination of ritualized language utilized during the Two Jinchuan Campaigns (1746-1749 and 1771-1776), which  took place within a wider military confrontation between the Qing Empire and the Sichuan rGyalrong Tibetans. Building upon work on ritualized language by Leach (1954), Kuhn (1990), and Scott (2009), this talk will demonstrate how the Qing Empire used different frameworks according to the audience in question, be they Tibetan, Mongol, Manchurian or Han Chinese, and further, highlight ambiguities within the Qing structure. I utilize formal bureaucratic documents and an examination of local rGyalrong strategies to better understand the ambiguity of interactions between borderland and empire, and offer it as a frame through which we can also understand the contemporary situation of Sichuan rGyalrong under the PRC.

Wang Tingyu is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology from the Institute of Anthropology, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. He received the Fulbright Doctoral Research Grant, and is currently a visiting researcher in UVA’s Anthropology Department. His research focuses on the kinship and social organization of rGyalrong Tibetan in Maerkang County, Aba Prefecture, Northwest Sichuan. 


Wednesday, April 5th at 6:30pm

As part of the Institute of World Languages (IWL) Spring Film Series at UVA, there will be a free film screening of “My Son Tenzin” including Q&A with Director/Producer Tashi Wangchuk, 125 Minor Hall.

Image courtesy of Serkhar Films.

About the film: A monk from Tibet arrives in Oakland in California on an unlikely mission: to meet his son after more than twenty years of separation. The son, Tenzin, however, is untraceable. Alone and helpless, a stranger in a strange land, the monk, Rabga, finds rescue in another Tenzin, a Tibetan taxi driver, who offers help in locating his son. The two embark on a journey – chasing clues, connecting dots, putting together pieces – and, along the way, discover things about themselves and each other that put in sharp relief the inescapable realities of their common fate: as a people of imperiled identity and vanishing culture. The story of loss and longing is infused with pathos and, at times, humor, arising from the clashing worlds of Buddhist heritage, Yellow Cab business, and Oakland’s Homelessness, among others.

Film trailer: http://www.seykharfilms.com/


Wednesday, March 15th at 4pm
Dorje Drolo, 18th c., LACMA

Dorje Drolo, 18th c., LACMA

Dan Hirshberg will speak on “Himalayan Syncretism and the Emergence of Padmasambhava as Rdo rje gro lod” in Nau 211.

Abstract: Padmasambhava, the renowned eighth-century tantrika credited with establishing Buddhism in Tibet, is scarcely noted among imperial-era sources, and yet he becomes the protagonist of a vibrant biographical tradition several centuries thereafter. One mode of defining him and his activities was through the introduction and delimitation of eight “names” (mtshan), each of which becomes associated with distinct qualities. Among them, the tiger-riding Dorjé Drolö (Rdo rje gro lod) emerged both nominally and iconographically as the synthesis of tantric Buddhism with indigenous Himalayan religions, thereby offering insight into the syncretism that produced a distinctly Tibetan Buddhism.

Dan HirshbergPh.D. is Assistant Professor of Religion at the University of Mary Washington. Specializing in the popular narrative of Tibet’s conversion to Buddhism and the attendant apotheosis of its protagonist, he published his first book, Remembering the Lotus-Born: Padmasambhava in the History of Tibet’s Golden Age, in October 2016. This event is co-sponsored by the East Asia Center and the Buddhist Studies Group.


Friday, February 17th at 3:15pm

Matthew Kapstein will present “Other People’s Philology: Uses of Sanskrit in Tibet and China, 15th-18th c.” in Monroe Hall 124.

Sakya Pendita Künga Gyeltsen (HAR 74044)

Abstract: The long Tibetan preoccupation with the translation of the Buddhist literature of India reached a dénouement of sorts during the 13th century, when, guided by the influence of Sa-skya Paṇḍita Kun-dga’-rgyal-mtshan (1182-1251), translators turned their attention increasingly to the Sanskrit language arts (Smith 2001, Kapstein 2003), including metrics (chandas, Hahn 1971), synonymics (abhidhāna), and tropology (alaṃkāraśāstra, van der Kuijp 1995). Although Tibetan Sanskrit studies grew decadent in some respects during the centuries that followed (Tucci 1957), a growing body of scholarship (Verhagen 1993, 2001; Lin 2011) has begun to show that Tibetan contributions in this field nevertheless merit close attention. With the appearance of newly discovered manuscript sources, moreover, it now seems that late Tibetan traditions of Sanskrit language learning have more to offer to contemporary research might have been previously imagined. The presentation proposed here will review the state of the field and introduce some of the resources that have only recently appeared. Developments in China inspired by Tibetan engagements with Sanskrit will be illustrated as well.

Professor Kapstein is Directeur d’études, École Pratique des Hautes Études and Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Chicago. Co-sponsored by the East Asia Center, the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion, and the Center for South Asian Studies.



Maitripa, 19th c. thangka, HAR 60674

Tuesday, January 17th at 5pm

Klaus-Dieter Mathes presented on “A Fine Blend of Mahāmudrā and Madhyamaka: Maitrīpa’s Collection of Works on Non-conceptual Realization” at 5pm in Nau Hall 342.  Professor Mathes is head of the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies at the University of Vienna. This event was co-sponsored by the Center for South Asian Studies and the Virginia Center for the Study of Religion.