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Upcoming TCSRS Events

All events are free and open to the public


Spring term 2019


Thursday, February 21, 2019, 5 pm
Mongol ‘Translations’ of a Nepalese Stupa:
Architectural Replicas and the Cult of
Bodnāthe Stūpa/Jarung khashar in Mongolia

Isabelle Charleux, CNRS, Paris
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

Image of Stupa

The cult of the Nepalese stupa of Bodnath (Tib. and Mo. Jarung Khashor) was very popular in 19th and early 20th century Mongolia and especially in Buryatia, as testifies the translation into Mongolian of a famous guidebook to Bodnath, a corpus of Mongolian oral narratives, the many thang-kas and amulets depicting the Bodnath Stupa along with a Tibetan prayer, and the existence of architectural replicas in Mongolia, probably to create surrogate pilgrimages to Bodnath. I will focus on these architectural replicas and try to explain how the Nepalese architecture was ‘translated’ to Mongolia, and try to understand whether the differences between the original and the replicas are due to local techniques and materials, to the impossibility of studying the original, or to the distortions induced by their mode of transmission. Has the original building been reinterpreted to the point of transforming its meaning? Is the replica of an architecture accompanied by the replica of possible cultic practices associated with it?

Isabelle Charleux is director of research at the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris) and deputy director of the GSRL (Group Societies, Religions, Laicities, National Centre for Scientific Research – Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes-PSL, Paris). Her research interests focus on Mongol material culture and religion. She published Nomads on Pilgrimage. Mongols on Wutaishan (China), 1800-1940 (Brill, 2015) and Temples et monastères de Mongolie-Intérieure (Paris, 2006), as well as scholarly articles on various topics such as miraculous icons in in Mongolia, Inner Mongolian mural paintings, and visual representation of past and present figures of authority in the Mongol world.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies and the Mongolian Initiative.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 5pm
Calculation and Cosmography:
Formal Continuities in Buddhist Art along the Gansu Corridor,
from Dunhuang to Labrang Monastery

Jon Soriano, UC Berkeley
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

image for Soriano talk

While the art history of the overland silk road seems distinguished by its continual flux, as disparate visual regimes flowed in and out over the centuries, the art in question is also marked by strong formal continuities specific to its regions, as well as certain adaptations to global paradigms. This talk adopts Kublerian concepts of 'shape' and 'sequence' to identify a formal series instantiated by a range of Buddhist objects and sites, a series structured by an underlying drive toward exactitude. Objects in this series are concatenated from recent fieldwork at a variety of sites along the silk road in western China, primarily around Gansu and Qinghai Provinces. These sites include early and later Dunhuang caves, the 18th century architecture at Labrang Monastery, and various places in between. Positing such a continuity may help shape a larger concept of Buddhist art history.

Jon Soriano is a PhD Candidate in the History of Art department at UC Berkeley, working with his advisor Pat Berger on a dissertation regarding the material culture of the Kālacakra tantra between the Gelugpa Gaden Phodrang and the Qing court. Jon has master's degrees in Asian Studies and Ethnology, and has worked for the National Palace Museum in Taipei and the Berkeley Art Museum. He is the current recipient of the Dallan and Karen Leong Clancy Fund for Silk Road Studies, as well as funding from the Dunhuang Foundation.


Wednesday, April 17, 2019, 5 pm
Visual bilingualism and the funerary space:
Keys to understanding the spatial semiotics of Central Asian tombs in 6th century China

Pénélope Riboud, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

Riboud Illustration

The dominant religion of pre-Islamic Sogdiana was a local form of Zoroastrianism, and this has led most scholars to assume a correlation with the religious beliefs and practices within the Sogdian community settled in China. And indeed, many aspects of these tombs show that Central Asian funerary practices were maintained. However, some aspects of “Sino-Sogdian” tombs, such as the treatment of the corpses, the spatial organization of the tomb and the visual repertoire remain puzzling within the frame of any specific religious belief. These “discordances” have often been interpreted as compromises, and mere consequences of the need to adapt to a complex cultural environment. This talk will investigate these hidden funerary riddles, in order to understand what they tell us about the tomb’s owner, his beliefs and moreover, what were the deliberate strategies engaged to build a bilingual iconographic program that fits in both Chinese and Sogdian narratives of the after world.

Pénélope Riboud, an Assistant Professor of Chinese History and Art History at Inalco in Paris, is a historian and an art historian who focuses on the society and visual culture of Medieval China. She was trained in France as a historian and an archaeologist at Université Paris 1- Panthéon Sorbonne, then as a sinologist at the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (Inalco-Langues’O) in Paris where she received her PhD in 2008. She is currently spending a year as Visiting Research Scholar at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University.