Dongkarla Kunzang Choling, Paro
Bodhisattva Manjushri, 18th century
Ink and mineral colors on cotton
Height: 201 x Width: 100 cm
Trashigang Gönpa, Thimphu
(Cat. no. 20)
Monks of Trashigang Goempa assisting
the exhibition team in the examination
of thangkas, 2006
The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan
February 26 - May 23, 2008
To most outsiders, Bhutan is a land of mystery. Known in Dzongkha, the official language of Bhutan, as Druk Yul (Land of the Thunder Dragon), Bhutan is situated in the Himalayas, east of Nepal and west of Myanmar (Burma), between Tibet and the Indian state of Assam. On its northern border, Bhutan is flanked by some of the highest mountains in the world.
The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan is a major exhibition that focuses on the Himalayan kingdom’s Buddhist art and culture. The exhibition explores Bhutan’s cosmology and worldview through the window of its sacred visual arts and ritual dance (Cham), using Buddhism and the local pre-Buddhist religion (which includes elements of animism and shamanism), as lenses through which to explore Bhutanese culture.
The exhibition, coordinated by Guest Curator Terese Tse Bartholomew (Curator of Himalayan Art at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco) and Assistant Exhibition Curator John Johnston, includes over one hundred works of art, the vast majority of which have never been seen before outside of Bhutan. Shown here are thankas (paintings), gilt bronze sculptures, textiles, and ritual objects, all made for use in a Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhist context. These works of sacred art range in date from the seventh through nineteenth centuries A.D.
The Dragon’s Gift introduces such key Buddhist masters in Bhutan’s history as Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche, 8th century, who first brought Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan), Pema Lingpa (1450–1521, a famous “Treasure Revealer”), Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529, the “Divine Madman”), and Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594–1651, the unifier of Bhutan), and such key religious figures as Buddhas, bodhisattvas (including the powerful female deities Tara and Prajnaparamita), and wrathful deities (including Mahakala and Yamantaka).
Organized by the Honolulu Academy of Arts in conjunction with the Department of Culture, a branch of the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the exhibition coincides with the end of the lunar year marking the one hundredth anniversary of the Royal Wangchuck Dynasty. The exhibition’s timing is significant as it opens in 2008, during which Bhutan will transform itself into a democratically elected constitutional monarchy.
For more information please visit: The Honolulu Academy of Arts