This nonfiction debut illuminates the cultural heritage of the Golden Valley region in eastern Tibet, including its art, furniture, and rituals.
Many Tibetan artworks have been destroyed over the centuries, particularly following China’s occupation of Tibet and the Cultural Revolution. In the Golden Valley, some items still remain, chiefly in monasteries. Huber spent 12 years visiting the Golden Valley, focusing on the Lower Senge Monastery, examining its endangered treasures. He visited libraries and conducted interviews with monks and villagers, gathering oral history and insights into Buddhist artworks’ symbolism, manufacture, and so on to pinpoint their unique characteristics. Huber draws on his expertise in art and antique furniture restoration, as well as furniture design and manufacturing, to inform his discussion and to guide speculative judgments, which can be necessary because so little information exists—even employing radiocarbon dating to nail down a detail. Glantz, a professional market researcher and a traveler to Tibet, further analyzes Huber’s findings and tells the story. The book first gives background information and the history of the Golden Valley, both oral and documented, from the ninth century to 2008. Huber and Glantz assess the region’s various cultural productions, including art on cloth and other media, monastic furniture, and prayer wheels, identifying styles, techniques, and materials and how they changed. They also describe the Golden Valley’s monasteries and the village of Senge. Finally, they list the characteristics of Tibetan Buddhist symbolism as used in the Senge Monastery’s art. Three useful appendices give information on Buddhist rituals and monastic rules, and an index is included. The authors’ tone can be overly casual; for example, one Buddhist celestial realm “is not very popular, because who wants to do more work?” But Huber and Glantz gather information available nowhere else; they set the record straight on matters such as what is or is not a reading desk; they get into the nitty-gritty of materials, techniques, and changing styles; and they provide a wealth of photographs documenting their study.
An invaluable resource for students of Tibetan Buddhist art, history, symbolism, and culture.