Shambhala and its Visual Representation: The Prague Thangka



Year of publication 2013
Type Appeared in Conference without Proceedings
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Description The National Gallery in Prague (Czech Republic) houses a thangka of allegedly Tibetan origin that according to the information provided by the museum dates to the 19th century. The conventional depiction of the realm of Shambhala shows some surprisingly unconventional details in the battle scenes that illustrate the last fight between the infidels and the Buddhist warriors led by Rudracakrin, the last kalki of Shambhala. These details hint at a possible Mongolian origin. The paper explores the visual aspects of the Shambhala myth, paying special attention to the representation of Rudracakrin, the final battle and the enemies of the dharma. By drawing on textual, visual and, if possible, performative (the Shambhala performances in 19th century Mongolia) sources, the Prague-thangka will serve as a focal point for a cultural-historical analysis of the Shambhala myth in the Tibeto-Mongolian interface. Theoretically, the paper is situated in the research field of Global History. Its main aim is to explore aspects of cultural transfers and entanglements between Tibet, Mongolia, Western Europe and the Russian Empire in the 18th/19th centuries, but it will also address different modes of representing the Shambhala myth in contemporary Tibet, Mongolia and China.

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