Monday, March 28, 2005

USA | New York | Skymermaid

It was Easter, and by what I am sure was just a coincidence also my birthday. I called the Skymermaid who I had met previously in Mongolia and we went out to celebrate in a Tibetan restaurant. Very nice place and very good momos, even if they were a bit small. Otherwise, just like Barkhor Square in Lhasa (but no Lhasa-brand beer).

View of the Empire State Building (left) from the enormous picture window of the Skymermaid's luxurious penthouse apartment on 14th Street, just off Union Square.

For a bibliophile this neighborhood around Union Station is paradisiacal. Within a five minute walk are a four-story Barnes and Noble Superstore, the Strand Used Book Store, which claims to be the largest used book store in the world, and the East-West Book Store, with a staggering assortment of books on Buddhism, Islam, and various esoteric subjects. The Skymermaid was kind enough to show me all of these places.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

USA | New York | Chingis Khan

From the Big Dumpling I took a grueling non-stop flight on Air China 13.5 hours to the Big Apple. Fortunately I had an emergency row seat to stretch out in and a good book on which to space out—The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor—and so arrived in New York only slightly discombobulated by the 12 hour time change.
I took a bus from the airport to the Hotel Pennsylvania across from Penn Station in Manhattan. This is a unbelievably horrible dump but I stayed here simply because the bus from the airport stops here and I was too tired and lazy to look for anyplace else. So the moment I got in my room I of course turned on the TV—I had not watched TV for at least four months—and the first thing I saw was a History Channel special on Chingis Khan. On the one hand this was very cheesy—the guy playing Chingis did not even look Mongolian and everyone spoke some very strange language which was definitely not Mongolian—but on the other hand the narrator mentioned several places where I had been in my travels in Mongolia. Here I was in a hotel room in New York and it was like I never left Mongolia. (By the way, Ganchimeg, a Mongolian living in NYC, insists that the Discovery Channel special on Chingis it much better than the History Channel version; I have not seen it.)

Broadway in the Big Apple (Note for those in Bruedersthal; this is Broadway in New York City, and not Broadway in Berlin, PA)

China | Beijing | Shopping | Snakes

Popped down from the Big Buutz to the Big Dumpling (Beijing). Was stunned when I stepped out the airport by 72 degree F. temperatures. Still snow on the ground in the Big Buutz. The Apple store on Wanfujing now has Mac-minis and iPod Shuffles in stock. Bought more tea, which was my real reason for coming to Beijing. Then went out to a strange Hui restaurant where a very louche-looking woman with red (I assume dyed) hair danced in stage with a five-foot long snake around her neck. She then enticed drunken Chinese businessmen in suits to join her on stage. She made them dance, as best they could, although their best would have shamed a dancing bear, and then hung the snake around their necks while they gyrated. All this accompanied by the cheers of their fellow diners, who were seriously into their cups. There must be some very esoteric symbolism to this but I am still trying to figure it out. All and all a very bizarre place . . . Then to the book store . . . bought a copy of Karen Armstrong’s Islam for my friend so she could read about her religion in English. Oddly enough, she also wanted a copy of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Mongolia | Springtime in the Big Buutz

Winter is over in the Big Buutz. Temperatures up into the 40s F. in the afternoons and everyone is out enjoying the sunshine.

Sun worshippers at Gandan Monastery

Here is a new billboard

Man of the Millennium Temujin, a.k.a Chingis Khan, Genghis Khan, etc.

All this Chingisophilia is of course leading to the 800th Anniversary of the Founding of the Mongolia Empire scheduled for 2006. Book your hotel rooms now.

Mongolia | Zanabazar vs. School of Zanabazar

Zanabazar, or at least his school, is finally making the Big Time, in the Big Apple no less. From March 28 through April 4 there will be an exhibition and sale of Buddhist art works attributed to the “School of Zanabazar” at the Barbara Mathes Gallery on 57 Avenue in New York City. The sale is being organized by Rossi & Rossi, a big-time art leader out of London, with publicity by Sue Bond Public Relations, likewise hailing from the Sceptored Isle. According to the press release the exhibition and sale, called “Treasures from Mongolia: Buddhist Sculpture from the School of Zanabazar,” is “the first ever selling exhibition devoted to Mongolian sculpture . . . The exhibition comprises twenty-six gilded pieces dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Formerly in a private collection, the sculptures are unpublished and have never before been exhibited. This exhibition offers an extraordinary opportunity to see a considerable number of outstanding Mongolian sculptures of various Buddhist subjects. The prices will range from $25,000 to over $150,000.”

I met the other night with Jamyang, a well-known Mongolian artist and fontographer, and also with the head of Erdene Zuu Monastery in Kharkhorin, and neither had any idea of whose private collection this might be.

The dealers are being very cagey as to the works they are selling are from the School of Zanabazar or by the Master himself. Here is a Sitasamara from the School of Zanabazar offered for sale:

Sitasamvara with his consort in the Yab-Yum position (Photo Courtesy of Sue Bond Public Relations)

I popped into the Choijin Lama Temple Museum for another look at Zanabazar’s Sitasamvara, widely regarded as one of the very best of his works.

Entrance to the Choijin Lama Temple Museum

Zanabazar’s Sitasamvara in the Choijin Lama Temple Museum

Details of Zanabazar’s Sitasamvara

For more see Zanabazar’s Art Works in the Choijin Lama Temple Museum

Here is a Sitatapatra from the School of Zanabazar being offered for sale:


Details of Sitatapatra (Photo Courtesy of Sue Bond Public Relations)
Compare this with Zanabazar’s Green Tara in the Winter Palace Museum;

Zanabazar’s Green Tara

Details of Zanabazar’s Green Tara

It would probably be best to view the "School of Zanabazar" works in situ in the Big Apple to get the best impression of them.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Mongolia | 24 Incarnations of Javzandamba

As you know, Zanabazar, the first Bogd Gegen of Mongolia, was the 16th Incarnation of Javzandamba. You may be aware of some but perhaps not all of the other 23 Incarnations of Javzandamba. Here’s the full list:
1. Lodoi-shindu-namdak — One of the Buddha’s original disciples
2. Barbizobo — head of the 500 pundits who dwelt at Nalanda Monastery in India, during the time of the Indian sage Nagarjuna (probably in the first century AD).
3. Narbujobdo — Born in India, biographical data lacking.
4. Radanchenbo — Born in India, biographical data lacking.
5. Ronsomchoisan — First incarnation to appear in Tibet, during the lifetime of the Bengal-born sage Atisha (982-1054 AD).
6. Dambabanchug — Born in Tibet, biographical data lacking.
7. Odserbal — Born in Tibet, biographical data lacking.
8. Brugdajantsan — Born in Tibet, biographical data lacking.
9. Sanjairaichen — Born in Tibet, biographical data lacking.
10. Samgabadra — Born in Tibet, biographical data lacking.
11. Jamyan Tsorj —Tashi Pelden in Tibetan; born in Tibet near Samye Monastery. A close disciple of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug sect, he established Drepung Monastery in 1416 and more than one hundred other monasteries and hermitages all over Tibet.
12. Choijininjed — Born in Ceylon during the latter part of the life of the First Dalai Lama, Gendun Drubpa (1391-1474).
13. Gungaadolchog — Born in the Tibetan province of “Nari” (Ngari?) during the time of the Second Dalai Lama, Gendun Gyatso (1475-1542).
14. Gajedsajon — Born in India, the son of a Indian king. Died at the age of fourteen.
15. Jonanjavzandaranata — Taranatha (1575–1634), member of the Jonang sect, founder of Puntsokling Monastery in Tibet; prolific author whose works include the History of Buddhism in India and Origins of Tara Tantra; died in Mongolia in 1634.

Eight Bogd Gegens of Mongolia

Image of Zanabazar in the Zanabazar Art Museum, Ulaan Baatar

16. (1) Zanabazar (1635-1723)
17. (2) Lusandanbidonme (1724–1757) Born in Mongolia, son of Dondub, himself the son of Zanabazar’s nephew.
18. (3) Ishüvdennyam (1758–1773) Born in Tibet.
19. (4) Luvsanbanchujigmedjamts (1775–1813) Born in Tibet,cousin of the 7th Dalai Lama.
20. (5) Luvsantsültemjigmeddorj — (1815–1842) Born in Tibet.
21. (6) Luvsanbaldanbijantsan — (1842–1847?) Born in Tibet, died a young boy of small pox.
22. (7) Choijibanchugprinleijamts (1850–1868) Born in Tibet.

Portrait of the 8th Bogd Gegen in the Zanabazar Art Museum, Ulaan Baatar

23. (8) Luvsanchoijinimadanzinbanchug (1870–1924) Born in Tibet.

Current Incarnation of Javzandamba

Jampal Namdrol Chokye Gyaltsen

24. Jambalnamdolchoijijantsan — Jampal Namdrol Chokye Gyaltsen , born in Tibet, exactly date unknown; apparently in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Recognized as the incarnation of Javzandamba by the 14th Dalai Lama in 1991. Currently lives in India.

Since there were only fifteen incarnations of Javzandamba between the time of Buddha, generally recognized as about 2500 years ago, and the birth of Zanabazar, the first Bogd Gegen, in 1635, and given the average life span of human beings, there would appear to be long periods of time when there was no living representative of the line, and that it was in effect dormant. This is not precisely the case however. As learned lamas explained to the Russian ethnologist A, M. Podzneev in the 1890s, “during the rest of the time he [Javzandamba] was reborn in diverse parts of the universe with the purpose of benefit not only to people but to beings of other worlds; these reincarnations of him are unknown to anyone beside the Gegeen himself, and that is why there are no legends about them whatsoever.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Mongolia | News | Snowstorm

 ULAN BATOR, March 14 (Xinhuanet) -- A strong snowstorm hit Mongolia's northern Sukhbaatar province last week, killing three herdsmen and more than 3,000 heads of livestock, the government said Monday.

The nomads, who were herding their animals at the time when the storm happened, got lost in the blizzard which lasted for 6-12 hours. Their bodies were found two days later, the General Authority for Emergency Management (GAEM) said.

 The wind speed reached 20 meters per second and the snowfall was 50-60 centimeters in the province, about 300 km from the capital of Ulan Bator, GAEM spokeswoman Dulamsuran said.

Livestock raising is an important sector of Mongolia's economy, which is extremely vulnerable to bad weather due to the nomadic tradition.