Cross-Currents e-Journal (No. 31)
Buddhist Art of Mongolia: Cross-Cultural Connections, Discoveries, and Interpretations
This article discusses a Khalkha reincarnate ruler, the First Jebtsundampa Zanabazar, who is commonly believed to be a Géluk protagonist whose alliance with the Dalai and Panchen Lamas was crucial to the dissemination of Buddhism in Khalkha Mongolia. Zanabazar’s Géluk affiliation, however, is a later Qing-Géluk construct to divert the initial Khalkha vision of him as a reincarnation of the Jonang historian Tāranātha (1575–1634). Whereas several scholars have discussed the political significance of Zanabazar’s reincarnation based only on textual sources, this article takes an interdisciplinary approach to discuss, in addition to textual sources, visual records that include Zanabazar’s portraits and current findings from an ongoing excavation of Zanabazar’s Saridag Monastery. Clay sculptures and Zanabazar’s own writings, heretofore little studied, suggest that Zanabazar’s open approach to sectarian affiliations and his vision, akin to Tsongkhapa’s, were inclusive of several traditions rather than being limited to a single one.
Keywords: Zanabazar, Géluk school, Fifth Dalai Lama, Jebtsundampa, Khalkha, Mongolia, Dzungar Galdan Boshogtu, Saridag Monastery, archeology, excavation
The huge Shambhala thangka preserved at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, is allegedly of Tibetan origin and dates to the nineteenth century. The conventional depiction of the realm of Shambhala in this thangka shows some surprisingly unconventional details in the scenes that illustrate the battle between the infidels and the Buddhist warriors led by Raudracakrin, the last ruler (kalki) of Shambhala. These details hint at a possible Mongolian origin. This article examines the visual aspects of the Shambhala myth as depicted in the Prague thangka, paying special attention to the representation of the final battle and the so-called enemies of the dharma. By engaging with textual, visual, and performative sources that inform the Prague thangka, the author argues that the production of knowledge in the visual language of the thangka is tied to the emerging conditions of globality, incorporating local life-worlds in the context of religious encounters, trade relations, and political negotiations.
Keywords: Mongolia, Tibet, Shambhala, Prague thangka, Kālacakratantra, millennialism, Muslims, Islam, Westerners, alterity
The anonymous illustrated manuscript of the Molon Toyin’s tale examined in this article is one of many narrative illustrations of popular Buddhist tales that circulated in Mongolia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and that have come to us in different lengths and forms. This article seeks to demonstrate that when a text and the accompanying narrative illustrations are brought together in a single manuscript, they enhance each other’s productive efficacy through their respective verbal and pictorial imagery. An illustrated text cross-references between the linguistic and visual worlds of experience and lends itself to interdisciplinary approaches. To a certain degree, it also subverts any differentiation between the linguistic and pictorial signs and challenges the notion of a self-sufficient text. As in the case of other illustrated manuscripts of the Molon Toyin’s tale, here, too, the author’s or illustrator’s main concern is to illustrate the workings of karma and its results, expressing them in compelling, pictorial terms. At the same time, illustrations also function both as visual memory aids and as the means of aesthetic gratification. Due to the anonymity of the manuscript examined in this article, it is difficult to determine with any certainty whether the orthography and graphic features of the manuscript’s illustrations are conditioned by the scribe, who is most likely also an illustrator, by his monastic training and the place where he received it, or by the expectations of the patron who commissioned the manuscript.
Keywords: Molon Toyin, Queen Molun, Maudgalyāhana, Nāgārjuna, illustrated manuscript, Qing, Uighur-Mongolian script, Mongolized version, Ikh Khüree, Labaɣ, Avīci Hell
The cult of the Nepalese stupa of Boudhanath (Tib. Jarung khashor/Bya rung kha shor, Mo. Jarung khashar) was very popular in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Mongolia, especially in Buryatia. Testaments to its popularity include the translation into Mongolian of a famous Tibetan guidebook to Boudhanath, a corpus of Mongolian oral narratives, the many thangkas and amulets depicting Boudhanath stupa along with a Tibetan prayer, and the existence of architectural replicas in Mongolia, probably to create surrogate pilgrimages to Boudhanath. How was Nepalese architecture transmitted to Mongolia? This article focuses on these architectural replicas in an attempt to understand whether the differences between the “original” structure and the Mongol replicas are due to local techniques and materials, the impossibility of studying the original, or distortions induced by the mode of transmission. Has the original building been reinterpreted to the point of transforming its meaning, and were the architectural replicas accompanied by the cult practices associated with it?
Keywords: Buddhist architecture, Buddhist art, stupa, Bodnāth, Boudhanath, Nepal, Mongolia, replication of sacred architecture, pilgrimage
This article traces the intellectual contributions of Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK) intellectual and founder Hou Yuon, whose influence on party policy has been the subject of scholarly debate. Although proposals in his political writings were implemented in CPK liberated zones and, later, Democratic Kampuchea (1975–1979), his outspoken nature led to his ejection from the CPK picture and from appraisals of Cambodian Communism. From his studies in France to his death in 1975, Hou Yuon’s importance as a Cambodian Marxist and Communist deserves our attention. Marxist theory provided him a critical interpretive paradigm and language with which to contextualize Cambodia’s stark rural-urban divide and larger issues of global capitalist exploitation in his writings, most notably in his 1955 doctoral dissertation. The goal of this article is to uncover the link between Hou Yuon’s application of Marxist theory to understand inequality and underdevelopment in his homeland and more broadly, to fill the gap between the Paris Group Cercle Marxiste and many of its members’ leap to “pure socialism” and “total equality” in founding Democratic Kampuchea.
Keywords: Communist Party of Kampuchea, Hou Yuon, Cambodia, Democratic Kampuchea, Khmer Rouge, Marxism, socialism, class inequality, agriculture, peasants, globalization, imperialism
This article examines the multiple ways Chinese writers depicted the incorporation of female national subjects into the struggle to liberate Manchuria after it was annexed by Japan in 1932. Whereas male writers such as Xiao Jun (1907–1988) and Luo Binji (1917–1994) have integrated the multiethnic population of Manchuria, particularly foreign women, into the cause of liberation through marital and sexual relations, the female writer Xiao Hong (1911–1941) depicts the relationships of Russian Jewish, Korean, and Chinese refugee women as lateral friendships. Xiao Hong notes the presence of these three ethnic subjects outside the nation but does not seek to coopt them into China’s national cause, instead calling attention to a separate relationality, which literary scholars Françoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih term “minor transnationalism” (Lionnet and Shih 2005). They suggest that minor literatures and cultures are not always juxtaposed with major ones; instead, literary relationships can occur between minor cultures. Focusing on three friendships between minor subjects, this article analyzes and compares three short works by Xiao Hong—about a Russian Jew, a Korean, and Xiao Hong herself—and explores her problematization of diasporic nostalgia and the gendered incorporation of ethnic subjects into the cause of national liberation.
Keywords: Chinese literature, Xiao Hong, Manchuria, minor literature, diaspora, gender
Invented largely for urban audiences and widely circulated across multiple media, the image of the female knight-errant attracted unprecedented attention among writers, readers, publishers, and officials in the first half of the twentieth century. This article focuses on three best-selling martial arts tales published in Republican China (1912–1949), paying particular attention to their martial heroines. It also explores what granted the female knight-errant character such enduring popularity and how the writers—Xiang Kairan, Gu Mingdao, and Wang Dulu—garnered the interest of their readers. As the author points out, martial arts novelists drew on a long and rich genre repertoire formulated before 1911 while taking into consideration contemporary debates regarding gender, thereby maintaining the female knight-errant figure as a relevant and compelling construct. More importantly, the author argues, through portraying their martial heroines in relation to family, courtship, and female subjectivity, martial arts novelists resisted the prevailing discourse on Chinese womanhood of their times while imagining female heroism.
Keywords: Republican China, Xiang Kairan, Gu Mingdao, Wang Dulu, female knight-errant, heroines, martial arts tale, genre repertoire, gender, female subjectivity, courtship