Founded in 1729, the Derge Parkhang (also called the Derge Sutra Printing House) is one of the foremost cultural, religious and historical institutionsin Tibet, a place where books are still being made as they have been for nearly three hundred years: hand printed from hand-carved wooden blocks, with ink and paper locally manufactured in a centuries-old tradition.Pearl of the Snowlands: Tibetan Buddhist Printing from the Derge Parkhang―on display from April 22–October 14, 2012 at the Fowler Museum―features woodblock prints from the Parkhang’s collection along with beautiful photographs by Patrick Dowdey and Clifton Meador of the elaborate Tibetan architecture of the printing house, its ancient hand-printing process, and the people who work there.
Today the Derge Parkhang prints books and images from a collection of more than three hundred thousand woodblocks, including renowned editions of the Buddhist Kanjur and Tanjur (the teachings of the Buddha and the collected commentaries on his teachings, respectively). This exhibition features fine example of the Parkhang’s detailed, beautifully composed woodblock prints andthankga, or prints mounted on fabric.
Many of the prints portray stories of the Buddha, deities, and bodhisattvas of Tibetan Buddhism, including a portrait of guru Padmasambhava at the Samye Monastery, which is made from one of the printing house’s oldest blocks. Another pair of prints designed by Chuba Phurbu, a personal artist to the 13th Dalai Lama, depict Padmasambhava and the revered Green Droma, who protects sentient beings from the “eight disasters” intricately depicted around the edge of this print: lions and pride, wild elephants and delusions, enemies and fanatical views, prisons and avarice, demons and doubt, snakes and envy, floods and lust, and fires and anger.
Pearl of the Snowlandswas initiated in 2006 by agreement between the Derge Parkhang, the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University and the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago. The project received substantial funding from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation. This Fowler presentation is guest curated by Patrick Dowdy, curator at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Wesleyan University. Clifton Meador is an artist whose works combine his writing, photography, printmaking, and design and director of the Interdisciplinary MFA in Book and Paper at Columbia College Chicago.
The Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the country’s most respected institutions devoted to exploring the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. The Fowler is open Wednesdays through Sundays, from noon to 5 p.m.; and on Thursdays, from noon until 8 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The Fowler Museum, part of UCLA Arts, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking is available for a maximum of $11 in Lot 4. For more information, the public may call 310/825-4361 or visit fowler.ucla.edu.