井底之蛙

3/1/2009

Heartland Mandala

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:01 pm

I was surprised to learn, about ten days ago, that PSU was going to be hosting a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks creating a sand mandala. This is a touring company, but somehow they ended up in Pittsburg, Kansas in the run-up to the fiftieth anniversary of the Dalai Lama’s uprising. There was no political commentary around it, as near as I can tell. The school newspaper and city paper reported on it, but didn’t make a big deal about the anniversary. It wasn’t entirely apolitical: The Pittsburg Morning Sun did quote the monks on the subject of the Chinese takeover and subsequent Tibetan cultural endangerment. But the opening invocation, which I attended, included no mention of that; there was a prominent altar with a picture of the Dalai Lama, though.

Unfortunately, I fell ill a few hours after the opening ceremony on Monday1 so I only got pictures of the very first moments of creation — I love the traditional-style plumb-line — and of the nearly-completed mandala on Thursday. I haven’t seen these up close before, and if I’d been healthier I would have gotten more pictures, but I was struck by the texture of the mandala. I’m used to seeing these as two-dimensional images, but the sand is actually laid out in little piles and walls (see here for a detail shot), in a very intricate fashion.

It was, apparently, a variation on the Amitayus Mandala (see also), centered on Amitabha (aka Amida), and emphasizing healing and wisdom. Here are some of the better pictures I did manage under the fold:
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  1. I hope my students don’t make the connection between the “driving out of evil forces” and my absence! []

Mysteries of History (transportation division)

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 4:53 pm

Here is a bit of a puzzle for our readers to clear up. A while back I pointed at a nice collection of 17th Century Dutch pictures of Japan. Jonathan Dresner was rather surprised by this one

What is this? It’s not a rickshaw, since it’s backwards and too early. An update at BibliOdyssey pointed me to a version of this from a site in Kyoto that gives the English title of the plate as Mandocorosama’s Maid of Honor, carry’d in little two-Wheel’d Chariots. Not much help, although it does seem to connect the cart to the elite. Fortunately, I came across some evidence while doing research recently. Specifically, I was headed into the kitchen to do a bit of research on the state of the leftovers in the fridge and I saw this hanging on the wall…

What’s that in the lower left?

This is from a Meiji-era Japanese book I bought on E-Bay entitled “A New Guide to Chinese Painting” and I’m guessing it was intended for Japanese who wanted to be able to paint scenes of China.1 So what is this vehicle? If we assume that the top character is 御  things get a little clearer. Gyo in Japanese or ya in Chinese means of or pertaining to the emperor, although it can also mean to govern (or drive) a cart according to Nelson. Neither Nelson nor 漢語大詞典 have a specific entry for  御車, although they have lots of things like 御手﹐and  御衣 which makes me think it is -not- an “imperial carriage” although I suppose it could be. It does seem to be something that the Japanese associate with China, however, so maybe it was reserved for the elite. Anyone have any ideas?

  1. I’m pretty sure it is actually an authentic Meiji book, since it has the silverfish holes that are hard to fake and the nice thin paper. Plus it was only 10 bucks, so if anyone put work into faking it they are sure letting it go cheap. []

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