Situ Panchen: Creation and Cultural Engagement in 18th-Century Tibet

February 7-8, 2009

A conference organized by the Rubin Museum of Art to celebrate the opening of Patron and Painter: Situ Panchen and the Revival of the Encampment Style (on view February 6 – August 17, 2009)

The brilliant polymath Situ Panchen Chokyi Jungne (1700-1774) was influential in multiple domains of cultural and institutional life in 18th-century Tibet. Situ made major contributions to the fields of painting, the literary arts, and medicine. He was also a charismatic leader of the Karma Kagyu school during a particularly volatile period in Tibetan history, as well as the senior court chaplain in the culturally significant kingdom of Derge during its golden age. At this conference eight scholars will present papers on aspects of Situ's cultural production and engagement with the social world of his time.

$35 per person
$31.50 RMA Members
$20 Students advance booking
$7 Students Standby
Call during Box Office hours: 212.620.5000 ext. 344

Air indiaThe Rubin Museum of Art thanks Air India for flying in the keynote speaker, Mr. Tashi Tsering.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

5:45 p.m.Tour of the Patron and Painter exhibition for Conference Attendees and Columbia Tibetan Studies Workshop
6:30 p.m. Reception, with remarks by Martin Brauen, RMA Chief Curator
7:30 p.m.Keynote address by Tashi Tsering (ticket holders only)
With thanks to the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation for supporting the reception to this event.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

9 - 10:30 a.m.
Panel I

Remi Chaix (CNRS, Paris): "Situ Panchen and the House of Derge: A Demanding but Beneficial Relationship"

Nancy Lin (UC Berkeley): "Situ Panchen and the Re-enactment of Buddhist Origins"

Karl Debreczeny(RMA): "Situ Panchen's Artistic Legacy in Yunnan"

David Jackson (RMA), discussant
10:30-10:45 a.m.Tea break
10:45 - 1:15 p.m.
Panel II

Jann Ronis (UVA): "Situ Panchen and Sectarian Relations in 18th-Century Derge: Precursor to the Ecumenical Movement (ris med)"

Frances Garrett (U Toronto): "Medical Literature in the Situ Panchen Tradition"

Kurtis Schaeffer (UVA) "Situ the Scholar"

Elliot Sperling (Indiana U), discussant
1:15-2:30 p.m.Lunch
2:30 p.m.  Tour of Patron and Painter exhibition

Conference Abstracts

Rémi Chaix (Sociétés et Cultures en Himalaya, CNRS, Paris)
Situ Panchen and the House of Derge: A Demanding but Beneficial Relationship

Situ Panchen's autobiography accurately records his relation with the House of Derge, giving a less biased and a more complex view of what is traditionally and concisely described as “chaplain-patron” relationship. Becoming one of Derge's leading chaplains, at the age of 12, Situ Panchen was engaged in a long-lasting and demanding relationship, which quickly turned out to be beneficial. This paper will focus on how he managed to deal with this duty, taking advantage of it, and also handled his own projects (the Printing House, Palpung Monastery, among others).

Karl Debreczeny (Rubin Museum of Art)
Situ Panchen’s Artistic Legacy in Yunnan

The influence of the brilliant scholar and painter Situ Panchen reached far beyond Palpung Monastery and the kingdom of Derge, extending even into Yunnan Province of southwestern China, where Situ traveled three times, becoming increasingly invested, over a thirty-year period from 1729 to1759. Within both Tibetan and Chinese sources, one sees Situ asserting his authority over monasteries in northern Yunnan. Combined with visual evidence gathered in situ, I will demonstrate Lijiang’s new incorporation into the Palpung artistic orbit in surviving wall paintings, which I argue drew directly from Situ commissions that art historians are only now able to reconstruct.

Frances Garrett (University of Toronto)
Medical Literature in the Situ Panchen Tradition

Identifying Situ’s position in the distinctive Drigung medical tradition, I begin with an assessment of medical works by Situ and his students within the context of Tibetan medical literature more broadly. I then focus on how the tradition responded to local historical conditions, noting how special attention paid to epidemic disease, for example, may be a reaction to the rising occurrence of plague in southeastern Kham and to the smallpox epidemics that swept Asia during this period. The paper thus emphasizes the importance of a localized and historically particular understanding of Tibetan medicine.

Nancy G. Lin (University of California, Berkeley)
Situ Panchen and the Re-enactment of Buddhist Origins

From the mid-seventeenth century, resurging interest in Sanskrit and the Indic roots of Buddhism swept the Tibetan cultural sphere. At the heart of these developments was Situ Panchen, whose many activities included re-enacting the historical origins of Buddhism through literary and visual adaptations of Buddha Shakyamuni's life and previous-life narratives. Discussing these works in the context of regional developments, I highlight Situ's investments in ordering and authentication, in scholarly and institutional authority, and in the use of his charisma in creating both a personal and regional identity.

Jann Ronis (University of Virginia)
Situ Panchen and Sectarian Relations in Eighteenth-Century Derge: Precursor to the Ecumenical Movement (ris med)

As a powerful court chaplain from a minority sect, Situ Panchen influenced sectarian relations in eighteenth-century Derge. This paper explores the personal and institutional sides of Situ's relations with lamas and monasteries of other schools – especially with the Nyingma – and its impact on Derge more broadly. Topics to be addressed include Situ's narration of the story of past bad blood between regional Kagyu and Nyingma monasteries, the reconciliation fostered by his promotion of celibate monasticism at these same monasteries, and a little known but explosive episode in which Situ attempted to combine Nyingma and Kagyu traditions at a single monastery.

Kurtis R. Schaeffer (University of Virginia)
Situ the Scholar

Situ Panchen was nothing if not passionate about textual scholarship. Indeed, for Situ textual scholarship was not merely a matter of dry scholastic interest, but a moral issue of pressing importance for the well-being of the Tibetan people and the Buddhist teachings. This talk briefly depicts Situ's views on the importance of textual scholarship, his unique efforts in visually displaying his textual labors, and his place in the world of Tibetan intellectuals in eighteenth-century Tibet.

Tashi Tsering

Amnye Machen Institute: Tibetan Centre for Advanced Studies

Tashi Tsering is the Director of the Amnye Machen Institute: Tibetan Centre for Advanced Studies in Dharamsala, India. He was first educated at the Central School for Tibetans, Dalhousie, H.P., India from 1963 to 1971. He then studied under some great scholars of Tibetan history, literature, and Buddhism including Khetsun Sangpo Rinpoche, Dzogchen Khenpo Thupten Phuntsog Rinpoche (1920-1978), and Rai Bahadur Burmiok Athing (1902-1988). Tashi Tsering has received initiations, instructions, teachings, and blessings from the Dalai Lama, the late 16th Gyalwa Karmapa (1924-1981), the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), the Fourth Do Drubchen Rinpoche, the Fourth Garje Khamtrul Rinpoche, Khunu Geshe Rigzin Tempa (1893 -1981), and many other highly realized lamas and teachers.

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