Past Event

"Tibetan Buddhism and Political Power in the Courts of Asia"

April 5, 2019 - April 6, 2019
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
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“Tibetan Buddhism and Political Power in the Courts of Asia”

Academic Conference

This international conference examined Tibetan Buddhism’s dynamic political role in history as a major catalyst in spreading the religion beyond Tibet’s borders to its Tangut, Mongol, Chinese, and Manchu neighbors. This conference brought together scholars from multiple disciplines, featuring Tsering Shakya (University of British Columbia) as the keynote speaker and panels on Political Legitimacy and the Birth/Spread of Empires; Militant Lamas and Magical Warfare; and Systems of Power and Control of Knowledge.

The conference was held in conjunction with the exhibition Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism, on view February 1 through July 15, 2019.


Schedule of Events

Keynote Address

Tsering Shakya (University of British Columbia) “Yellow Hats and Golden Countenances, Tibetan Buddhism and Empire”


Session 1: Political Legitimacy and Birth/Spread of Empires

Gendun Tenpa (Dargye Museum, Chengdu) “Tsongkha Kingdom as Mediator between the Tibetan Empire and Tangut Xixia”

Kurtis Schaefer (University of Virginia) “Scripture, Politics, and War in the Age of the Fifth Dalai Lama”

Nancy Lin (UC Berkeley) “Two Models of Lay Buddhist Kingship at the Court of Miwang Polhané”

Wen-shing Chou (Hunter College) “Visualizing Emperor as Guru: Kingship and Devotion in Qing-Dynasty China”

Respondent: Chris Atwood (University of Pennsylvania)


Session 2: Militant Lamas and Magical Warfare

Bryan J. Cuevas (Florida State) “The Politics of Magical Warfare”

Carl Yamamoto (Towson University, MD) “Vanquishing the Enemies of the Teachings: Tantra and Warfare According to Zhang Tselpa”

Karma Phuntsho (Loden Foundation, Bhutan): “Mahākāla and Magic in the Making of Bhutan”

Respondent: Karl Debreczeny (Rubin Museum of Art)


Session 3: Systems of Power and Control of Knowledge

Eveline Washul (Columbia University) “The Three Chol kha of Tibet: Sakya Narratives of Power after the Mongol Yuan”

William Dewey (Rubin Museum of Art) “Tibetan Dynastic Politics and the Making of Taranatha’s History of Indian Buddhism”

Lan Wu (Mount Holyoke College, MA) “Paths to Knowledge: Beijing’s Yonghegong and Qing Mongolian Buddhists in the Eighteenth Century.”

Riga Shakya (Columbia University) “Entangled Objects: Gift, Reciprocity and the Making of the Imperial Subject in 18th-Century Tibet”

Respondent: Gray Tuttle (Columbia University)


Concluding Remarks

Patricia Berger (UC Berkeley)