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Materialities of Tibetan Buddhist Texts


August 19, 2022 at 4pm Eastern (Zoom Webinar)


Within the diverse traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, the power of books—both printed and hand-written—lies not only in their contents, but also in their materiality as objects. While these texts primarily transmit the words of the Buddha(s), the teachings of Buddhist masters, and the commands of Buddhist leaders, they can also function as ritual objects, protective talismans, and instruments of political authority. The three scholars on this panel will share bibliographical studies of Tibetan texts that highlight how text production, circulation, and replication within architectural spaces has been utilized by Tibetan religious and political leaders to assert and solidify their power.

Rebecca Bloom will discuss an illustrated commentary on the Buddhist monastic code and the series of murals inspired by it, which were initially composed and commissioned by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama in the 1920s in order to purify the monastic community and protect the state he led.

Jue Liang queries the notion of a stable, unchanging “text” by introducing a series of emanations of the same life story of Yeshe Tsogyel, the preeminent female saint of Tibet. In this case, the life story appears as individual texts as well as a part of an extensive hagiography of her teacher, Padmasambhava. It is discovered independently by two Buddhist teachers almost a century apart. It is also copied, abridged, edited, and attached to other life accounts in the course of migration through different parts of the Tibetan Buddhist world.

On a search for the true location of the Fifth Dalai Lama’s 17th-century printing house, Ben Nourse will examine evidence from the autobiography of the Fifth Dalai Lama, the continuation of that biography by his last regent, and from colophons and stylistic elements of editions produced at this location, where the largest catalog of printing blocks in Tibet up to that time were created.


  • Rebecca Bloom, Assistant Director of Curatorial Affairs and Interpretation at the Southern Utah Museum of Art at Southern Utah University
  • Jue Liang, Assistant Professor of Religion, Denison University
  • Benjamin Nourse, Assistant Professor of Buddhist Studies, University of Denver

This event is sponsored by CABS-Minnesota


Captioning sponsored by Patrick Olson Rare Books


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