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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
SUMMER 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 61 Anonymous Chinese soldiers, stir-fried scriptures, and Shrek—they’re all part of a provocative new exhibition that’s giving voice to contemporary Tibetan artists. Kay Larson reports. (Opposite) Prayer Wheel, 2007 by Nortse Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection ears ago, I was traveling in the Bhutanese Himalayas as a guest on an expedition to pick out Buddhist monastic treasures for an American museum show. Crossing a breathlessly high pass on a mud road that sent our jeep tires skittering, we stopped at a farmhouse to ask directions. Our government-appointed hostess, a delicate young woman, came over to ask a logistical question. A fold of her long robe slipped, and I saw what she kept hidden at her throat: a button of pop star Madonna. In Bhutan, the government tries to hold back the tsunami of Western consumer culture with laws mandating traditional dress, but outward com- pliance is often met with secret rebellion. Tibet, by contrast, has suffered six decades of rule under China’s Communist regime, and the cultural col- lisions have been disastrous. Refugees who escaped over the snow peaks at risk of ambush and extortion have been thrown back on their survival skills in a Western world obsessed with the personal self. Those who stayed in Tibet have suffered much oppression, giving rise to a wave of self- immolations—more than 120 in the last three years—that has convulsed the world’s conscience.