Part history book, part art book, part documentary, this book is a real treasure trove on the Golden Valley of Tibet. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much was covered! There’s maps of the area, photos of the art, a written record of some of the oral histories of the place, and a beautiful section explaining numerous images used in Tibetan art. While I am a newbie to much of this, I felt this book is a good resource for both those new to Tibetan art and those who have a dedicated interest.
Now the book does jump right into a very lengthy, and somewhat dense, background info section. Quite frankly, I skipped this the first time through (except for the maps because that info is useful to start with) and started flipping around the book looking at all the art of various media. The Tibetan monks don’t just art up one or two things, they art up all sorts of stuff. From their wall hangings to their furniture to their prayer wheels, I bet their monasteries are a veritable feast for the eyes! I quickly saw there were repeated images and themes on much of the art and I didn’t have the knowledge as on what the significance was of those particular images. Never fear! This awesome book has a whole section (near the back) on what certain images/themes mean in Tibetan culture. I love how they had photographed examples for each image. Ever wonder what red corral means to the Golden Valley? Curious as to what a Zipak is? Just how important are the Mahamudra mists? This section of the book quickly became my favorite part as I studied a piece of art and flipped back to learn in detail what all the symbology meant. My favorite by far was the mongoose both eating and… uh… releasing (perhaps laying?) Cintamani jewels of wisdom. Before I consulted this section of the book, I thought the mongooses were perhaps rabbits.
Several things have affected the survivability of early Tibetan art. I found the most interesting reason to be the practical take of most Tibetans that if it is worn and dirty, toss it and paint/create something new and vibrant. It’s interesting to see how the interest of Western collectors and scholars has started to change that attitude and some older works have survived. Also, Tibetans tend to preserve the physical objects of great teachers. So, oddly, we have lots of every day use objects from them as well as greater works of art. It makes it a rather eclectic collection when taken in whole. Once again, this was just a very fascinating book to delve into.
When I jumped into this book, I thought the cloth art would interest me the most, however I found it was the little portable reading desks. It combines the woodworking arts as well as painting the useful piece. The photographs show how stunning these small pieces of furniture are and they must be a delight to read on.
The authors also include some photos of the modern monasteries in the Golden Valley. I really liked this touch because it shows how much of their lives haven’t changed in all these centuries and what little has changed stands out. I think this book appeals to several audiences. Whether you’re thinking of traveling to the area, are a Tibetan art collector, or want to enrich your understanding of the Golden Valley and the Tibetan culture from afar, this book is a good, solid resource. Just a FYI: the book has a contents page, a few appendices, and a detailed index. These three things make it an extra useful research book.
I received a copy of this book at no cost from the author (via Word Slinger Publicity) in exchange for an honest review.
Photography: Nearly all of the photographs were taken by author David Huber (what few weren’t, are noted upfront in the book). The photos, all of which are color, range in clarity and lighting but there are plenty of them. This book is fully illustrated. Since there are so many great examples of the various art forms captured visually in this book, I think it would make a great resource to any Tibetan arts dealer or owner. For me, as someone who has little knowledge on the subject, I reveled in all the photos. It definitely brought this region and art to life. All the photos are well labelled with descriptions, making it easy to flip through the book and gain some info just by looking at the photos.