Emory Libraries welcomed the Murals of Tibet into its special collections this year. The Murals of Tibet is the first publication of its kind, presenting some of the oldest surviving murals and spanning 1000 years of Tibetan Buddhist culture. In addition to its breathtaking content, the volume itself is a work of art. This extra-large format edition features printed silk covers, five color printing including gold, six fold-outs, and a display stand designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Shigeru Ban. In recognition of this achievement of cultural preservation the volume is signed by his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Over the course of a decade, photographer Thomas C. Laird compiled the world’s first archive of the murals. He traversed the Tibetan countryside utilizing a new method of multi-image digital photography to capture murals as wide as 10 meters, in life-size resolution. Laird took hundreds of digital images of each mural and combined them to create faithful representations that are the first, evenly lit images of the murals. In some murals, details that had been obscured by centuries of water damage and decaying plaster are once again visible in Laird’s images. A scholarly companion volume provides artistic context for the murals detailing the storylines depicted and the spiritual significance of the murals.
The accompanying bookstand created by Shigeru Ban is also a unique work of art that combines paper tubes made from recycled material and an adjustable wooden platform. Ban is renowned for his innovative use of recycled materials in support of humanitarian efforts around the world, which made him the partner of choice for publisher TASCHEN. Ban’s ingenious disaster relief projects utilize designs that incorporate simplified construction techniques with readily available materials to provide shelter and community spaces for refugees and survivors of natural disasters.
Emory’s copy of the volume made its first public appearance during Tibet Week 2019. The Carlos Museum hosted a public lecture featuring Professor Robert Paul, Geshe Kelsang Damdul, and Dr. Lobsang Tenzin Negi on the meaning and significance of the imagery depicted in the volume. The evening’s events also included a public viewing facilitated by Rose Library staff. Faculty, students, Tibetan Monks, and members of the public gathered around the book enthusiastically discussing the images.
Initial interest in the acquisition came from a group of faculty and graduate students from Anthropology and South Asian Studies who continue to foster Emory’s many ties with Tibetan Buddhism and Buddhist studies. The volumes were acquired through library funds dedicated to supporting Art History, Anthropology, and South Asian Studies. This purchase also supports interdisciplinary programs such as the Emory-Tibet Science Initiative, and the Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics.
Many thanks to the Emory community for their appreciation and enthusiasm around our acquisition of this remarkable publication. The volumes are held in Rose Library and are available for use by appointment using the Rose Library request system. http://discovere.emory.edu/discovere:default_scope:01EMORY_ALMA21367998170002486
Additional information on the book, including images, is available on the TASCHEN website https://www.taschen.com/pages/en/catalogue/art/all/02617/facts.thomas_laird_murals_of_tibet.htm