Arts and Culture
During the last decade several old chapels were discovered in the Da rtse mdo (Chin: 康定Kangding) region in the Sichuan province of the PRC. The majority of these chapels are chökhang (Tib: mchod-khang, “domestic shrines”), located in private houses still inhabited by local farmers. Their 15th century paintings are valuable material to study the respective influences of the different branches of Tibetan Buddhism in this frontier territory. Furthermore, as these are some of the only few surviving ancient murals of domestic shrines, they are fascinating testimonies of wealthy merchants’ domestic life and devotion. The history of their protection in recent time (during the Cultural Revolution and the general modernization of China after the 1980’s) provides also a fascinating insight into the modern history of rural Tibet.
In this presentation I will focus on the murals of the mkhar rgyab family’s house. Starting with a general presentation of the region in the 15th century I will then describe the main themes of the painting. In spite of their overwhelming profusion (more than 300 different subjects over 150sqm of painted walls, not to mention the 64sqm of painted ceilings) I try to point at some connections linking the different registers and reflecting / organizing the holy space of the shrine. The impact of the domestic nature of the shrine on its paintings is yet to be investigated and I will briefly share some of the hypotheses I am currently working on.