Arts + Culture

Exhibition of Tibetan Buddhist printing from the Derge Parkhang opens April 22 at Fowler

Founded in 1729, the Derge Parkhang, also called the Derge Sutra Printing House, is one of the foremost cultural, religious and historical institutions in Tibet, a place where books are still being made as they have been for nearly 300 years: hand-printed from hand-carved wooden blocks, with ink and paper locally manufactured in a centuries-old tradition.
"Pearl of the Snowlands: Tibetan Buddhist Printing From the Derge Parkhang," on display from April 22 through Oct. 14 at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, features woodblock prints from the Parkhang's collection, along with beautiful photographs by Patrick Dowdey and Clifton Meador of the elaborate Tibetan architecture of the printing house, its ancient hand-printing process and the people who work there.
Today, the Derge Parkhang prints books and images from a collection of more than 300,000 woodblocks, including renowned editions of the Buddhist Kanjur and Tanjur (the teachings of the Buddha and the collected commentaries on his teachings, respectively). This exhibition features fine examples of the Parkhang's detailed, beautifully composed woodblock prints and thankga, or prints mounted on fabric.
Many of the prints portray stories of the Buddha and the deities and bodhisattvas of Tibetan Buddhism, including a portrait of Guru Padmasambhava at the Samye Monastery, made from one of the printing house's oldest blocks. Another pair of prints designed by Chuba Phurbu, a personal artist to the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso (1879–1933), depict Padmasambhava and the revered Green Droma, who protects sentient beings from the "eight disasters" intricately depicted around the edge of this print: lions and pride; wild elephants and delusions; enemies and fanatical views; prisons and avarice; demons and doubt; snakes and envy; floods and lust; and fires and anger.
Additional information
"Pearl of the Snowlands" was initiated in 2006 by an agreement among the Derge Parkhang, the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies at Wesleyan University and the Center for Book and Paper Arts at Columbia College Chicago. The project received substantial funding from the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation.
This Fowler presentation is guest curated by Patrick Dowdey, curator at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies and an adjunct assistant professor in the department of anthropology at Wesleyan University. Clifton Meador, an artist whose works combine writing, photography, printmaking and design, is director of the interdisciplinary M.F.A. program in book and paper at Columbia College Chicago.
The Fowler Museum at UCLA is one of the country's most respected institutions devoted to exploring the arts and cultures of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas. The Fowler is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. The Fowler Museum, part of UCLA Arts, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. Parking is available for a maximum of $11 in Lot 4. For more information, the public may call 310-825-4361 or visit
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