A Journey to the West in Search of Enlightenment
The Museum of Oriental Art and Culture, MACO, based in Arcidosso, Italy, has just opened a fascinating new exhibition entitled “Silk Road Pilgrimage”. It was inaugurated on a wet and windy yet auspicious date, December 8, the anniversary of the birth of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and was well attended by a large number of Dzogchen Community people, various local authorities, and an enthusiastic public.
The exhibition explores the centuries-old cultural and commercial connection that has existed between the West and the East using the Buddhist principle of Interdependence as a key to interpretation. The narrative touches on a variety of different objects from Asia that describe the movement of ideas, inventions and goods that connected these two distant worlds.
The guide for this narrative is Xuanzang (602 – 664), the famous Chinese Buddhist monk who, led by the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin (Avalokiteśvara), undertook a long and perilous pilgrimage along the Silk Road from China to India in search of Buddhist texts, later describing them in his account, Great Tang’s Journey to the West.
Visitors are guided through the new exhibition with descriptive panels, some referring to books and treasures found by Aurel Stein and Paul Pelliot in the Dunhuang cave library, to demonstrate how Buddhism evolved through the Silk Road, shaping and influencing the civilizations of Asia.
The Silk Road Pilgrimage exhibition also presents a new 360 degree video production for the virtual theater installation in the central atrium of the museum, with videos from the Xiantangshan caves, depicting Buddhists statues from the Qi Dynatsy (550-577), which were first shown at the SMART Museum in Chicago and at the Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery, kindly provided to us by the Taiyuan University of Technology in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China. Our guides to this 360 degree video are Xuanzang and Sun Wukong (Monkey) in a theatrical presentation of the Journey to the West, created for the MACO by artist Ati Sphere and theater director Jan Yanchi, both based in Prague. Another episode of Journey to the West, will premiere on the 15th of January, at the MACO.
Thanks to financing from the UBI (Unione Buddhista Italiana), several other permanent exhibits on the ground floor have been renewed and added to and currently include several splendid bronze statues of divinities from Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s personal collection as well as a small replica of the Great Stupa of Illumination at Merigar with panels and models explaining about the construction, contents and consecration of stupas.
The exhibition, Silk Road Pilgrimage, was sponsored by the Union of Italian Buddhists (UBI) and the Dzogchen Community of Merigar with a generous contribution from a Community donor. The exhibition would not have been possible without the concerted effort of a tireless team of volunteers – all of whom we deeply thank.
The Potentiality of the Elements
At the same time the Dynamic Space of the Elements presented the Potentiality of the Elements exhibition, financed by the Shang Shung Institute Austria, in the Project Space area of the museum on the upper floor.
One part of the exhibition contains a collection of ten paintings. Five of them represent the creation of the primordial elements, the creation of our emotions, the creation of the manifestations of the external world and the function of the energy of the five elements. According to ancient oriental traditions, especially Tibetan tradition, the matter that surrounds us was created by and is made up of the five elements.
The other five paintings represent the relationship and the combination of the five elements. In particular, they show how the interaction of external elements with internal elements can influence the conditions of our lives.
For the first time, models of five Stupas (the first of a series of 108) linked to the five elements and part of the precious terma of Changchub Dorje were also exhibited.
Collection of Fairy Tales from the Eastern World
In the second room in the Project Space area, the illustrations created with the project “Collection of Fairy Tales from the Eastern World ” by the Ka-ter Translation Project, Austria, in collaboration with Dynamic Space of the Elements are exhibited. The illustrations were created by various artists from different parts of the world and visitors were also able to read – in both English and Italian – some of the tales linked to the various illustrations on display.
The illustrations are a part of more than 50 hand drawn images that will accompany 21 traditional stories from Tibet, as recounted by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu over many years and retold by Oliver Leick. Although the stories are typically meant for children, the wisdom they convey is universal. Work on this project is nearing its final stages and the publication entitled “The Kingdom Where Madness Reigned and other Traditional Tales cited in the teachings of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu” will soon be published in various language by Shang Shung Publications.