Derek Maher

Religious Studies Program, Department of Philosophy
Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
East Carolina University

Silk brocade frame for Tibetan scroll or tangkha


Story of the block

This is an image of a piece of silk brocade that frames a traditional Tibetan scroll painting called a tangkha. This particular tangkha was painted by a very good friend of mine, a Tibetan artist named Buchung whom I befriended while in India on an extended research trip. He created the painting, which is of the aspect of Buddha devoted to healing, Medicine Buddha, as a gift for my wife who was ill at the time. He was very proud of this painting as it was the most ambitious work he had ever attempted up to that point. He and I spent countless hours sitting in his little house in northern India as he drew the image, painted in all the colors, added gold painted details, and submitted it to a tailor to have the brocade stitched.

During those many hours of conversation, we discussed everything from his entire family history to the space program. The evening that I showed him a picture of the space station and tried to create new Tibetan words to talk about this laboratory in the sky is etched in my mind. I still recall his look of pure disbelief as I attempted to draw an analogy for him. "You know," I explained, "it is like the people that went to the moon." He was entirely convinced that I was tricking him about this impossible claim. I still wonder if, when he looks at the moon, he thinks I might have been joking.

After I returned to the United States, Buchung returned to Tibet. I'm afraid that he may have been arrested at the border. I have not heard from him since then. That was six years ago.