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October 06, 2006

Tibet in 1920s Highlighted in Rare Hand-tinted Photographs

Burke Museum, Seattle
Nov. 4, 2006 – Feb. 4, 2007

Seattle—Thirty-nine fascinating photographs from hand-tinted lantern slides reveal the dusty glamour of camel caravans, Buddhist monasteries, local rituals, and spectacular scenery of Tibet, China, and Mongolia in Vanished Kingdoms: The Wulsin Photographs of Tibet, China, and Mongolia 1921-1925, on view Nov. 4, 2006 – Feb. 4, 2007. The exhibit also features original documents and diaries from the expedition, plus some of the plant and animal specimens collected.

This photographic exhibit is the only record of two early century explorers, Frederick and Janet Wulsin, who collected plants, animals, and artifacts on a two-year trek through the Mongolian and Tibetan borderlands of China in the early 1920s. In March 1923, the Wulsins launched their most significant expedition, a nine-month trip to central China, sponsored by the National Geographic Society. They used Graflex and then-new Kodak 4x5 cameras among other equipment to document the people and places they encountered. They developed their film in makeshift darkrooms whenever they came to a location with sufficient water.

The Wulsins’ expedition covered more than 750 miles along the north bank of the Yellow River, through the Alashan Desert, and finally into Gansu and Qinghai provinces to the renowned lamaseries in the highlands bordering Tibet. Difficult terrain and unstable weather conditions made for a challenging and dangerous journey along a route that itinerant merchants, religious pilgrims, and Christian missionaries traversed.

Augmenting the photographs of Vanished Kingdoms through Feb. 4, is Sacred Portraits from Tibet, a display ofBurke Museum thangkas—large, delicately painted Tibetan religious paintings. Thangkas typically feature portraits of arhats or Buddhist saints and important lamas or Buddhist teachers. Paintings made between the 17th and early 20th centuries demonstrate not only the rich iconography of Tibetan Buddhist tradition, but also the exquisite painterly skills of the artists in portraiture and illustration.

The exhibit will include a thangka of the four-armed Avalotitevara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, painted especially for the Burke by local artist and well-known monk, Dhawa Dhondup Ngoche. One of Ngoche’s own traditional Tibetan Buddhist altars will also be displayed amongst the thangkas in the exhibit.

Vanished Kingdoms
was produced by the Peabody Essex Museum in collaboration with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. Both exhibits are sponsored by the Blakemore Foundation with support from the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation, the Sidney Fund, and the Silk Road Foundation. The Burke’s presentation of these exhibitshave had the active participation and approval of Tibetan religious and community leaders in Seattle.

Related Events

Sat., Nov. 4, 2006

10 am – 4 pm

Opening Day: Vanished Kingdoms: The Wulsin Photographs of Tibet, China, and Mongolia 1921-1925 and Sacred Portraits from Tibet

Special activities throughout the day will include a lecture by the daughter of explorer Janet Wulsin (Mabel Cabot, author of the exhibit's accompanying book), gallery tours of Tibetan thangkas by art historian Ben Brinkley, and an opportunity to visit with Tibetan artist Dhawa Dhondup Ngoche.

Sun. Nov. 26, 2006

1 – 3 pm

Focus onMongolia

November 26 is Mongolian Independence Day. The Burke will celebrate this holiday with Mongolian performers Altanhuyag, Mongonchuluun, and Saikhnaa in a program of traditional Mongolian long songs, yatag, and dance. The event is free with admission.

(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274