by Michael Henss. Prestel, September 2014. 880 p. ill. ISBN 9783791351582 (cl.), $199.00.
Reviewed March 2015
John Stucky, Library Director, C. Laan Chun Library, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, firstname.lastname@example.org
This impressive two-volume set, the first volume covering the central Tibetan province of U and the second examining southern Tibetan province of Tsang, is a systematic examination of important sites inclusive of monasteries, monuments, and fortresses as well as a careful examination of what remains of the original capital city of Lhasa. A thorough survey of sites within the ancient central Tibetan provinces which now make up most of the Chinese Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), this work is meant to complement the earlier surveys by Andreas Gruschke published in 2001 and 2004 covering the ancient regions of Amdo in the north, and Kham in the east.
The author spent nearly three decades studying all of the sites covered in this work and his coverage of each is as intensive as it is extensive. Nothing like this survey had ever been done in any language, before or after the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the 1950s. It represents groundbreaking work, and covers much new material.
This work can well serve any student from the undergraduate to post-graduate level. It can be read through as a single monograph, or as a reference tool to be referred to intermittently as needed in seeking some quick but in-depth information on any specific site covered.
The volumes are heavily and beautifully illustrated; many of the photographs are by the author. Also included are detailed elevation drawings and floor plans of many of the sites. In places where monasteries or fortresses received heavy damage, either during the British invasion of 1904, or during the Cultural Revolution, older photographs are included to give before and after comparisons and a more complete idea of the original size, especially, of many of the monasteries throughout the region. It is important to also note that the majority of the most significant monasteries, inclusive of monastic colleges and teaching centers, are in the regions covered in this book which makes this work even more significant.
Instead of a conventional index there are a series of glossaries arranged by general subjects at the back of the second volume that also serve as helpful indices. Each entry includes brief definitions followed by list of pages and plates to refer to.
This is a very welcome and extremely useful set. Any type of library that serves a community with any interest in Tibet or Buddhism, would be well served to own it. To quote the author from his preface: "Coming to Tibetan art and architecture, the reader may discover that what catches the eye may also . . . change the mind."