Mongol ‘Translations’ of a Nepalese Stupa: Architectural Replicas and the Cult of Bodnāthe Stūpa/Jarung khashar in Mongolia

Lecture | February 21 | 5-6:30 p.m. | 180 Doe Library

 Isabelle Charleux, CNRS, Paris

 Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, Mongolia Initiative, Center for Buddhist Studies

The cult of the Nepalese stupa of Bodnath (Tib. and Mo. Jarung Khashor) was very popular in 19th and early 20th century Mongolia and especially in Buryatia, as testifies the translation into Mongolian of a famous guidebook to Bodnath, a corpus of Mongolian oral narratives, the many thang-kas and amulets depicting the Bodnath Stupa along with a Tibetan prayer, and the existence of architectural replicas in Mongolia, probably to create surrogate pilgrimages to Bodnath. I will focus on these architectural replicas and try to explain how the Nepalese architecture was ‘translated’ to Mongolia, and try to understand whether the differences between the original and the replicas are due to local techniques and materials, to the impossibility of studying the original, or to the distortions induced by their mode of transmission. Has the original building been reinterpreted to the point of transforming its meaning? Is the replica of an architecture accompanied by the replica of possible cultic practices associated with it?

Isabelle Charleux is director of research at the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris) and deputy director of the GSRL (Group Societies, Religions, Laicities, National Centre for Scientific Research – Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes-PSL, Paris). Her research interests focus on Mongol material culture and religion. She published Nomads on Pilgrimage. Mongols on Wutaishan (China), 1800-1940 (Brill, 2015) and Temples et monastères de Mongolie-Intérieure (Paris, 2006), as well as scholarly articles on various topics such as miraculous icons in in Mongolia, Inner Mongolian mural paintings, and visual representation of past and present figures of authority in the Mongol world.