Monday, January 7, 2013
"The Dragon Kingdom: Images of Bhutan": Book Review
You do get a sense of the vast landscapes and mountain vistas. The photos of Lunana prove, as the text by Gansser underlines, the haunted quality of the far-off frontiers. Olschak's comments on the dances and rituals that dramatize Bon and Buddhist overlaps of stories and ideals also match the images effectively. What you won't get a sense of are the people themselves, in conversation or close-ups in the text. More from a distance, this shows the sights. It's brief, but fine for those who do not require an in-depth study of the realm.
Chapters on the religious myths and culture (attending well to spiritual themes, as this book comes from Shambhala Press in English translation), the topography (lovely photos from remote areas and well as dzongs and folk artifacts), dance (good on symbolism), "the coronation of the youngest king in the world" in 1972, and a small overview of transitions into the wider world. By now it may feel dated. It may be consulted as more "lightweight" in heft and content by those wanting a less comprehensive, but academically based survey than the 1998 Shambhala Press edition of the 1997-98 Vienna museum exhibition with scholarship, Bhutan: Fortress of the Mountain Gods, eds. Christian Schicklgruber and Francoise Pommaret. (Amazon US 11-24-12)