Customer Review

3.0 out of 5 stars Introduces traditions, displays imagery, November 24, 2012
This review is from: The Dragon Kingdom : Images of Bhutan (Hardcover)
This 1983 large-format book combines a Buddhist-infused commentary by Blanche Christine Olschak with photographs by Ursula Markus-Gansser and Augusto Gannser. The Swiss-based trio of scholars reports from the earlier stages of the kingdom's connections with the West, and the analysis is therefore very light on modernization, which had just begun in the period they visited. It can be perused in a sitting, as a quick introduction to the traditional mindset of the region.

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 Kingdom" eds. Christian Schicklgruber and Francoise Pommaret.
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