221st Meeting - Tuesday, April 9th 2002
'Buddhist Stupas in
A slide presentation and talk by Joe Cummings
Summary of Joe’s talk and presentation:
Joe Cummings, author of the hardcover pictorial Buddhist Stupas in Asia: The Shape of Perfection, opened his presentation with a brief history of the Buddhist stupa.
The earliest known
mention of the word stupa appears in
the Rigveda, circa 1200 BC, where it is used to describe a knot or tuft
hair; the upper part of the head; crest, top or summit. The stupa as a
may have been inspired by burial mounds used to inter the remains of
revered royalty in pre-Buddhist
Joe then talked
about other names for the stupa common in
It is thought that the English word pagoda may have come from either an inversion of dagoba, the Persian butkadah (idol temple) or from Portuguese pagao (pagan).
At this point the lights were lowered and Joe commenced presenting 77 slide images depicting stupas and stupa culture. Joe explained that for logistical reasons, none of the images he was showing this evening were from the Bill Wassman's collection of 250 images that appear in Buddhist Stupas in Asia: The Shape of Perfection but they were representative of the scope and depth of Bill's work.
The images Joe presented were as follows:
Great Stupa at
Slide 2: Torana (gateway) carvings at Sanchi.
Griha (cave) stupa,
Griha (cave) stupa,
Slide 8: Tibetan prayer flags at the seat of enlightenment, Mahabodhi.
Slide 10: Rankot Vehara Dagoba, Polonnaruwa: 12th C. AD.
Slide 11: Tissamaharama Dagoba: 2nd C. BC.
Raja Maha Vehara Dagoba, Kelaniya, near
Slide 14: Chandi Borobudur, central Java: late 8th C. AD
One of 1,400
Slide 16: Chandi Plaosan, central Java: late 8th C. AD.
Dukkanthein Paya, Mrauk U,
Eastern Ashoka Stupa,
Slide 19: Svayambhunath Mahachaitya. Restored many times, the current form dates from the 15th C. It may have been built over a 5th C. stupa.
Slide 20: Svayambhunath Mahachaitya. An aerial view at dawn.
Bodhanath Mahachaitya, near
Stone block stupas in front of Ama
A stupa at a mountain pass in the
Khumbu region of
Tsa-tsa (small votive stupas). 100,000 of them were placed
in the base of a new stupa at
Shwe Dagon Paya,
Shwe Sandaw Paya,
Shwe Zigon Paya,
Mingun Paya, Mingun
Stupas covering hilltops in
Shan stupas at
Shan stupas at
A stone stupa at Wat Preah Keo
Wat Pha That Luang, Luang Prabang,
Pha That Luang,
Slides 39 & 40: The Pha That Luang festival.
Pha That Phuan, Xieng Khuang,
Chedi Athi Ton Kaew,
Slide 44: Phra That Lampang, Lampang. At 42 metres high, this is a Lanna style stupa built in the mid 15th C.
Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai. Completed in 1441, it may have
been damaged by the same 19th C earthquake that cracked the
Phra Mahathat, Nakhon Si Thammarat,
78 metres high. The upper finial is solid gold and weighs several hundred kilos.
Wat Phra Si San Phet,
Wat Phra Kaew,
The main stupa at Wat Arun,
Wat Preah Keo Morakot,
Manfeilong Stupa in southern
Slide 53: Tibetan chorten at Mewa, Amdo. Commemorating the sermon at Sarnath, this is the most common style for Tibetan stupas.
Tibetan chorten at
Tibetan chorten at Tangboche
Tibetan chorten at Sakya, central
Slide 57: Dranang Jampaling Kumbum, destroyed by the Chinese Red Army.
Nepalese-style stupa at Mt
Lhagang Monastery, Kham. This stupa contains the ashes of
the 11th Karmapa of the Kagyu
60 & 61: Tholing Monastery: early 13th C. The Guge
home to Atisha, the great Bengali scholar who
second wave of Tantric Buddhism to
62 & 63: Square-terraced stupas at
that here the stupas are built of air-dried mud bricks coloured with natural minerals.
Lo Manthang, or
Slide 65: Detail of a winged spirit; probably a Bon deity, at Lo.
Slide 66: Chortens and lhatos (stupa-like spirit shrines) at Tangbe, Lo.
Chorten at Helambhu, central
Dayan Ta or Big Goose Pagoda, Chang-An,
A wooden tower stupa or pagoda at
Shoren-In, Tendai sect,
A 17th C wooden tower
stupa at Kiyomizu-dera,
A stupa-shaped bell at
During the course of the presentation, Joe had used the images to show how, in its 2,500 year history, the Buddhist stupa has evolved from a simple, solid hemispherical dome with few sculptural details to a more vertical, tower-like structure with rich detail both inside and out.
Following an informative question and answer session, the meeting adjourned to the Alliance Cafeteria where Joe was engaged in more informal discussions over snacks and drinks as he autographed copies of Buddhist Stupas in Asia purchased by members of the audience.