Gedun Chopel and Pema Bhum

In 2003, Latse Contemporary Tibetan Cultural Library (later shortened to simply Latse Library) opened its doors. It was the first institution to focus on resources for the study of modern Tibetan society and culture. The public programs we organize continue to emphasize this role. The first major event organized by the library was the Gendun Chophel Centennial Conference, to commemorate the hundredth birthday of Tibet’s most influential—and most controversial—scholar of the twentieth century.

The conference convened twenty-two friends, family and acquaintances, scholars, biographers, and collectors from seven countries to cover all aspects of Gendun Chopel’s life and legacy. The conference itself consisted of five panels, two individual presentations, two films, and an exhibit. In 2013, Latse Library, with Donald Lopez, published a book inspired by the conference and featuring the art of Gendun Chopel entitled Gendun Chopel: Tibet’s First Modern Artist (Serindia, 2013). The foreword of that publication contains a detailed overview of the well-attended conference.

It is with great pleasure that at long last we make available the transcripts from the conference. Most speakers are represented here; there are a few not included, pending approval from the speaker or because the presentation was largely video based. We have also included photos from the conference and related activities, as well as written letters and statements drafted for the occasion of the conference. Explore photo galleries featuring conference activities, as well as Gendun Chopel’s hometown of Shopong in Rebgong. You will also find scanned manuscripts in the collection of Horkhang Jampa Tendar, including the personal notebook of Gendun Chopel, and a special collection of transcribed interviews from the collection of Luc Schaedler, director of the Gendun Chopel documentary Angry Monk.

We would like to acknowledge those conference participants whose presentations could not be recorded as proper transcripts but whose contributions bettered our understanding of Gendun Chopel:

Raphaele Demandre: A video presentation of Gendun Chopel’s birthplace and the Gendun Chopel Middle School
Luc Schaedler: Sneak preview of a new documentary on Gendun Chopel
Clare Harris: “Gendun Chopel as artist: The first Tibetan modernist?”

Transcriptions and translation of the conference proceedings were done by Gedun Rabsal, Lauran Hartley, and Yangbum Gyal. Thanks to Yungdrung Gyal for permission to use photos and images from his personal collection and of his home. We are grateful to Horkhang Jampa Tendar for permission to make available his father’s copy of The Treatise of Love (‘Dod pa’i bstan bcos) and Gendun Chopel’s notebook.

A special thanks to Luc Schaedler for his generosity in sharing the transcripts and videos published here, and for his camaraderie and overreaching helpfulness during the 2003 Conference, especially for expertly scanning Gendun Chopel paintings, manuscripts, and photos for us. Your work made much of this online resource possible.

Many thanks also to Gedun Rabsal, for his help in facilitating the inclusion of Luc Schaedler’s collection of interviews here, and for all his hard work in converting and editing the Tibetan documents.

Note on transliteration system used: As with most of our publications, we use the Tibetan and Himalayan Library (THL) Simplified Phonetic Transcription of Standard Tibetan for terms, titles, and so on, in the Tibetan language, with some exceptions—the most obvious of which is Gendun Chopel— mainly due to already established names or to better accommodate local pronunciation.