Opening address, introducing Riyang Book, delivered by Kunzang Choden on November 30th 2012 at the Nehru- Wangchuck Cultural Center, Thimphu Bhutan
Your Royal Highness, Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am extremely happy to welcome all of you on this occasion, the launch of our publishing company, Riyang Books and the release of our first two titles;
“Ogyen Choling: A Manor in Central Bhutan” and an illustrated book for children,
“Member Tsho: The Flaming Lake”.
Riyang for us means the sounds of the mountains, voices of the mountains. But perhaps more literally it means mountain melodies. It refers in a broad sense to Jampelyang (Manjushri) and Yangchenma. “Ri” and “yang” capture the spirit of both the immovable stability and transitory dynamism as well as the male and female energies.
The logo, inspired by Dr, Karma Phuntsho and designed by Dhondup Roder is the combination of the symbol representing Manjushri enclosed in an artistic musical note.
As you can see, Riyang can mean many things but we do not want Riyang to ever become the incomprehensible noises from the mountains. We want to encourage thoughtful, meaningful and articulate forms of expression. We hope that Riyang will be able to serve as an avenue for people who want to share their ideas, their creative talents, engage in dialogue and express themselves artistically.
Professional publishing is a new experience in Bhutan. This is uncharted territory and we are novices. We know that we will occasionally stumble and even get lost. But we are determined and look forward to this adventure for we are convinced that it is time for Bhutanese to write, publish, read and talk about their own works. We anticipate that some brave travel companions will join us on this journey.
Many would consider it rather strange that our family is investing in a publishing company at a time when E- books and digital media are becoming the way that people read. It is perhaps foolish that we have dared to go into publishing when publishing houses around the world are lamenting their losses, downsizing or merging and still worse closing down.
But then, we are strange and foolish people, who love books.
Riyang was born out of the difficulty that we experienced in trying to find a publisher for the publication of “Ogyen Choling: a Manor in Central Bhutan.” Looking for a publisher for a work which we thought was worthy of being published was such a formidable task. Publishers were only willing to commit if we were willing to self-finance. This made us consider alternatives. The obvious, but perhaps reckless solution was to start our own publishing house. Thus, Riyang was born. Riyang was born not to exclusively publish our own works but also to promote other works that deserve to be heard, read, and enjoyed. Riyang will endeavor to be a discerning but sympathetic home for authors, artists and dreamers like us.
Introduction to “Ogyen Choling: A Manor in Central Bhutan” delivered by Dolma Choden Roder on November 30th 2012
I feel so grateful and lucky to have co-edited this book” Ogyen Choling: A manor in Central Bhutan” with my mother. Originally I saw this as a great professional opportunity since I had worked for many years in a museum and I have a strong academic interest in museums and cultural heritage, however now that the book is completed my strongest sense of satisfaction comes from having made a deeper personal connection with Ogyen Choling, my maternal ancestral home. I learnt more than just details about my family history. The strong, enduring bonds that anchor my mother and her brothers, my uncles, to this place became more evident to me while helping to edit this book. Despite spending only a brief but intense portion of their childhood in Ogyen Choling, their sense of belonging and duty have made them strive to hold on to the place and to work towards preserving its history and dignity. In lean times, particularly after the early deaths of my grandparents, Ogyen Choling was mostly a liability. However with tenacity, optimism and a necessary sense of innovation, my parents and my uncles found ways to sustain the complex, recover after repeated thefts, keep the roofs on the building, and continue the religious practices of their forbearers. Ultimately their resourcefulness and determination to hold on to what matters is their true legacy to my generation, my siblings and my cousins.
This book would not have been possible without the free professional services of Kay Kirby who provided much needed copy editing advice and Dhondup Roder who did all the layout and graphic design work including the beautiful cover.
The first chapters of the book draw heavily on the memories of my mother and uncles. These rich, evocative chapters tell us about the patterns of daily life during Ogyen Choling’s heydays, the way that various spaces in the complex were used, the religious life of Ogyen Choling and the continuing relationships between Ogyen Choling and the surrounding village. The final chapter written by my mother is about the evolution of Ogyen Choling into a museum, an attempt to preserve and share a past that died with my grandparents.
Dr Franciose Pommaret, a well-known ethno-historian of the Himalayas and a long –time friend of Ogyen Choling also contributed a chapter locating Ogyen Choling within the larger Bhutanese and regional historical context. I think her chapter is a reminder that the development, significance and fate of historical manors like Ogyen Choling are an important part of the historical, cultural and religious heritage of all Bhutanese.
The final two chapters of the book are by Pierre Pichard and document in both prose and visually the traditional Bhutanese architecture on display at Ogyen Choling. I am going to let Pierre talk about his own work but first I want to give him a brief introduction. Pierre is a French architect who for many years has specialized in conservation. He has led numerous UNESCO mission for the conservation of historical monuments in Asia. Most recently he was in Burma for the first time in twenty years and I encourage you to ask him more about this trip and his findings but for now I want to invite him to come and tell all of you about the architectural heritage of Ogyen Choling and his efforts to document it.
Introduction to “Membar Tsho: The Flaming Lake”, delivered by Kunzang Choden on November 30th 2012 at the Nehru- Wangchuck Cultural Center, Thimphu Bhutan
Before I talk about the book, Membar tsho: The Flaming Lake I must talk about the illustrator of the book Pema Tshering. Pema a gifted artist, who is one of the founding members of VAST. He was invited to participate in the biannual art exhibition in Dhaka and could not be with us here today.
Pema has succeeded in breathing life into the narrative with his fluid, playful and colorful illustrations which we hope will speak to the readers of all ages.
It is definitely not by coincidence that our second book “Membar Tsho: The Flaming Lake” is not only from Bumthang but specifically from my own valley, Tang. This is one of the most famous and enduring stories of Bhutan’s very own and much beloved terton or religious treasure discoverer, Pema Lingpa. I grew up hearing stories about this amazing and miraculous man.Pema Lingpa was born in the same valley as I and I feel a special connection to him.
Why then, the experts, scholars and academics will ask, did I get it all so wrong? Pema Lingpa should have a butter lamp and not a flaming torch in his hand as he came out of the lake and the place where he was born was Chel and not Thrai as I have mentioned in this book!
But I have answers which I hope will draw attention to the validity of oral tradition.
I grew up at a time when Bhutan was still mainly an oral society. While the religious scholars and monks read the texts, the rest of us, the large majority of the population depended on the oral tradition. We told stories, listened to stories and created more stories. We must never forget that there was a parallel institution to the texts and scriptures, the undeniable existence of a thriving oral tradition often telling the same stories as those written in the texts.
The texts in my opinion had the final authoritative voice, confining in character. The oral tradition , on the other hand was fluid, dynamic and very personal. Thus, in the Pema Lingpa stories I heard as a child he sometimes held a butter lamp in his hand but more often it was a flaming wooden torch.
As for the name of his birth place in Tang, go and look for Chel. Not many will know it, for Chel was the textual Tibetan version of the local Bumthangkha name Thrai which all Bumthaps are familiar with.
My intention in writing this book was to bring Pema Lingpa out of the temple closets and history books into the midst of Bhutanese children’s lives so that they may get to know him, be inspired by his life and most importantly claim him as their own.
(photo credit: Yannick Jooris)