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Buddhist monks’ exhibit set for museum reopening

by Rebecca McQuillan, Herald Scotland, 28 Feb 2011

Eskdalemuir, Scotland (UK) -- The first major new exhibit is in place at the National Museum of Scotland, as it prepares to reopen in the summer after a £46.4 million refurbishment.

<< This specially commissioned Tibetan prayer wheel house, above, will be among 6400 first-time exhibits in the newly refurbished National Museum of Scotland, below. Picture: Steve Cox

The Herald has had an exclusive preview of a specially commissioned Tibetan prayer wheel house, one of 6400 new or previously unseen objects in the museum.

The wooden prayer wheel house, decorated with resin mouldings, paint and gold lacquer, has been created by Tibetan Buddhist craftsmen from the Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery in Eskdalemuir, the oldest and largest centre for Tibetan Buddhism in Europe.

In Tibetan Buddhism, prayer wheels play a central role. Small ones are carried by pilgrims, who turn them as they walk, and larger ones are located in shrines. In the centre of every prayer wheel are printed mantras (prayers); according to Tibetan Buddhist belief, these are carried into the air and spread compassion when the wheel is rotated.

Yeshi Palmo, project manager, explained that among believers, prayer wheels once consecrated become synonymous with a living deity, the Buddha of compassion; the house is built around it as a mark of respect.

Henrietta Lidchi, the keeper of the department of world cultures, said that by turning the wheels, visitors were able to experience Tibetan Buddhist culture rather than trying to get to grips with it through their minds alone.

The revamped museum will feature 36 galleries with 20,000 objects in total, including 16 new galleries with 8000 objects, many of which have not been on display in living memory. Before the refurbishment, some of the galleries had not been altered in 20 years.

The prayer wheel house will be displayed in the Living Lands gallery, which explores indigenous communities, and how landscape influences their lifestyle. Akong Rinpoche, the co-founder of Samye Ling Monastery, was consulted on the Tibetan displays.

The museum will have a new street-level entrance hall, two new restaurants and two new shops, while the Victorian “crystal palace” centre hall is being completely restored.

The museum reopens on Friday July 29, this year.

The first major new exhibit is in place at the National Museum of Scotland, as it prepares to reopen in the summer after a £46.4 million refurbishment.

The Herald has had an exclusive preview of a specially commissioned Tibetan prayer wheel house, one of 6400 new or previously unseen objects in the museum.

The wooden prayer wheel house, decorated with resin mouldings, paint and gold lacquer, has been created by Tibetan Buddhist craftsmen from the Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery in Eskdalemuir, the oldest and largest centre for Tibetan Buddhism in Europe.

In Tibetan Buddhism, prayer wheels play a central role. Small ones are carried by pilgrims, who turn them as they walk, and larger ones are located in shrines. In the centre of every prayer wheel are printed mantras (prayers); according to Tibetan Buddhist belief, these are carried into the air and spread compassion when the wheel is rotated.

Yeshi Palmo, project manager, explained that among believers, prayer wheels once consecrated become synonymous with a living deity, the Buddha of compassion; the house is built around it as a mark of respect.

Henrietta Lidchi, the keeper of the department of world cultures, said that by turning the wheels, visitors were able to experience Tibetan Buddhist culture rather than trying to get to grips with it through their minds alone.

The revamped museum will feature 36 galleries with 20,000 objects in total, including 16 new galleries with 8000 objects, many of which have not been on display in living memory. Before the refurbishment, some of the galleries had not been altered in 20 years.

The prayer wheel house will be displayed in the Living Lands gallery, which explores indigenous communities, and how landscape influences their lifestyle. Akong Rinpoche, the co-founder of Samye Ling Monastery, was consulted on the Tibetan displays.

The museum will have a new street-level entrance hall, two new restaurants and two new shops, while the Victorian “crystal palace” centre hall is being completely restored.

The museum reopens on Friday July 29, this year.



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