Sex And Death In Tibet At The Wellcome Collection, Reviewed

Tibet's Secret Temple, Wellcome Collection ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 36 months ago
Sex And Death In Tibet At The Wellcome Collection, Reviewed Tibet's Secret Temple, Wellcome Collection 4
A gilded Garuda: a divine humanoid bird. Copyright the trustees of the British Museum

A mention of Tantric Buddhism is automatically associated with erotic imagery, and while there are sculptures of gods 'in union' with their consorts, sex is just a small part of this school of thought and this exhibition explores the wide range of aspects to this faith.

The inspiration for this show is the Lukang temple in Tibet — a meditative retreat originally designed to be only accessible to the Dalai Lama. Through videos, photographs and a room of the murals digitally recreated, the experience is almost as good as visiting the temple itself.

Buddhism has peace at its core, but some of the imagery here is extremely violent and macabre including ornaments made from human bones, a pair of dancing skeletons and a tapestry where flayed bodies are suspended from the top.

Beyond sexual yoga, Tantric Buddhism also explores the anatomy of humans and how energy is channelled through our bodies, forming the basis for Tibetan medicine at the time. The exhibition also contains videos of modern scientists discussing the benefits that studying these Tibetan texts and drawings can deliver.

The Wellcome Collection has started to change its exhibitions and they're drifting further towards art, while retaining a scientific edge; as we saw last time around with the copper wrapped world of Alice Anderson. This time a focus on a single temple has resulted in a fascinating exhibition that opens our eyes to a world we knew nothing about.

Tibet's Secret Temple: Body, mind and meditation in Tantric Buddhism is on at Wellcome Collection until 28 February 2016. Entrance is free and the exhibition is open Tuesday to Sunday.

Anatomical drawings of the energy flows through the body. Copyright American Natural History Museum

Last Updated 23 November 2015

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