This paper analyses the values and uses of Tibetan sacred artefacts in their original contexts as well as the transformation of meanings once placed in museums. It discusses the perception of statues, paintings, ritual instruments and books from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, examining the iconographic and iconometric functions of the images, and asserting that a primary purpose is as a ‘support for practice’ (tib. sku rten, ‘body-support’). Sacred images represent the embodiment of the Buddhas, deities and masters and, once consecrated by lamas, are considered to have the power to confer blessings. Despite the instrumental function of such artefacts, however, it is also possible to identify and delineate a complex Himalayan concept of aesthetics. The text moves on to analyse the effects of the transition of Tibetan Buddhist images into different museological contexts, comparing the display of Tibetan material in the consecrated spaces of Himalayan monastery museums with their exhibition in secular museological sites in the West.
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