VICTORIA, BC–It is a culture closely tied to the earth, adapting to a harsh environment in the highest and most isolated region on the planet. Once home to warriors, its empire stretched from the Himalayas to the Kunlun Mountains. Tibet: Mountains and Valleys, Castles and Tents, a new travelling exhibit, will make its Canadian premiere at the Royal BC Museum from March 4 to October 10, 2005.

Drawn from the unrivalled Tibetan collection of The Newark Museum, the exhibit explores the ancient culture of Tibet through 90 artifacts dating back to the 13th century, photographs from the early 1900s, and a documentary film. The Newark Museum, acclaimed as the “Louvre of Tibetan Art,” organized this travelling exhibit to showcase its historical and archival treasures of Tibetan culture. The collection has long been considered the finest in the Western Hemisphere.

“Due to the end of traditional Tibetan society in the mid-20th century, this collection is often referred to as a document of a ‘Lost World’,” said Valrae Reynolds, Curator of Asian Art at the Newark Museum. “Access to these treasures is a unique opportunity for the public to learn about this fascinating culture and people.”

This wide-ranging exhibition examines the history of Tibet, exploring how the harsh environment has influenced cultural art forms and daily life.

Displaying objects from the lives of the land-owning nobility, villagers and nomadic herders, Tibet: Mountains and Valleys, Castles and Tents provides visitors with a rare look into the pre-1959 traditional life of Tibet.

Tibet: Mountains and Valleys, Castles and Tents explores two ancient ways of life and their profound impact upon Tibetan society prior to 1959. The first reveals the lifestyle of the aristocracy, using lavishly decorated objects and ceremonial ornaments to illustrate the political power and social standing of the noble families of Tibet. The second shows the personal belongings and tools of nomads and farmers from eastern and northeastern Tibet.

Highlights of the exhibition include items that belonged to long-ago rulers, such as the oldest object on display, a 13th – 14th century Tsampa (grain) container inlaid with gold and silver, and a 19th century silver prayer wheel inset with jade, rubies and shells, items used by Tibetan nomads, farmers and herders, and photographs that powerfully depict the traditional lifestyles of the Tibetan people. The objects that reflect pre-1959 aristocratic and government customs are exceedingly rare, as these aspects of traditional Tibetan life are forbidden under Communist rule (1959 to present).

Beginning with a historical exploration of Tibetan geography and history, the exhibit shows the influence of extreme altitudes and barren terrain upon Tibetan economics, religion, and artistic expression. Though physically isolated from much of the world by high deserts and mountains, Tibet has always been a commercially active area, crisscrossed by trade routes. The Tibetan people also have a spiritual connection to the high and rugged land, and early creation myths consider the plateau a sacred, spiritually potent area.

Dr. Albert Shelton, a missionary doctor in western China and eastern Tibet during the early 1900s, is credited with the start of this outstanding collection. In 1911, his collection of 150 or so Tibetan objects came to The Newark Museum; this initial group was soon enlarged by other important gifts and purchases from missionaries and early explorers to Tibet.

In conjunction with the exhibit, The National Geographic IMAX Theatre will also present the blockbuster film, Everest, a dramatic true story of a team of climbers who found hope, strength, and triumph in the wake of tragedy.

Their successful ascent of Mount Everest just days after fellow mountaineers and friends died there becomes a compelling story about the human spirit and a mountain they love, respect, and fear. Many Everest explorers begin their trip from a base camp in Tibet, so it seems fitting that those who choose to visit the Tibet exhibit will be able to visit Everest at the IMAX.

Royal BC Museum tickets are $12.50 for adults, $8.70 for seniors, students and youth aged 6 – 18. Children, 5 years and younger, are free. Family tickets (2 adults and 2 dependent youth) are $33.70.

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