The Wheel of Time: An Instant Sand Mandala City that last for 12 Days for Dalai Lama’s Annual Ritual

Related Staff : Zhu, Tao

Student: Shu Tianchu, Jessie
Supervisor: Mr. Tao Zhu

Mandala,the sacred cosmogram of the Hindu-Buddhist worldview, can be understood as the essence of Tibetan spatial tradition. With coherent interpretations of this sacred diagram in various aspects, including cosmology, time-view, myths, the making of Tibetan spaces are interwoven with the ritual, symbolic and religious meaning of this highly elaborated diagram.

Yet the current unusual geo-political situation of Tibet has cut off the coherent cultural net, forcing Tibetan ritual and communities isolated in the non-mandala context outside of Tibet.

With Dalai Lama’s annual ritual of the Wheel of Time Empowerment Event as background for intervention, the thesis explores the potential of re-interpreting this ancient ritual diagram architecturally and culturally, experimenting on an alternative way to repair the cultural coherence in the context of exiled Tibetan culture, with investigations on spatial typologies, symbolic meanings, tectonic processes, materials in architecture.

Among the various interpretations of mandala, this thesis takes 2 aspects as basis of exploration: the spatial order of mandala (investigated with studies on traditional Tibetan spaces) and the symbolic meaning on impermanence it carries (investigated with studies on sand mandala ritual in Tibetan Buddhism).

My thesis thus attempts to develop a new architectural/urban system to host Dalai Lama’s annual ritual of the Wheel of Time Empowerment Event in Bodh Gaya, based on two elements:

  1. A translation of 2D mandala symbol into a 3D architectural/urban space;
  2. A temporary sand construction that can be built and demolished instantly, suitable for the 12-day period of Dalai Lama’s ritual, and manifesting the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy of impermanence and ephemerality.