The legendary Tibetan Buddhist monastery Samye has survived against all odds for more than 1,200 years. It has endured harsh winters, several major fires, and the intrusive invasion of the Chinese Red Army. Under the auspices of the Cultural Revolution, many ancient texts stored there were destroyed, its frescoes were desecrated, and its golden roof was removed. Many monks were killed.
Mikel Dunham was trained as a thangka master in the Tibetan manner of painting. In 2000, he was given full access to Samye to create a photographic record of its besieged treasures. Here are 150 original color photographs of the inimitable beauty of this sacred site, which is still visited by Tibetan pilgrims. Through his lens we are able to savor the faces of monks and holy men in moments of silent contemplation, study its art, and marvel at the view of Samye's stupas set against a stunning backdrop of mountains.
Dunham writes about the history of the birthplace of Tibetan Buddhism with eloquence, and his commentaries on the deeper meanings of the architecture are insightful. In the foreword, His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes: "I welcome this book of photographs that seeks to convey the impression that Samye makes on pilgrims as they approach and make their way round the monastery. For those of us who are unable to go there ourselves, this is a valuable and moving substitute."