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Buddhist art of Tibet: a book, a museum

Buddhist art of Tibet – In Milarepa’s Footsteps, published by Flammarion on October 19, 2022, will be available in English and in French in all bookshops. An occasion to review Alain Bordier’s story, that of a passionate art collector, and of his Tibet museum in Gruyères.

Three authors for one book

Based upon a selection of works of art from the Alain Bordier – Tibet Museum collection, Buddhist Art of Tibet aims to present the wealth and diversity of Tibetan Buddhism and its artistic tradition. The core of the book is The Black Treasury, an unpublished illuminated manuscript recounting the life of Milarepa, great yogin and Tibetan poet of the 11th century.

This volume presents a guided journey into the extraordinary world of the Himalayan religious art and Vajrayana Buddhism in three stages:

- the first section by Magali Jenny (author of Guérisseurs, rebouteux et faiseurs de secrets en Suisse romande) begins with the story Alain Bordier’s adventures in Tibet, his collection, and the genesis of the museum;

-the second part, consisting of thematic chapters written by Etienne Bock (specialist in Tibetan arts and religious literature), aims to provide an understanding of the meaning and symbolism of this refined art;

- associated with these themes, each chapter is punctuated by stories from the famous yogi Milarepa’s life, a thread which runs throughout the book. Inspired by parts of The Black Treasury manuscript translated and commented by Jean-Marc Falcombello (Buddhist teacher and a former cultural journalist), these stories aim to provide a new vision of Milarepa’s illustrious life, based on the living tradition of Buddhist masters.

Interweaving autobiographic, technic, artistic, historic, religious, and spiritual elements, this book speaks to the heart, mind and soul. Imagined as a work of “specialized vulgarization”, we hope this reading will be a pleasurable experience on the intellectual and the visual levels.

A museum born out of passion

Fascinated by Buddhist art and Asian spiritualties, Alain Bordier spent more than 40 years creating a unique collection of Himalayan religious objects (mostly from Tibet, Nepal and India). Gathered in the Tibet Museum, located at the heart of the medieval city of Gruyères in Switzerland, these more than 600 works of art offers a rare opportunity to discover an endangered patrimony.

Of Alain Bordier’s adventures in Tibet remains this narrative and one of the most prestigious collections of Buddhist art in the world, acquired and assembled with care and respect, and presenting more than 350 works of Himalayan art dating from the 6th to the 18th century. Assembled in the book are deities, masters and ritual objects, supports for meditation and devotion, and symbols of the highest spiritual realisations.

The museum’s collection is set inside the Saint-Joseph chapel of the old Château Saint-Germain. This former place of worship and prayer allows a complete immersion into the beauty and contemplation of these works of art. Through the choice of this historical building, the Fondation Alain Bordier wished to perpetuate the welcoming vocation of this site. Thus, the museum offers to the public an access to the Himalayan Buddhist art and philosophy inside an historical religious monument in a spirit of respect and open mindedness. Swiss and Tibetan traditions are presented intertwined and celebrated as a common heritage of humanity.


The book is available at the Tibet Museum Shop

Rue du Château 4, 1663 Gruyères, Suisse

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