On the Threshold of the "Land of Marvels:" Alexandra David-Neel in Sikkim and the Making of Global Buddhism

  • Samuel Thévoz (Author)

    Samuel Thévoz received a Ph.D. in literature from the University of Lausanne and leads a three-year stand-alone project as an advanced researcher supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation. He is the author of Un horizon infini: Explorateurs et voyageurs français au Tibet, 1846–1912. Paris: University Press of Paris-Sorbonne, 2010. He recently edited Marie de Ujfalvy-Bourdon, Voyage d’une Parisienne dans l’Himalaya, Paris: Transboréal, 2014.

Identifiers (Article)

Abstract

Alexandra David-Neel had already been acquainted with the Himalayas for a long time before the visits to Tibet in 1924 that would make her a mainstream figure of modern Buddhism. In fact, her encounter with Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism can be linked with Sikkim, where she arrived in 1912 after visiting India. An exploration of her Sikkim stay invites us to reconsider the self-fashioning of David-Neel’s image as an explorer of what she called the “land of marvels.” This paper highlights her construction of Sikkim as the locality that helped her create her singular vision of Tibet. Her encounters with local Buddhists in Sikkim provided her with the lofty images of a spiritual Tibet that she contributed to publicizing in the wake of the globalization of Buddhism.

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Published
2016-07-21
Section
Themed Section: Global Encounters, Local Places. Connected Histories of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and the Himalayas
Language
en
Academic discipline and sub-disciplines
Literature; History;
Contributor or sponsoring agency
Swiss National Foundation for Scientific Research
Keywords
Alexandra David-Neel; Modern Buddhism; Tibetan Buddhism; Himalayan Borderlands; Travel Writing; Cultural Globalization; World Literature