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Land of Pure Vision

The Sacred Geography of Tibet and the Himalaya

David Zurick. foreword by Eric Valli

Publication Year: 2014

The landscapes of Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan are filled with holy places. Some are of natural origin -- summits, rivers and lakes, caves, or forest sanctuaries. Others are consecrated by religious practice -- shrines, temples, monasteries, or burial grounds. The holy sites of the Himalaya unite faith and geography to produce some of the most sublime places on Earth.

In Land of Pure Vision, David Zurick draws from his thirty-five years of experience as a geographer, photographer, and explorer of the Himalaya, combining scholarship and art to capture divine landscapes undergoing profound change. The stunning photographs featured in this volume cover the full geographical reach of the region, from the high plateaus of the western Himalaya to the rugged gorges of Tibet's eastern borderlands, from the icy summits of the north to the subtropical southern foothills. Some sites exist in isolation, with intact natural environments and cultural monuments. Others display the tension between the ancient, sacred character of a place and the indifferent course of the modern world.

Land of Pure Vision explores how the religious practices of Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, and shamanism interweave holy sites into a cohesive landscape of transcendent beauty and inspiration. It portrays a world of mystery, magic, and beauty, where the human spirit is in synchronicity with natural forces. Beyond elegy, this beautifully illustrated book is a visual ethnography of people and place.

Published by: The University Press of Kentucky

Front cover

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Title Page, Map, Copyright, Dedication

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Éric Valli

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pp. ix-x

It’s often my search for hidden lands—beyul, as the Tibetans call them—that triggers my most beautiful and wild adventures. That’s why David Zurick’s quest in the Himalaya for what he calls sacred architectures interested me straightaway. Imagine a several years’...

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pp. xi-2

In 2004 I began traveling in the Himalaya and Tibet with a largeformat camera and sheet film to make black-and-white photographs of sacred places in the region: monasteries, shrines, and temples; scriptural carvings on rocks; prayer flags; the sources or confluences...

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Gallery One: Nature

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pp. 3-28

Geographers refer to mountains as high-energy environments due to the restless powers of tectonic uplift, gravity, and erosion. Working together in a geological cycle, these forces give rise in Tibet and the Himalaya to some of the planet’s grandest...

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Gallery Two: Place

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pp. 29-58

The geographer Yi Fu Tuan employed the term topophilia to describe the affinity a person may have for a place. He suggested that such affinity comes from a sense of both love and fear: love in the way that place-based experience and emotion create a...

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Gallery Three: Networks

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pp. 59-78

The places that appear in a sacred geography of Tibet and the Himalaya do not exist in isolation but rather are interwoven within a spatial grid of pilgrimage routes, ceremonial grounds, scriptural transmissions, and trailside markers, all made cohesive by religious...

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Gallery Four: Change

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pp. 79-100

Change and dissolution are among the hallmarks of religious thought in Tibet and the Himalaya. From its inception, Tibetan Buddhism has stressed impermanence as essential to spiritual liberation—all attempts to cling to the past will result only in future...

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pp. 101-102

A project such as this one, spanning a decade and much challenging terrain, happens only with a great deal of assistance and support. I’d like to thank the following individuals and institutions for their help during the course of my work on this book...

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A Note on the Last Photoghraph

David Zurick

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pp. 103-104

The image “Mt. Kailash, Tibet, 2013” is the last photograph in my Sacred Geography series and the only one made with a digital camera. All other photographs appearing in this book are silver gelatin prints created from four by five negatives. The story is this...


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pp. 105-118

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 119-122

E-ISBN-13: 9780813145594
E-ISBN-10: 0813145597
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813145518

Page Count: 136
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 887973267
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Land of Pure Vision

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Tibet Autonomous Region (China) -- Maps.
  • Himalaya Mountains Region -- Maps.
  • Tibet Autonomous Region (China) -- Description and travel -- Maps.
  • Himalaya Mountains Region -- Description and travel -- Maps.
  • Physical geography -- China -- Tibet Autonomous Region -- Maps.
  • Physical geography -- Himalaya Mountains Region -- Maps.
  • Tourist maps. -- lcgft.
  • Physical maps. -- lcgft.
  • Atlases. -- lcgft.
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