The Mandala Model, Infused with Indigenous Beliefs, Systematically Structures and Sustains the Tibetan Buddhist Landscape above 3000 Meters

By Ping Xu.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper examines the spatial structure and religious meanings of Tibetan temples and their surrounding landscape. By using the methods of field investigations and overlay mapping, the author found that Tibetan villages and temples occur above 3,000 meters. The mandala as the Buddhist cosmic model, infused with indigenous beliefs, is used to systematically structure the spatial organization of Tibetan temples and surroundings at various scales from stone landmarks to stupas, Buddha halls, temple complexes, landscape settings, and holy mountains. People circumambulate around these structures. This cultural landscape, like the mandala, nests a series of levels that are isomorphic, with bases becoming smaller and elevations higher towards the center. To sustain the cultural and natural landscape, this Buddhist cosmic model is used to weave nature, architecture, religious meanings, and human movements into a mandala world, which presents a living culture powerfully affecting and inspiring its visitors. Nature is the source of Tibetan Buddhism and indigenous worships. Religious beliefs, with respect to and fear of nature, serve as means to protect and sustain the unique cultural landscape and the vulnerable natural conditions in the Qingzang Plateau in China. Tibetan sustainable practices have presented some solutions by compromising the conflicts and creating coexistence between ecological balances, human development, and social and cultural values.

Keywords: Sustainability, Mandala, General Model, Systematically, Tibetan Buddhist Temple and Landscape, Tibetan Indigenous Beliefs, Circumambulation, Isomorphic, Nesting Patterns, Above 3000 meters altitude

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.401-428. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 8.156MB).

Prof. Ping Xu

Professor, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

Dr. Ping Xu is a professor of architecture at the University of Colorado at Denver. She practiced as an architect in China for eight years. She is also a feng-shui consultant practicing in the United States and China. She holds a Doctor of Design degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design, a Master of Landscape Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and Master and Bachelor degrees in Architecture from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. Xu’s research interests focus on integrative and comparative studies of feng-shui, cultural models in built environments, integration of architecture and landscape, and prehistoric landscape setting patterns in the US Southwest.


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