This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile to India. Give a nod to his sacred culture, without acting all Richard Gere--ish.

Photographs: Gabriela Herman; (Tibitan monks) Phil Borges -- On view at the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art


* The Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art in Staten Island (338 Lighthouse Ave off Richmond Rd, 718-987-3500) resembles a traditional Himalayan monastery, and is about as idyllic as it gets. Sunday 29 marks the opening of “Tibetan Portrait: The Power of Compassion,” a collection of objects and photos highlighting Tibetan culture and the plight of its people.

* In Manhattan, the Rubin Museum of Art (150 W 17th St at Seventh Ave, 212-620-5000) boasts an impressive collection of bronze statues, ritual instruments and thangkas, ancient scrolls hung in shrine rooms and chapels throughout Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia and Bhutan. Says producer Tim McHenry: “Our expertise is relating things you don’t think of as Tibetan to Tibetan culture, like Darren Aronofsky discussing the Tibetan wheel of life with a cognitive scientist and philosopher.”

* Those in search of more contemporary art should head to Tibet House (22 W 15th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 212-807-0563), a not-for-profit whose main function, according to executive director Ganden Thurman, is to “help Tibetan artists pull themselves out of obscurity, both as artists and Tibetans.”


“Tibet has a heady culture,” says Thurman. “A lot it revolves around medicine, psychology, philosophy, scholarship and manipulating the mind-body connection through meditation practices.” Follow suit by taking a class at the Palden Sakya Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies and Meditation (4 W 101st St between Central Park West and Manhattan Ave, 212-866-4339), which offers instruction in Tibetan philosophy, language, and prayers and pujas (religious rituals).

* Bibliophiles should visit the Latse Contemporary Tibetan Cultural Library at the Trace Foundation (132 Perry St between Greenwich and Washington Sts, 212-367-8490), which houses books, rare manuscripts and films with an emphasis on Tibetan secular culture. There are also lectures, screenings and dumpling-making workshops.

* Shoppers, take note: The Tibet Gift Shop (213 W 80th St between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway, 212-873-9884) recently celebrated an anniversary of its own: 15 years of providing the UWS with traditional handicrafts, prayer wheels, healing instruments and jewelry.

* The Tibet Fund (241 E 32nd St between Second and Third Aves, 212-213-5011) is the biggest nonprofit in North America committed to helping Tibetan refugees. President Rinchen Dharlo says the New York arm of the organization is dedicated to “not only keeping Tibetan language and culture alive, but helping Tibetans in exile in the fields of health and education.” The Fund will host the Dalai Lama himself on May 3 at the Town Hall.

* Those interested in the Tibetan political cause should check out Tibet Does Not Exist, April 8--26 at Spoon Theater (38 W 38th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, 212-352-3101). The comedy is about a Yale economics professor’s unlikely houseguest: a Tibetan lama. “The play can be seen as profound philosophy doled out with a lot of Buddhist humor, or absolute nonsense cloaked in an air of profundity,” says playwright Don Thompson. “If I was to pitch the idea to a film studio, it would be like Gandhi meets I Love Lucy.”


* Dharlo especially likes Tibetan Kitchen (444 Third Ave between 30th and 31st Sts, 212-679-6286). “Walking in there is like stepping into a monastery,” he says. Try the sumptuous momos, or dumplings, filled with beef or veggies ($11).

* Those looking for healthier fare should stop by Tsampa (212 E 9th St between Second and Third Aves, 212-614-3226); the menu offers brown rice and fresh, organic produce.


Tashi delek is a Tibetan greeting, like Namast and Shalom. It literally translates as “good luck,” but is used to say “good morning” and “good afternoon.” And don’t be surprised if you see the word rangzen on T-shirts and pamphlets. It means “freedom.” “Every Tibetan, whether at home or abroad, is longing for freedom,” says Dharlo. “This word is very special to us.”

Fun facts

* New York is home to about 5,000 Tibetans, with the highest concentrations in Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria and Jackson Heights, Queens.
* Many Tibetans make yak butter sculptures, an ancient tradition that’s exactly what it sounds like. Try your hand at butter sculpting during Rubin Museum’s Tibet Family Day on May 2.

See more Passport NY
More in Own This City