Friday, September 08, 2006

The First Tibetan Temple in America

The first Tibetan Buddhist temple in America was manufactured in 1930, in Beijing, and thereafter installed at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago. It was a reproduction of a temple in China (above).

In 1930, the American industrialist, Vincent Hugo Bendix (1882-1945), commissioned the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin (1865-1952) to oversee the construction of a replica of the Tibetan Buddhist temple at Jehol. My father (1900-1964), was also significantly involved with this project and I do recall hearing about this many times. I believe he became involved at the request of Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947), with whom he did business. Initial cost of manufacture (in China) was $65,000., and ultimately, the entire project consumed $250,000., with Bendix paying the lion's share. Hence, the temple was known as the "Bendix Lama Temple," or variously, the "Jehol Temple."

Vincent Hugo Bendix (1882-1945)

Sven Hedin (1865-1952)

The temple was shipped in thousands of numbered pieces from Beijing to Chicago, and thereafter to the New York World's Fair. Like all aggregates, it has since dispersed. The Golden Temple Foundation, in Stockholm, had a subsequent interest, as did Oberlin College and a few private collectors. It is so very strange, but I saw some of the "missing" pieces from this temple in San Francisco, in 1968.

Visitors to the temple could purchase a commemorative book, various trinkets, and "Lama Incense" used at the temple.

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