Cutting Films: Earth Dog Year Celebrated with Presentation of Short Films

July 7, 2017 at 2:52 pm Leave a comment

2018 is the Earth Dog Year in the Tibetan astronomical calendar. February 16th, the beginning of the new moon, marks the first day of the new year. Happy New Year!

To celebrate this occasion, the Newark Museum is pleased to present once again five short films that are excerpts of footage shot by C. Suydam Cutting, a wealthy sportsman, naturalist, and adventurer, who traveled to Tibet in the Iron Horse Year (1930), the Wood Pig Year (1935), and the Fire Ox Year (1937). On his numerous expeditions, mostly sponsored by prominent museums in the United States, Cutting and his colleagues collected remarkable examples of the flora and fauna. He also took countless photographs and made several motion pictures of some, but not all, of these travels.



Boy drumming: 17:32 (Yunnan and Szechuan)

Musical Arts of Asia celebrates music through the images of men and women singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments. Together, they reveal the disparate, dynamic, and melodic traditions of the peoples of Tibet and of the Szechuan and Yunnan Provinces of China. Many of the images come from receptions given in honor of Mr. Cutting and his party at the King’s palace in Muli (now Sichuan Province) (1928), the Panchen Lama’s monastery and palace in Shigatse (1935), or the Prime Minister’s house in Lhasa (1935). This short film also includes images of a funeral procession in Tali Fu in Yunnan Province (1928). It accompanies an installation of 25 works – prints, paintings, ivories, lacquer objects, and musical instruments – from China, Japan, Korea, India, Nepal, and Tibet, currently on display in the Newark Museum’s Asian Galleries.


Women at the well: 38:30 (To Lhasa and Shigatse)

The Forbidden Cities of Tibet highlights the sights that Cutting and his entourage found in Gyantse, Shigatse, and Lhasa. To quote Cutting, “these fantastic cities slumbering in medieval tranquility,” with “a landscape well-nigh unrivalled for grandeur,” were inhabited by “one of the most attractive people on earth.” Marketplaces and monasteries, humble homes and grand residences are all showcased.

Nomad and Tent

Nomad in front of tent with mountain in background: 50:28 (To Lhasa and Shigatse)

Villagers, Farmers, and Nomads emphasizes the “unique” agriculture that Cutting noted on his first trip to Tibet in 1930. On the southern steppes of the Tibetan plateau, Cutting observed that many products were used not for human consumption but rather for the horses, cows, and yaks (who in turn supported the human population). Another significant group of Tibetans, however, were herders who “wander here and there across the windy plateau, leading their hardy nomadic lives.” Cutting stated, “Tibet is remarkably fortunate in its good health, its lack of overpopulation, and its ample and regular food supply.”

Boat on river

Boat on the Brahmaputra: 23:02 (To Lhasa and Shigatse)

In 1928 Cutting traveled with a group through Burma to Bhamo, “the last British outpost of civilization,” and then over the mountains to Yunnan Province, “a landscape of wide rolling valleys, circled by gaunt mountain ranges.” There he encountered several of what he exoticized as The Mystery Rivers of Asia. “The five great ‘mystery rivers’ of Tibet,” Cutting wrote, “tried to find their way southward through the Himalayas to the sea. The Irrawaddy, the Mekong, the Brahmaputra, and the Salween succeeded, but the frustrated Yangtze, flowing southward in orderly fashion like the others, found its path blocked… so there was nothing for it to do but go back northward in another channel.” In this short film, Cutting captured the adventure of crossing these rivers using a variety of vessels.

Cutting Map 2

From C. Suydam Cutting, The Fire Ox and Other Years (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1940, 1947).

Since its introduction in the 7th century, Buddhism has played a major role in the artistic, cultural, social, and political life of the Tibetan people. In this short film, Buddhism in Tibet, Cutting photographed practitioners (lamas, monks, artists, men, women, and children) as well as places (chortens, monasteries, temples) associated with Tibetan Buddhism. Prayer wheels, wind-horse flags, and prayer beads are all portrayed, although Cutting primarily focused on people.


These five short films are drawn from many hours of footage that have been preserved digitally through the generosity of John H. McFadden and his wife Lisa D. Kabnick in honor of his sister Mary McFadden, a great-niece of Mr. Cutting who inherited his sense of adventure. The original films were donated in 1988 by Mr. Cutting’s widow, Mary Pyne Filley Cutting, a Trustee of the Newark Museum. They document Cutting’s expedition to Yunnan and Szechuan in 1928, the Cutting-Vernay expedition to Lhasa and Shigatse in 1935, and Cutting’s two other trips to Tibet in 1930 and 1937.

— William A. Peniston, Ph.D., Librarian/Archivist


Entry filed under: Asian Art. Tags: .

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