David Pritzker never asked his parents the reason why they were so fascinated with the Himalayas.
Thomas and Margot Pritzker first visited the Himalayas in 1975, and were immediately drawn to the place. Ever since, the couple made frequent trips to the mountain range, and explored its cultures. “We both wanted to learn another culture. We wanted to experiment with another culture, and that was the start, and then it became an insistent passion,” Thomas Pritzker, 69, told our reporter.
In the late autumn of 1988, Thomas and Margot’s expedition crew gained a new member – four-year-old David. The family spent nearly one month trekking in the Himalayas, providing the boy with lots of unforgettable memories. “I was carried by a porter in a basket. He carried me, and I sat in the basket talking, singing and laughing,” David said.
“From a very young age, training my eye was something that I was always curious about. Just like the ear [for music], you can train your eye to see the right form and the right beauty,” David said. “You can train your eye to recognize who the artist is, the quality, the time period, all of that,” he added.
The family had a house in Kathmandu, Nepal. Starting in 1988, David and his parents spent every summer in the Himalayas.
When asked about his family’s enthusiasm for Asian art, David said: “In terms of Western art, it’s very much studied. People know a lot about it, Asian art at least in the US, when they [his parents] were younger, wasn’t something so well known, so I think for them the adventure of research and learning and travel was part of the excitement. For me, it’s also that way.”
Since 1992, Thomas Pritzker has worked with the National Cultural Heritage Administration and Sichuan University on archaeological expeditions in Tibet. David also joined in fieldwork projects conducted by Chinese archaeologists.
“The [Pritzker] family were able to endure the tough fieldwork and full of determination,” Huo Wei, an archaeology professor and dean of the Department of History of Culture at Sichuan University, told NewsChina.
Huo recalled an incident that left a lasting impression on him: while the research team was climbing a mountain, a falling stone hit David’s head so hard that blood streamed over his face. Thomas, quite calmly, wiped his son’s face and asked him to keep climbing.
As little David was nimble and faster climber than most on the team, he was often charged with the solitary mission of scouting the caves for anything of interest.
In 1994, David made an astonishing discovery in Zanda County, Ali, southwest Tibet Autonomous Region. “They sent me to one cave site, much similar to Dunhuang. I climbed through some caves, one room after another... and then I came into a cave full of beautiful Buddhist paintings! That was one of the most exciting things in my life,” David said.
David had discovered what is now known as the Barkarpo Cave, which had murals from the 13th century. “We joked that the cave could be named David Cave,” Huo said.
“[It was] a really exciting experience, and that pushed me more to be passionate. Almost every summer after that, I would go with Sichuan University to west Tibet to do more exploration,” David said.
“We began to see the connections between East and West. Major connections,” Margot Pritzker said. “So when we realized that it became very interesting because they were all influencing each other.”
At 16, David published his first academic article titled “The Treasures of Par and Kha-tse” for Orientations, a Hong-Kong-based magazine for connoisseurs and collectors of Asian arts. He later earned a PhD from Oxford University in the early textual history and historiography of Tibet.