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Tibetan Buddhist Temple Offering Altar B003-02 ~ Rare depiction of blue/vermilion Snow Lion

Antique Tibetan temple offering cabinet with tigers and Snow Lion Tibetan Buddhist Temple furniture with 2 doors and 3 drawers
front view
two doors over 3 drawers

This is one of five two-door, three-drawer temple cabinets to have survived the Chinese era of destruction. The Snow Lion is a rare depiction of a light blue body with vermilion mane and tail hairs. The significance of this is not precisely known, however it suggests a special relationship with Chakravartin as he also has a light blue variety of the Precious Horse that is available at Chakravartin's special command. Details are contained in the iconography below. The hinges of the doors are wood-pegs in the doors that fit into a hole in the underside of the top & slide into a groove on the base. The doors open by pushing with a single finger on the outside edge of the door. This technique did not catch on, as it was only seen on the five cabinets of this type made in the mid to late 1800s and about five known small altars made in the 1940s.  Please see iconography below for details. The drawers have chrysanthemum blossoms.  This cabinet is painted on the front, with kyungbur (raised gesso) on the front frame in the trademark Sange zigzag.  The top, sides and back are not painted. The three bottom-drawers have leather-pulls that come through a metal backing attached to the drawer's front.  The cabinet has been dewaxed & treated with a finishing oil on the inside & the unpainted outside surfaces because the wood was rather dry after being stored for over a century at the monastery (image of cabinet before it was fully cleaned).  The flowers are painted on a cloth glued to the doors.   The cabinet is an excellent example of Tibetan cabinetry as is the wonderfully stylized artwork. It was quite an honor to make cabinets for the temple and only the best were asked; this cabinet maker was one of those so honored. The blackened interior denotes this piece as a special temple cabinet, used only by a Lama. Comes with a Certificate Of Authenticity, images of the lama that blessed this cabinet and an iconography, the latter two items as PDF's.

Age: 1860-1880   
Material: Predominately Asian Cedar    
Dimensions: H=39.25" W=41.5" D=16.75"

If you have questions or would like additional photographs, contact David by emailing david@baronet4tibet.com

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B003-02 Price $2460.00 plus shipping & crating: West Coast $575, Mtn. States $615, Mid West $645, Atlantic coast $685  Canadian destinations, contact us  for a quote~ this piece ships OTR carrier to your driveway.

Iconography

The red and 24kt gold zigzag kyungbur adorning the frame is the transition of passion into compassion and the resultant Buddha like purity of actions and thoughts. The 24kt gold continuous 'T'-wave just under the top edge of the of the offering cabinet is also called the thunder wave. This is the thunder of the vajra (diamond scepter, dorje in Tibetan), symbolizing skilful means, compassion, samsara. This compassion is an active quality rather than mere sympathetic feelings not transformed into action. Compassion refers to action that is exactly consonant with whatever is occurring and that is not self-referential.

The doors are adorned with tigers suspended over mountains and Cintamani. The tiger on the left door has stripes originating on his head in a Sange tradition of yin-yang. The tiger is a symbol of strength, military prowess.  Tigers were indigenous to eastern Tibet, where the Sange Monastery is located.  A more subtle meaning has to do with Tantric Buddhism as would be the case in this cabinet.  Tiger skins were a favored meditational mat for Tantric sages.  In Tantric Buddhism, the tiger skin represents the transmutation of anger into wisdom and insight, also offering protection to the meditator from outside harm or spiritual interference. Tiger icons in Tibetan Buddhism are most prevalent in Inner Tibet, appearing on more furniture and rugs here than anywhere else in Tibet. Cintamani are wish-granting jewels and additionally represent wisdom.  When depicted in sets of 3, they represent the body, speech and mind of Buddha such as the practitioner may possess.  Cintamani are also referred to as the “Thinking Jewel” and symbolize the importance of teaching and as well as the enlightened mind.


The center panel is a light blue Snow Lion with vermilion mane and tail. This depiction while very rare, is not totally unheard of, though very few of this color rendering exist. The Snow Lion is the national emblem of Tibet.  The Snow Lion resides in the East and represents unconditional cheerfulness, a mind freed from doubt, clear and precise. It has a beauty and dignity resulting from a synchronized body and mind. The Snow Lion has the youthful, vibrant energy of goodness and a natural sense of delight. This blue/vermilion depiction is probably associated with Chakravartin as is the case with the light blue horse. It becomes his personal envoy to help those in times of special duress.

The drawers have chrysanthemums which symbolizes autumn and the gathering of the harvest. In this case, it is a metaphor for achieving the goal of enlightenment and its accompanying peace. The blue represents compassion. The white tips denote purity.

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