The 24kt gold continuous ‘T’-wave just under the top edge of the of the altar 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.
This cabinet's iconography will be viewed differently than others: the entirety of the icons paints a picture of Imperial Chinese patronage at the level of the Emperor. Therefore I will discuss the total picture and skip the usual iconographic theme element by element.
The doors of this cabinet are quite interesting; a dragon and a peacock floating over 5 mountains, both looking at a gold flaming Cintamani are on the upper doors. Below the mountains are flowing water in the shape of waves. The depiction of the flames around the Cintamani and the series of waves are typical of Imperial Chinese art, by decree of the Ming Emperors, reserved for gifts and art work sanctioned by the Emperor. It is important to also note here that the dragon only has 4 claws, this is also a prohibition by the Ming Dynasty that was reversed in 1644 by the Qing dynasty, which allowed 5 clawed dragons. The lower doors have a golden pheasant ready to rise with long life stylized golden durva grass majestically raising above it. The two upper panels with the green 4-petaled flower are adorned with golden oak leaves as is the center bottom panel with the blue 4-petaled flower. These icons: the oak leaves, the series of waves, the single flaming Cintamani, the dragon, the peacock, and the golden pheasant are all part of the Imperial Chinese art. With the exception of the flaming Cintamani they are also insignias of official rankings in the Ming Dynasty. To see one or possibly two of these elements in Tibetan Buddhist art is not uncommon, but to see this grouping is most unusual, especially the single gold Cintamani with the very unusual flames and the series of waves under the mountains. The dragon represented the Emperor and heaven, while the Pheasant represents literary and artistic elegance, so this cabinets depictions was quite an honor. The 4 clawed dragon was an insignia given to ministers: the golden Pheasant was the 2nd highest highest insignia for civil officials, and the peacock was number 3 in the pecking order. The golden oak leaves are a symbol of majesty and strength and part of the Chinese military insignia, the Chinese oak is also nourishing food for the wild silkworms. Everything taken together, this is not iconography that Tibetan Buddhist artists would have undertaken on their own, rather it appears to be honorific depictions bestowed upon the High Lama at Sange Monastery for the excellent art work accomplished during construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing by the Sange artists. While this is conjecture on the author's part it, fits where no other explanation will do, too many elements of the Imperial Court to be made for a Chinese consumer and also too many for a Tibetan Buddhist to commission, this really only leaves the Emperor of China to commission it as a thank you gift to the High Lama at Sange Monastery for the great art work done by the monks.
Iconography in progress!