The front is set in the Pure Lands as are the top and sides; graced with well depicted Cintamani, red coral, yogurt, a jar with long life elixir called Tse Bum and three of Chakravartin's Precious possessions; the Eight-faceted flaming Jewel, the Queen's earrings and the Precious elephant (represented by the elephant tusks). 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 slow process of making yogurt is an appropriate metaphor for transforming the spirit. By faithfully applying the principles of Buddhism, negative behavior is overcome and the clear mind is revealed. In this case an offering is made of both the yogurt and the coral, which is one of the most precious and valuable offerings. Tsebum or "long-life vase", a jar in which the "nectar of immortality" is kept; this is in keeping with the side's depictions of peaches. The top Cintamani with the flames is actually the Eight-faceted Precious jewel of Chakravartin; the flames around the border of the jewel are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment. The term Chakravartin, or Wheel Turner in Hinduism refers to an ideal ruler, but in Buddhism, Chakravartin has come to mean a Buddha whose all-encompassing teachings are universally true. Chakravartin has an army of 4 divisions, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots. Chakravartin is the lineage of 25 Kulika kings or enlightened monarchs, the 25th of which will finally defeat the "non-believers." The Precious Queen's heavy earrings are taken as a symbol of comprehension of the Buddha’s teachings. The weight of the earrings would have caused the wearers earlobes to elongate. The long earlobes of the Buddha are a symbol of her detachment from all things earthly. The Queen speaks the truth, using no frivolous words and holding no false vices. The Precious Elephant is a symbol of the strength of the mind in Buddhism. Exhibiting noble gentleness, the precious elephant serves as a symbol of the calm majesty possessed by one who is on the path. Specifically, it embodies the boundless powers of the Buddha, which are miraculous aspiration, effort, intention, and analysis. Elephant tusks when depicted, are symbolic of the whole elephant.
The sides feature sets of three peaches coming out of a rock formation with mare's tail clouds in the sky. Peaches are a symbol of longevity and immortality; the grouping of three, which is the natural grouping in Tibetan Buddhist art, signifies the Three Jewels of Buddha, dharma and sangha. Please note that trees, flowers and fruits in Tibetan Buddhist art many times do not bare resemblance to the actual item and are stylized according to their place in the Pure Lands or Paradise. The rock/cliff formation represents the syllable "E" which appears in the opening stanza of early Buddhist scriptures, ("'thus,' I have heard"). The blue and green cliffs represent the unmoving nature of the mind when enlightenment has been attained. Mare's tail cumulus clouds are quite common in Tibet. One significance of these fast moving clouds and the pure clarity of the sky is metaphorically an illustration of the Buddha Mind. Clouds may come and go across the heavens, like the transitory thoughts or delusions which appear to obscure the mind's true nature, yet the nature of the sky remains unchanged. This is like the mirror, which is always unaffected by the appearances which arise in it, the sky is clear, transparent, infinite and immaculate.
The top is wonderfully and uniquely designed with an African lion stealing the show. There does not exist anything that I am aware of in Tibetan Buddhist symbology for the African Lion; this depiction I think is a product of the artist, which was probably the English speaking monk that studied art and taught academic classes at the monasteries during the late 1800s. Unfortunately we know very little about this individual other than he came from India, spoke English, studied art and also taught classes in other academic studies.