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Tibetan Buddhist Art furniture & Antiques from the monasteries of the Ser Shong (Golden Valley)
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Buddhist Altar/Tea Table C015

Tibetan tea table circa 1700 painted with Buddhist auspicious symbols Tibetan antique tea table with gold shou symbol for longevity on side
Front left side
Tibetan antique tea table with gold offering bowl on back circa 1700 Tibetan hand painted tea table and altar with Buddhist shou symbol for longevity in 24 kt gold
Back right side

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The Tibetan Buddhist altars iconic theme is having a long life enabling one to free yourself from poisons and delusions that prevent enlightenment. The sides have gold shou/longevity symbols outlined in kyungbur. The front has 4 of the 8-auspicious symbols, while the back has an unusual gold offering bowl filled with jewels and some of Chakravartin's precious possessions. This table primarily served as a tea table. Tea tables were lower than the standard residential altar by 3-5 inches. Most of the surviving tea tables have heat damage to the front doors, fortunately this is one of the few that does not. Note that each door was painted by a different artist, although both were part of the same artistic group, which was and still is the norm at the Senge Monasteries. Top was used as a work bench after the tea table was retired from tea service, however all of the paint splatters have been removed. There is an iconography available as a meditation aid for this altar, see below. When altars are painted on all 4 sides they are made to be placed in the center of a room with sufficient space to walk around. They were always circumambulated in a clockwise direction. This item is painted on front,  back, & both the right & left ends. I have cleaned the old wax and accumulated soot from this piece and treated the painted surfaces with a preservative. The insides have not been thoroughly cleaned, some of the original wax is still present as evidenced by the foggy patches.

There is paint and kyungbur that is damaged on this piece at the bottoms of the legs.

 The Tibetan Buddhist altar comes with a Certificate of Authenticity, and pictures of the lama that blessed this altar.

Dimensions: H=17" x W=20.62" x D=14.25"   
Age: circa 1690-1730
Materials: Juniper and pine

This item can be purchased securely online click here

Price $1385.00, plus shipping & handling
Shipping: West Coast $255, Mtn. States $269, Mid West $288, Atlantic coast $305  Other destinations contact us  for a quote. 


The border just underneath the top is the "T-wave" or 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 rest of the frame is done in a stylized trefoil; a cloud design that signifies the 3 Cintamani as the body, speech and mind of Buddha that the practitioner will possess.

The sides feature a shou longevity symbol, that is also a stylized shou character representing the butterfly. The shou longevity symbol is the circular design in the center of the sides; the shou character is styled with the vertical lines intersecting the horizontal lines, this is a common practice in Senge art. The shou character represents a butterfly and it recalls the dream of Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu, having dreamed that he was a butterfly joyously flittering, posed the question, “Did Chuang Tzu dream he was a Butterfly? Or is the butterfly still dreaming that he is Chuang Tzu?” The caterpillar, chrysalis and butterfly, as unified symbols of transmutation, resurrection and immortality, are perhaps best described in the aphorism, “What the caterpillar perceives as the end of all things, the rest of the world perceives as the beginning of the butterfly”.

The back features a gold offering bowl filled with Cintamani. Flanking the Cintamani are 3 of Chakravartin's Precious Possessions; an earring of both the King and Queen and 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. Pictured here are 10 flaming jewels. The flames around the border of the Cintamani are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment. The term Chakravartin, literally means 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, as in turning the dharma wheel. The King's earrings are square, while the Queen's are round, both being heavy gold would elongate the ear lobes of the wearer. The long earlobes of the Buddha are a symbol of his detachment from all things earthly. Like the Buddha, the King represents a wealth of faith, morality, honesty, modesty, learning, renunciation, and wisdom. The King is also referred to as the Precious minister. His intelligence is razor-sharp, with a great ability for patience and listening.  He desires to do only good works to promote the Dharma, to protect and benefit all beings. The Queen speaks the truth, using no frivolous words and holding no false vices. The elephant tusks represent the entire elephant and always an albino elephant, which are the most difficult to train. 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.

The front doors have 4 of the Eight Auspicious symbols stacked on top of an Ashoka throne with cumulus clouds framing the sky. The top symbol is the white conch horn, under that is the Parasol, which in turn covers two golden fish surrounding the Dharma wheel with the wheel of joy at its center. The right spiraling (echoing the celestial movement of the sun, moon and stars) conch shell is one of the oldest icons in Buddhism.  A conch horn sounds in all directions, as do the teachings of the Buddha. Consequently, the conch is seen as a vehicle fearlessly proclaiming the truth of the dharma in all directions. It is also seen as an emblem of power and authority and is thought to banish evil. The white conch shell was presented to Shakyamuni by the great sky god Indra. The parasol and the shade it casts symbolize wisdom.  Its hanging skirt indicates compassion, so the parasol becomes a symbol of protection from the painful heat of the suffering human incur from the spiritual poisons of desire, hate, greed and ignorance.  The Victory banner is an early Buddhist motif signifying the enlightenment of the Buddha and the triumph of knowledge over ignorance.  This symbol also is used to recall the Buddha’s triumph over his temptress, Mara.  It further announces that all spiritual obstacles have been overcome and good fortune has arrived. Having complete freedom in water, fish represent happiness, fertility, and abundance.  On a spiritual level, they represent the boundless abundance of the Buddha’s energy , which never diminishes, no matter how much is given away. In three parts, the Dharma Wheel exists as a hub, the center of the world.  The 8 spokes denote the 8 paths to enlightenment. These 8 steps work together, not separately.  1. right understanding . 2. right attitude  3. right speech  4. right action  5. right work    6. right effort  7. right mindfulness  8. right meditation  The rim represents the attribute of limitation.  All are contained within a circle, which is perceived to be perfect and complete, like the teachings of the Buddha. The wheel of joy is similar in style to the Chinese yin-yang, but with three or four segments rather than two.  When shown with three sections, the wheel relates to the three jewels of Buddha, dharma and sangha (body, speech, and mind).   Four sections refer to the four noble truths. Regarding the clouds: 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.

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