Tibetan buddhist Temple
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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 C017-02

Antique Tibetan altar or tea table with pheonix symbols on the front doors antique Tibetan furniture side view with Buddhist symbol of 4-petaled flower or 4 moble truths
Front left side
antique Tibetan Furniture tea table Tibetan Buddhist altar with 4 petaled flower symbolizing the 4 noble truths
Back right side

click on the thumbnail pictures above to see larger views

The Tibetan Buddhist altar's iconic theme is that of remaking yourself in this life by following the Dharma. This is exemplified by the two phoenix on the front doors and the classic 4 petaled flower design on the sides. The design of the 4-petaled flower would change dramatically in the 19th and 20th centuries; this depiction with the addition of 4 smaller diagonal petals was the start of that transition. The monochrome nature of the side designs totally disappeared by 1800, having been the norm for 400 years. This table primarily served as a tea table. Tea tables were lower than the standard residential altar by 3-5 inches. This is one of the few tea tables that does not have some heat/moisture damage on the front doors. The door pull looks like the frame and is attached to the right hand door; this door must be opened first. There is an iconography available as a meditation aid for this altar, see below. This item is painted on front and both the right and left sides. It was intended to have been painted on the back, as can be evidenced by the T-wave carved on the back's upper frame. The gold and red zig-zag is a transitional zig-zag that would be come the norm or standard 60-80 years later. The top is not painted. The tea table has been cleaned and a preservative added to the painted surfaces, you can see a before cleaning view <here>. The Tibetan Buddhist altar comes with a Certificate of Authenticity, an iconography explaining the theme and meanings of the various icons; there is also pictures of the lama that blessed this altar. [this table's front door is featured in the symbolism section of the book "The Golden Valley: The Untold Story of the Other Cultural Center of Tibet"]

Dimensions: H=17" x W=20.5" x D=14.25"   
Age: circa 1750
Materials: Juniper and pine




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 front doors have mirrored images of phoenix standing amongst the rock cliffs with billowing mare's tail cumulus clouds in the background. The Phoenix is endowed with all of the magical qualities of auspiciousness: longevity, resurrection, the solar and alchemical fire. Like the deer, the Phoenix symbolizes peace and tranquility. Sometimes a similar bird is referred to as the 'Bird of Paradise' with similar meanings. 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 which 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.

Each side has a 4-petaled flower that additionally has 4 slightly smaller petals underneath and diagonal to the main petals. The 4-petaled flower is symbolic of the 4 Noble truths, the middle way and the first teaching of Buddha. 1. Life is suffering. 2. Ignorance is the cause of suffering.  3. The cessation of suffering is the goal of life because it transcends pains and pleasure.  4. The way to the cessation of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which aligns with the eight spokes of the Dharma Wheel and this is noted by those 4 slightly smaller diagonal flower petals.


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