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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Temple Altar Table B007
antique Tibetan furniture - Buddhist altar circa 1400 AD used at entrance to buddhist temple
front view
hand painted tibetan Buddhist temple altar circa 1400 AD top view
partial top view
mortise and tendon joiner on antique Tibetan Buddhist altar use at entrance to temple sides not painted
right side view

click on the thumbnail pictures above to see larger views

Antique Tibetan Buddhist altar with Chakravartin’s Precious Horse and Elephant on the doors and a combination longevity-shou butterfly on the panels next to the doors. The painted panels are monochrome with kyungbur as this was the custom on the early pieces (note that only the toma circles on the breakfront are covered with gold). This was used as a Buddhist altar at the entrance to one of the temples rebuilt at the monastery after the devastating mudslide that occurred in 1385 or 1386 AD that destroyed Tuk Mor monastery and parts of the Lower Sange Monastery following heavy rains that caused retaining walls of the man-made lakes above the monasteries to give way and bury the buildings below. The surviving monks from Tuk Mor were invited to reside at the Sange monastery, some did while others decided to build the upper Sange Monastery, which was built farther away from the sides of the hills of the valley; this was the impetuous for having two Sange monasteries, an Upper and a Lower. The temples and assembly halls generally face north, with the temples having their doors open during the day for visitors; this altar was placed just inside of the door and exposed to the sun and other elements of the weather. One of the by-products of this exposure is that the painting on the front deteriorated faster than if it had been in the Assembly hall or one of the residences; it would have been oiled and waxed more often to protect the painting. This oil and wax in combination with the sun’s effect have made cleaning impossible as the pigments have deteriorated and the oil-wax have permeated the painting. This was our 1st piece that we carbon-dated and we did not know to have the oil and wax removed from our sample as it contaminated the sample and made a later dating due to the addition of carbon from the oil and wax. The carbon dating shows a date of 1526 AD with 90% probability, however it is older than this date due to our oversight and we think it was built and placed into service when the temple was rebuilt after 1385 AD.
There are just the two doors on this altar, no drawers and it opens with the vertical trim on the right hand door. The panels next to the doors are monochrome blue with gold in the central design; the gold no longer shows, as cleaning was impossible. The outlining was done in kyungbur; the design is a combination longevity symbol and the shou or butterfly. See the iconography below for an explanation of the Tibetan Buddhist symbolism. The wood is a mixture of elm, juniper and other hardwoods. The hinges of the doors are wood-pegs that fit into a hole in the underside of the top & slide into a groove on the horizontal frame. The door-pull is the vertical kyungbur trim in the center of the two doors. This piece is painted only on the front. The sides, back & top are a natural wood with an oil finish. The joinery is typical Tibetan furniture joinery; mortise and tendon framing, with the top doweled to the main frame.

Comes with a Certificate Of Authenticity, map of the area with a short history, iconography and other supporting documents of interest.

Age: after 1385 AD probably before 1410 AD
Dimensions: H=21.75" W=46.25" D=18"



B007 Price $3825.00

There is a ‘T’-wave just under the top edge of the of the altar, done in kyungbur; the 'T' wave 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 frame is adorned with toma offerings (the series of connected circles) with single and double dorjes outlined in kyungbur.

The blue monochrome panels next to the doors are a combination of the longevity symbol and shou (the butterfly) that morphs into durva grass. The butterfly is a favored symbol in Chinese art, and shows many times in Tibetan monastic furniture; recalling 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”. Grass, in sanskrit, Durva, is a symbol for long (or Longer) life and is used in life-enriching rituals. Grass, being highly resilient, is believed to be immortal and so proclaims the end of samsara, the successive death and rebirth of all beings.

The lower panels, done in monochrome kyungbur, are cumulus clouds. 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 two doors have Chakravartin's Precious Horse on the left door and Precious Elephant in full battle regalia on the right door. 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 Horse is able to travel among the clouds and mirrors the Buddha's abandonment of, or "rising above," the cares of worldly existence.  The horse is Chakravartin's riding horse, which is able to circumnavigate the globe 3 times in one day and symbolizes mobility and speed. The Cintamani on the horse's back is a magical jewel with the power to grant wishes, able to fulfill any and all desires, also called the thinking jewel.  Jewels in Buddhism are analogous with the importance of teaching, representing also the mind that has attained enlightenment. 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.

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