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Tibetan Offering furniture ~ Chösum Stand C615 "Wisdom Leads to Enlightenment "

Antique Buddhist offering cabinet with Buddhist symbols painted on side circa 1900
Antique Tibetan yak butter lamp stand Furniture with golden dragon
Tibetan yak butter lamp stand with Buddhist symb9ols painted on side circa 1900

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A late 19th century Chosum stand AKA yak butter lamp stand with an iconic theme towards acquiring wisdom that leads to enlightenment. Golden dragons clutching a flaming gold torma instead of the usual jewel are set to help the practitioner cast out poisons and delusion and replace them with enlightened wisdom. The sides and in particular the left side enhances this theme with the obvious leopard skins (symbolizing wisdom) under a stack of Cintamani, which are jewels of wisdom. The drawers are above the doors with 17th century Chinese coins as the backing for the pulls, featuring Mahamudra Mists. Please see iconography below for more details. The artwork is outstanding, especially the kyungbur outlining and detailing the dragons. The entire piece is completely done in kyungbur (the raised gesso outlining). The Chösum stand is painted on both sides and the front, the top and back are not painted. This style evolved over the centuries, with the widening to two doors happening at the end of the 19th century. This Chösum stand comes with an iconography and a Certificate of Authenticity signed by one of the monks. For historical information about this piece purchase the book "The Golden Valley; The Untold Story of the Other Cultural Center of Tibet"

Materials:  Asian cedar & oil pine
Dimensions:  H 31.75" W=29.5" D=15.6 "
Age circa: 1900


Item #C615:  Price $1525.00, plus shipping & crating
West Coast $250~ Mtn. States $269~ Mid West $275~Atlantic coast $285
Other destinations contact us  for a quote. 


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 are bordered by blue and red Chrysanthemums and feature golden dragons clutching a flaming gold torma. Above the dragon is a stack of
Cintamani flanked by elephant tusks, with the top Cintamani being Chakravartin's Precious Eight-faceted Jewel. The chrysanthemum symbolizes autumn & the gathering of the harvest. In this case, it is a metaphor for achieving the goal of enlightenment and its accompanying peace. The blue represents compassion. Red is the transmutation of passion into compassion. Unlike its demonic European counterpart, the Tibetan dragon is a creature of great creative power; a positive icon, representing the strong male yang principle of heaven, change, energy, wealth and creativity. Dragons are shape shifters, able to transform at will, from as small as the silkworm to a giant that fills the entire sky. Dragons are depicted in one of three colors, green, brown or the gold composite version as seen on this cabinet.  The green, or azure dragon of Buddhism ascends into the sky at the spring equinox; it represents the light's increasing power in springtime and the easterly direction of the sunrise. The brown dragon is the autumn equinox, when it descends into a deep pool, encasing itself in mud until the next spring, but its spirit is still with the practitioner bringing wealth and health. 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 6 flaming jewels. 

The top Cintamani above the dragon is blue and surrounded by gold flames. This makes it one of the Seven Precious Possessions of Chakravartin. The elephant tusks represent the entire elephant and always Chakravartin's Precious Elephant, another of his Seven Precious Possessions. The term Chakravartin 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 is the lineage of 25 Kulika kings or enlightened monarchs, the 25th of which will finally defeat the "non-believers." We are purported to be at the very end of the 24th King's reign. The Precious Eight-faceted jewel has eight magical properties and not eight carved faces. It cools when the days are hot, warms when the days are cold, illuminates the darkness of night, causes rain to fall or a spring to appear when one is thirsty, it brings to fruition what ever the bearer desires, it heals emotional afflictions, and cures all of the diseases of those who are in its range of its light and lastly prevents untimely death as in fathers passing on before sons. 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. All elephant portrayals in Tibetan Buddhism are albino elephants. The albino elephant is reputed to be the hardest elephant to control. The elephant is one of four divisions of the Indian military system, the others are the horse, chariots and infantry. Battle elephants were specifically trained to obtain perfect obedience and to withstand the ravages of the battlefield. The elephant in battle was the unstoppable remover of obstacles. Wild elephants were noted for their symbolic activities of uprooting, tearing, crashing and bellowing. This leads to the flayed skin of the elephant adorning wrathful deities as symbolizing the deity having torn the elephant of ignorance asunder. The trained elephant, as the most powerful of creatures, represents endurance, self-control, patience and gentleness, and the power of Buddha.

The drawers exhibit colorful Mahamudra Mists. Mahamudra is the union of compassion and wisdom -- the ultimate realization of one’s true nature.  They are represented as the transformation of our vices into the 4 powers of regret, vow, reliance, and remedy, so the practitioner will realize purification and enlightenment.  This is also the basic meaning of the "Heart Sutra."

The side main panel, done in kyungbur has a spy-glass view of Cintamani flanked by elephant tusks and the Precious Queen's earrings, all sitting on top of fine silk cloth draped over leopard skins. Above the spyglass are Mahamudra Mists and below are rock cliffs. This grouping highlights the yak butter lamp stand's theme; the leopard skins (a female attribute) represents the wisdom half of tantric practice, the other half is the tiger skins (a male attribute) which represents method to acquire the wisdom. The  Leopard's spots  resemble (according to Tibetans) the female vagina, consequently the flayed skin of the leopard is worn by dakinis or wrathful goddesses as a skirt or apron.  The large cat skins are most frequently associated with the wrathful deities, Mahakala is usually seen with the tiger skin wrapped around his waist.  Victory banners and the asama or meditational seats are also adorned with leopard skins, as are bow quivers. The leopard is also the messenger of the wrathful deities and additionally represents the death of pride, one of the 5 delusions and ultimate emptiness of of this delusion. The Precious Queen's earrings are one more of the Seven Precious Possessions of Chakravartin; the 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 his detachment from all things earthly. The Queen speaks the truth, using no frivolous words and holding no false vices. Finally we come to the rock cliffs below the spy-glass; they represents the syllable "E" which appears in the opening stanza of early Buddhist scriptures, ("'thus,' I have heard"). The blue and red cliffs represent the unmoving nature of the mind when enlightenment has been attained.

The small panel at the top of the sides is an Ashoka blossom. The Ashoka, the second of the  trinity of holy flowers, sprouts from the holy water-font of the Amitayus, one of the forms in which the Buddha Amitabha appeared (symbolizing the transformation from greed to discriminating wisdom).  The sprout materialized from a tear that Buddha Amitabha shed when hearing of the deeds of the great warrior Ashoka that overcame all of his enemies to win freedom for his oppressed people. True spiritual freedom comes from overcoming the sins and lusts that enslave the soul. Ashoka ruled a vast empire 2200 years ago and put his peoples welfare and interests above his own, he supported Buddhism, however he was insistent upon religious tolerance and open dialog

ABOUT Chösum:

The Tibetan name is Chösum for the cabinet presented on this page. They were used as a butter lamp stand and as a butter sculpture stand for offerings and ritual purposes. It also housed the torma, a small sculpture used as an offering, made of tsampa. Tsampa is a staple of the Tibetan diet, composed of barley powder and yak butter. Usually once each year the High Lama will come to the practitioners house with the torma stick (see below), a long 4 sided mold for making different offerings, and make specific offerings for the family. Using the tsampa dough the High Lama would press the required amount into the carved molds on the torma stick for  each specific request or need.  These then will be kept for the entire year in the cabinet, taken out periodically and placed on the top of the cabinet and a little melted butter will be added for a new offering.   Ornate Chösum stands like this one   would only be found in a labrang (lama’s home).

Tibetan buddhist toma stick use for making offering on Tibetan furniture
The Torma stick has carved molds on all 4 sides, these carvings are the Auspicious symbols, the 12 zodiac symbols, peaceful and wrathful deities and other iconic representations and offerings. The Torma stick pictured here is more than 300 years old, over 27" in length and is  a very large one; usually they are about 1/3 to 1/4 this size.  It developed a small check or crack that cuts through the Dharma wheel, Parasol and the Victory Banner rendering it unsuitable for making those molds.

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