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Tibetan Buddhist Art furniture & Antiques from the monasteries of the Ser Shong (Golden Valley)
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Tibetan Buddhist High Lama's Offering Altar B015

hand painted Tibetan furniture shrine
Tibetan hand painted cabinet
front view
left side

click on above images to see larger picture


Large Tibetan Buddhist hand painted offering cabinet made for a High Lama's residence, with peacocks and dragons on the upper doors and a golden pheasant on both lower doors. There are no drawers on this cabinet; the lower doors open up to the space behind where drawers were inserted in later cabinets. The panels to the side of each door have a green 4-petaled flower, while the center bottom panel has a royal blue one. The bottom two panels adjacent to the blue 4-petaled flower each have the Auspicious Treasure Vase. Read the iconography for details. The art work is all done in kyungbur with plenty of 24 kt gold. This offering cabinet or altar has been in the work shop for many decades; it has been used as a work bench and also for storage of the mineral pigments used to paint other Tibetan Buddhist furniture. Drops of paint can be seen on the sides and top: blue and yellow mineral pigments used for the paint can be seen on the inside. The cleaning of Tibetan art over 400 years old is extremely difficult and many times impossible without adding great cost to the item. The art work on the front has been preserved with an acrylic coating.

The size of this Tibetan Buddhist offering cabinet along with the icons would suggest that it was made for a High Lama, probably one of the incarnations of Drak Khar Ngak Rampa, the founder of the lower Sange Monastery. The lower Sange Monastery has been in existence since the middle of the 11th century, although at first it was a temple and meditative residence. The peacocks, golden pheasant and dragon depictions indicate an official Imperial Chinese patronage, in keeping with the Choyon of 1244 AD with Godan Khan, as does the styling of the front frame. There is an abundant use of 24kt gold on the frame, figures and flora. In 1403 AD the Ming Emperor Yongtzen moved the capital from Xi'an to Beijing and built the Forbidden City, in this construction project there was the Sun and Moon Pagoda that the Emperor hired 50 artists from Sange monastery to decorate. He was so pleased with the work that he issued a proclamation extolling their artistic prowess, "Wujitong", meaning from Tibet: from that time forward the artists were referred to as Wutun artists. It is quite possible that this cabinet was a commissioned gift to the High Lama at Sange Monastery. The peacocks, golden pheasant and dragon were emblems of high power of the Imperial Ming Court. The golden pheasant in particular was a sign of literary and artistic elegance in the Ming dynasty.

This cabinet comes with a brush-signed Certificate of Authenticity

AGE: circa 15th century     
Dimensions:   Height=39.25"  W=47.62" D=15" 


B015 Price $2975.00,  plus shipping & handling: West Coast $440, Mtn. States $470, Mid West $490, Atlantic coast $535 Canadian destinations, contact us  for a quote. ~~~~This ships Over The Road, with a common carrier.  


The 24kt gold continuous ‘T’-wave just under the top edge of the of the altar 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.

This cabinet's iconography will be viewed differently than others: the entirety of the icons paints a picture of Imperial Chinese patronage at the level of the Emperor. Therefore I will discuss the total picture and skip the usual iconographic theme element by element.

The doors of this cabinet are quite interesting; a dragon and a peacock floating over 5 mountains, both looking at a gold flaming Cintamani are on the upper doors. Below the mountains are flowing water in the shape of waves. The depiction of the flames around the Cintamani and the series of waves are typical of Imperial Chinese art, by decree of the Ming Emperors, reserved for gifts and art work sanctioned by the Emperor. It is important to also note here that the dragon only has 4 claws, this is also a prohibition by the Ming Dynasty that was reversed in 1644 by the Qing dynasty, which allowed 5 clawed dragons. The lower doors have a golden pheasant ready to rise with long life stylized golden durva grass majestically raising above it. The two upper panels with the green 4-petaled flower are adorned with golden oak leaves as is the center bottom panel with the blue 4-petaled flower. These icons: the oak leaves, the series of waves, the single flaming Cintamani, the dragon, the peacock, and the golden pheasant are all part of the Imperial Chinese art. With the exception of the flaming Cintamani they are also insignias of official rankings in the Ming Dynasty. To see one or possibly two of these elements in Tibetan Buddhist art is not uncommon, but to see this grouping is most unusual, especially the single gold Cintamani with the very unusual flames and the series of waves under the mountains. The dragon represented the Emperor and heaven, while the Pheasant represents literary and artistic elegance, so this cabinets depictions was quite an honor. The 4 clawed dragon was an insignia given to ministers: the golden Pheasant was the 2nd highest highest insignia for civil officials, and the peacock was number 3 in the pecking order. The golden oak leaves are a symbol of majesty and strength and part of the Chinese military insignia, the Chinese oak is also nourishing food for the wild silkworms. Everything taken together, this is not iconography that Tibetan Buddhist artists would have undertaken on their own, rather it appears to be honorific depictions bestowed upon the High Lama at Sange Monastery for the excellent art work accomplished during construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing by the Sange artists. While this is conjecture on the author's part it, fits where no other explanation will do, too many elements of the Imperial Court to be made for a Chinese consumer and also too many for a Tibetan Buddhist to commission, this really only leaves the Emperor of China to commission it as a thank you gift to the High Lama at Sange Monastery for the great art work done by the monks.



Iconography in progress!


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