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Tibetan Buddhist Art furniture & Antiques from the monasteries of the Ser Shong (Golden Valley)
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Antique Tibetan Torma Chest C200-07 Wisdom Ameliorated
Antique Tibetan trunk with Buddhist symbols front view-6 syllable mantra
antique Tibetan trunk with radiating treasure jar on side
left side
antique Tibetan trunk with Buddhist symbols painted on top
Antique Tibetan chest circa 1800 with mindstream radiations
right side

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Antique Tibetan chest with a greeting of utmost respect written in Classic Tibetan script followed by a mantra written in the Tibetan Holy script, Lantsa, which is also referred to as Ranjana script on the front of the lid. This is a very difficult holy script to read and there are few who can really read it. My research shows that there is much disagreement between those that think they can. This mantra is seen on two other of the early surviving chests or boxes. The art work is very good, exhibiting unusual detail, especially in regards to the leopard. The long scarf that wraps the Auspicious Treasure Vase on the sides shows advanced artistic ability. The Treasure Vase is radiating subtle energy and plays to the general theme of acquiring wisdom for the benefit of self and others. The top displays a cornucopia of Tibetan Buddhist icons, presenting a message of knowledge turned to wisdom. Please take time to read the iconography to get an understanding of the richness of karmic thought that comes with this trunk. I have also supplied what I can make of the holy text's pronunciation and meaning. The lid's closure is brass and probably a mid 19th century addition while the handles on the side are copper with 17th century coins used as the escutcheon. The copper cladding on the corners is a late 20th century addition. There are some nicks in the paint and on the right side there is some very slight separation where the wood is joined. The trunk has been cleaned as it had a layer of soot and wax on it which obscured the painting detail, after cleaning the painted parts were coated with a clear acrylic enamel to protect the painted surfaces and the unpainted wood was treated with a penetrating Danish furniture oil to provide decades of protection. This trunk comes with a brush-sign Certificate of Authenticity signed by one of the monks at the Sange Monastery, an iconography and details and images of the lama that blessed the trunk.

Material: juniper and oil pine
Dimensions: W=15.75" H=10.75" D=8"
Age: circa 1750-1800


Torma Trunk C200-07 Price $989~ Plus crating and shipping = WEST COAST $88 ~ MTN $97 ~ MIDWEST = $102 ~ EAST COAST= $113. Contact David for a quote to other destinations.


The front of the lid starts out with an extended greeting in uchen, classic Tibetan, of the utmost respect that indicates something important follows. The first character is OM or AM, the second is BA (may be an unemphasized KHA), the third character is a pause, followed by GA and an emphasized KHA, this is followed by a pause and then AU. The last bit of text, which is partially obscured by a late addition of copper cladding is an end of complete thought mark. This mantra would be chanted OM BA ... GA KHA .... AU or OM kha ... GA KHA ... AU. My understanding of this mantra is: it is a unification/self possession of wisdom, a utilization of wisdom and the beneficial effect of that wisdom as channeled via the mindstream.

The sides support this thought with the auspicious Treasure Jar that is radiating subtle energy; the upwards wafting rainbow looking lines of color. The vase or urn (kalasa) promises the good fortune of spiritual and material fulfillment, symbolizing the treasure of spiritual wealth.  Among those treasures is the jewel of enlightenment. It also extends to the material side and it is characteristic of the deities that symbolize prosperity. Generally the Treasure Vase is topped by flaming Cintamani; it is always wrapped by a silk ribbon.

The front is dominated by a magnificent leopard. The  Leopard's spots  resemble (according to Tibetans) the female vagina, consequently the flayed skin of the leopard is more commonly 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 top is wonderfully and uniquely designed with a cornucopia of Buddhist symbols: there is a plethora of Cintamani, five sets of the Precious King's earrings, one and a half sets of the Precious Queen's earrings, two sets of elephant tusks, representing the Precious Elephant, five groupings of yogurt, two offerings of red coral. the top Cintamani is the Precious Jewel, denoted by its blue color and the surrounding flames. In the sky are mare's tail cumulus clouds and the mountains are shrouded with cumulus clouds. 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. The flames around the border of the top Cintamani are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment.
The Precious designation of the King's and Queen's earrings, the elephant and the top Jewel signify that they are of the Seven Precious Possessions of Chakravartin. The term Chakravartin which 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.  The Precious King's, also referred to as the Precious Minister, 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. 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. Like wise, the Precious Queen's heavy earrings would cause ear lobes to elongate. The Queen speaks the truth, using no frivolous words and holding no false vices. 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. Elephants in Tibetan Buddhism are always albino elephants, which are said to be the hardest to control. The Precious Eight-faceted Jewel, as in having eight magical properties: 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 slow process of making yogurt is an appropriate metaphor for transforming the spirit. By faithfully applying the principles of Buddhism, negative behavior is overcome and the clear mind is revealed. In this case an offering is made of both the yogurt and the coral, which is one of the most precious and valuable offerings.
Mare's tail 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.

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