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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Antique Tibetan hand painted Torma Chest C200-17
Antique Tibetan Chest with jewels, long life elixir and other Buddhist symbols
Antique Tibetan chest side view with peaches and mare's tail cumulus clouds as Buddhist symbology
left side
Antique Tibetan Chest with African lion painted on the top, extremely rare depiction
Tibetan Buddhist Antique chest with Buddhist symbols on side view, peaches and cumulus clouds
right side

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Antique Tibetan chest with a singularly rare depiction of an African lion on the top; the detail is most excellent and sets the lion apart from all of the other well done artwork on this small chest. During the late 1800s there was a monk art student at the monastery that came by way of India that spoke English and this may be one of his pieces of work; we do not know if he was an Indian or British, just that he came from India, spoke English and was well educated. The outlining on this piece is heavier than what one usually sees, as generally the detail lines are more fine as one would expect from a thangka painter. The front of the chest has several of Chakravartin's Precious Possessions, all done in very clean artistic renditions; the sides have two sets of peaches from the Pure Lands. The rock formations on the side may be simularca, but I am not sure if it is a lion or a dragon head. Please take time to read the iconography to get an understanding of the richness of karmic thought that comes with this trunk. The handles on the sides and the lid's closure are brass. The copper cladding on the corners is a late 20th century addition. The back has brass hinges that have been recently replaced, this as the usual hinges break after just a few uses. There are some nicks in the paint and on the sides there is some very slight separation where the wood is joined. This trunk comes with a brush-sign Certificate of Authenticity signed by one of the monks at the Sange Monastery. There is also a map of the area, along with historical notes and pictures of the village and monasteries with explanations and other documentation. 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.

Material: JUNIPER
Dimensions: W=15.88" H=9.88" D=7.75"
Age: early 1900s

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Torma Trunk C200-17 Price $689~ Plus crating and shipping = WEST COAST $88 ~ MTN $97 ~ MIDWEST = $102 ~ EAST COAST= $113. Contact David for a quote to other destinations.


The front is set in the Pure Lands as are the top and sides; graced with well depicted Cintamani, red coral, yogurt, a jar with long life elixir called Tse Bum and three of Chakravartin's Precious possessions; the Eight-faceted flaming Jewel, the Queen's earrings and the Precious elephant (represented by the elephant tusks). 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 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. Tsebum or "long-life vase", a jar in which the "nectar of immortality" is kept; this is in keeping with the side's depictions of peaches. The top Cintamani with the flames is actually the Eight-faceted Precious jewel of Chakravartin; the flames around the border of the jewel are symbolic of the burning away of false desires and ignorance, giving way to enlightenment. 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 Queen's 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 her detachment from all things earthly. 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.  Elephant tusks when depicted, are symbolic of the whole elephant.  

The sides feature sets of three peaches coming out of a rock formation with mare's tail clouds in the sky. Peaches are a symbol of longevity and immortality; the grouping of three, which is the natural grouping in Tibetan Buddhist art, signifies the Three Jewels of Buddha, dharma and sangha. Please note that trees, flowers and fruits in Tibetan Buddhist art many times do not bare resemblance to the actual item and are stylized according to their place in the Pure Lands or Paradise. 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 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 top is wonderfully and uniquely designed with an African lion stealing the show. There does not exist anything that I am aware of in Tibetan Buddhist symbology for the African Lion; this depiction I think is a product of the artist, which was probably the English speaking monk that studied art and taught academic classes at the monasteries during the late 1800s. Unfortunately we know very little about this individual other than he came from India, spoke English, studied art and also taught classes in other academic studies.

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