(item no. 101502)
1600 - 1699
Collection of Private
(Tibet Museum, Lhasa)
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Seal of the Fifth Dalai Lama, a gift of the Chinese Emperor.
This seal with a dragon-shaped handle is inscribed in the three official languages of the Qing dynasty - Chinese, Manchu and Tibetan. It reads: "Seal of the Dalai Lama, Buddha of Great Compassion in the West, leader of the Buddhist faith beneath the sky, holder of the vajra." The Chinese script is a standard official version of Small Seal Script, codified from the calligraphy of China's early history when writing was done with a stylus rather than a brush. Manchu script is derived from Mongol and ultimately from Uighur script, and Tibetan from the ancient Indian Brahmi script used by Emperor Ashoka, the first great Dharmaraja patron of Buddhism in India.
The seal was made for the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682), a political genius and great religious scholar, who changed the face of east and central Asia, and who is generally referred to as 'The Great Fifth.'
Allied with the Mongol Gushri Khan, the Fifth Dalai Lama brought the various Tibetan clans and religious orders into a semblance of national unity by the middle of the 17th century. He also earned the devotion of the Mongol nobility, who flooded Lhasa with gifts, which he used to enrich his country with great works of art, monasteries, and public buildings. He chose Lhasa as his capital, transforming it into a cosmopolitan city. He ordered the construction of his seat of government, the Potala Palace, to be built on Red Hill, where the palaces of earlier Tibetan Kings once stood, consciously reclaiming ancient glories. (Text courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art, June 2005).
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Exhibition: Tibet, Treasures from the Roof of the World
Copyright © 2013 Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation.
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