Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Worldly Protector (Bon) - Werma Nyenya (Chang Sen)

འཇིག་རྟེན་པའི་ལྷ། བོན་ལྷ། 世俗的神(苯教)
(item no. 200001)
Origin Location Naxi
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Shelley & Donald Rubin
Painting School Provincial
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Werma Nyinya: a worldly deity arising from the Bon 'Treasure Tradition' and specifically the Chang Sen Tagdu text unearthed by Terton Ponse Khyung Gotsal (12th century).

Dynamic in appearance with one face and two hands, white in colour, he has the head of a lion - snarling and gaping. The right hand holds aloft a sword ready to strike and the left stretched to the side a trident on a long shaft. Wearing a flower and jewel crown the head is topped with a green bird. Adorned with a necklace, bracelets and anklets, a pink and green scarf is worn around the shoulders and the lower body is draped in a tiger skin skirt. Sharp blue wings extend from the back as he stands in a wrathful posture atop a raging tiger above two red figures, a sun disc and multi-coloured lotus seat. Six attendants in similar appearance stand at the right and left. (Textually there are 13 retinue figures).

At the top center is a garuda bird along with the four animals of the directions at the four corners; snow lion, dragon, tiger and white yak. At the top right and left are two seated figures, peaceful in appearance, each with one face and two hands, white in colour. At the lower left a standing man holds an arrow and on the right a blacksmith hammers over an anvil. A solitary bird clutches a bat with the beak and a monkey wields an axe.

In the Bon tradition there are four classes of worldly deities, all with a warrior-like appearance: (1) Dab La, (2) Chang Sen, (3) Welma and (4) Chug Gon. The central deity of this painting belongs to the Chang Sen classification.

Paintings of this subject are commonly found in the homes of lay practitioners and function as protective talismans against thieves, wild animals, war, pestilence, obstacles to wealth and for long-life. Artistic liberties are also found and less emphasis is placed on the strict textual description of the deity and surrounding retinue.

Jeff Watt & Lee Hartline 1-2000

(Please see The Arrow and the Spindle, Studies in History, Myths, Rituals and Beliefs in Tibet by Samten G Karmay. Manadala Book Point: 1998. Pages 256 & 257, The Ye and the Ngam).

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Region, China: Naxi Cultural Group