Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Teacher (Lama) - Karmapa 4, Rolpai Dorje

བླ་མ། 喇嘛
(item no. 558)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1500 - 1599
Lineages Karma (Kagyu)
Size 87.00x59.69cm (34.25x23.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.39.1
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Monastic

Gender: Male

TBRC: P1456

Interpretation / Description

Rolpai Dorje, the 4th Karmapa (1340-1383) wearing the black crown and Khacho Wangpo, the 2nd Shamarpa (1350-1405).

Kar ma pa Rolpai Dorje

Sha mar pa Kacho Wangpo

Along the bottom are two registers of figures. The upper register is composed of the ten great bodhisattvas beginning on the proper right with Avalokiteshvara, Maitreya, Manjushri, Vajrapani, etc. The bottom register, beginning at the right, includes red Maharakta Ganapati with an elephant head and twelve arms, yellow Vasudhara with six arms, followed by the Five Deities of the Mahamaya Cycle, Simhanada Avalokiteshvara riding a lion, and blue Mahachakra Vajrapani with three faces and six arms.

Jeff Watt 7-2003


Karmapa Rolpe Dorje (1340 - 1383)(right)

Rolpe Dorje, the fourth Karmapa, was born in Al la Rong in the Konpo province of Tibet. At the age of nineteen the Kammapa went to China, at the invitation of the Emperor Toghon Temur, where he was received at the Tai ya Tsu palace. The Karmapa gave the Emperor the empowerment of Vajrayogini and Chakrasamvara. The Karmapa spent several years in China, establishing monasteries and monastic orders. The Karmapa returned to Tibet where he preached until his death at the age of forty four. Among his more famous disiples was Tsongkapa, #410 who later went on to establish the Gelugpa sect (yellow hat).

Shamar Kha Chod Wangpo (1350 - 1405) (left). The second incarnation in the Shamar lineage and disciple of Karmapa Rolpe Dorje.

The Kardgyu/Karmapa Lineage:

Dharmakaya Buddha Vajradhara (Celestial Buddha) Tilopa (988 1069) Naropa (1016 1100) Marpa ( 1012 1096) Milarepa (1052 1135) Gampopa (1079 1153) Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa (1110 1193) Karmapa Karma Pakshi (120~1283) Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284 1339) Karmapa Rolpe Dorje (1340 1383) Karmapa Dezhin Shegpa (1384 1415) Karmapa Thongwa Donden (1416 1453) Karmapa Chodrag Gyatsho (1454 1506) Karmapa Mikyo Dorje (1507 1554) Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1556 1603)

This series of five tangkas ( #558 , #559 ,#560 , #561 , #562 )belongs to the Karmapa lineage. The series shows the portraits of the Karmapas, who are the Throne holders of the Kagyupa Sect. The series also includes Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, the siddhas from whom the the Black hat sect is descended. To show the unbroken continuity in the transmission of the tradition, the teachers of the Karh~apas are also portrayed. It is very interesting to note that the approximate date when the Tangka series was commissioned can be deciphered by looking at the last tangka in the series. The Mikyo Dorje thanks has a small image of the Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje seated on a cushion. This indicates that the series was completed during the life time of Wangchuk Dorje and was probably commissioned by him. The small image below the Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje appears to be that of Shamar Kunchok Yenlak. It is very possible that the Tangka series was done during the time when the Karmapa and the Shamar Tulku travelled together. There are records that state that tangkas depicting the two of them together were painted at the time and presented to the Karmapa for consecration. Thus we can safetly date this series to the sixteenth century, and maybe more precisely between 1561 and 1564 A.D. the years when the Shamar Tulku and the Karmapa Here travelling together. The thanks series is extremely important for its historicity. The portraits are delicately painted, capturing the character of the personages. Each Tangka shows good composition; the Buddhas line the upper half of the thanks, the Karmapa and his teacher or pupil make up the central image with their tutelary dieties in between. The bottom frieze depicts various deities, monks and siddhas. One of the tangkas also depicts a Ganesa which is rather rare in Tibetan art.

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery III
Tradition: Kagyu Teachers (Paintings)
Teacher: Two Main Figures (Composition)
Painting Set: Karma Kagyu Lineage (Two Figures)
Teacher: Karmapa 4th, Rolpai Dorje
Collection of RMA: Best of Collection 3
Teacher: Shamar 2nd, Kacho Wangpo
Teacher: Shamarpa (Paintings)
Teacher: Shamarpa (Masterworks)
Incarnation Lineage: Shamarpa Main Page
Incarnation Lineage: Gyalwa Karmapa Main Page
Subject: Caricature Art
Subject: Kagyu Lineage Painting Sets (Two Figures)