Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Stupa (Buddhist Reliquary)

མཆོད་རྟེན། 佛塔
(item no. 73)
Origin Location China
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Uncertain
Size 58.42x44.45cm (23x17.50in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1994.18.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Object/Concept

Interpretation / Description

The Eight Stupas (Tibetan: cho ten gye): representing the eight reliquary mounds housing the ashes of the remains of Buddha Shakyamuni.

Sanskrit: Chaitya Tibetan: Chor ten

Arising historically from the caitya (funerary mounds) of early Buddhism and symbolically from the tope (ushnisha), bundle of hair, on the crown of the Buddha's head. The Stupa is viewed as a physical representation of the unseen enlightened mind of a Buddha - incorporating both the blueprint for the path to enlightenment and enlightenment itself.

[1] The central stupa containing an image of Shakyamuni buddha is situated on top of a multi-coloured lotus flower within a fenced lotus pond enclosure. The stupa has a square base, dark in colour, in the shape of a throne, with a white snow lion on each side panel. Atop four square graduated steps of lotus petals is a large golden dome and compartment. The entrance is wreathed with gold emblazoned with green wishing jewels. Inside is the buddha Shakyamuni, with one face and two hands performing the earth witness mudra (gesture) with the right and supporting a black begging bowl in the lap with the left. Wearing the orange robes of a monk, he is seated in vajra posture. Above the gold dome are 13 discs, one atop the other, representing the 10 bodhisattva levels, the 10 perfections and the 3 stages of a buddha, crowned at the top with a red parasol, crescent moon and golden disc of the sun. Two strips of flags and banners hang down the sides. Outside of that, two large lotus stalks rise upward with two large blooms opening at either side of the central dome.

[2] At the upper left in a similar stupa, without the snow lion base or the lotus petal steps, is a buddha with the right hand in the mudra of blessing and the left in the lap. [3] In the stupa on the right side the buddha performs the mudra of Dharma teaching with both hands at the heart. These two stupas are supported on lotus stalks and flower buds rising from below. The two figures are likely buddhas of the past and the future.

[4] At the middle left is a stupa with a square base and four rounded steps. Seated inside is the buddha Akshobhya, blue, with the right hand in the mudra of earth touching and the left in the lap supporting an upright gold vajra. [5] At the right side the stupa has circular and variously coloured lotus petal steps. Inside is the buddha Amitabha, red, with the two hands in the mudra of meditation in the lap holding a black begging bowl. Both stupas are placed atop orange lotus blossoms.

[6] At the bottom left the stupa has steps with an alternating design. Inside is the buddha Medicine Guru, blue, with the right hand in the mudra of generosity holding a medicinal plant and the left is in the mudra of meditation supporting a black begging bowl. [7] The stupa in the center has 4 steps composed of 4 materials with 4 different colours. Inside is Amitayus, the Buddha of Boundless Life, red, with the two hands in the lap holding a long-life vase. [8] At the right side, above the square base, the stupa has a bell shape and a golden colour. Inside is a buddha with the right hand at the heart and the left in the lap in the mudra of meditation. These three stupas rest on orange lotus seats.

At the top center is the primordial buddha Vajradhara, blue in colour, embracing the consort with crossed hands holding a vajra and bell. Adorned with gold, jewels and fine fabrics he is seated in vajra posture atop a pink lotus surrounded by spheres of light. At the lower left is the Buddha Amitayus, the sambhogakaya form of Amitabha. Red in colour, he has both hands placed in the lap holding a long-life vase. Seated atop a bright orange blossom rising from below, he is adorned with jewels and silks, surrounded by light. At the right side is the bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjushri, yellow in colour, holding a sword upraised in the right hand and the left at the heart holds the stem of an utpala flower blossoming at the left ear supporting the Prajnaparamita book. Seated on an orange blossom risen from the pond below, he is surrounded by light.

Jeff Watt 9-99

Related Items
Thematic Sets
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 6
Stupa (Chaitya): Main Page
Painting Style: Men-ri (New)
Subject: Eight Great Stupas Page
Stupa: Painting, Textile & Print