Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Stupa (Buddhist Reliquary) - Painting

མཆོད་རྟེན། 佛塔
(item no. 795)
Origin Location Eastern Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Uncertain
Size 48.26x35.56cm (19x14in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1998.32.2
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Object/Concept

Interpretation / Description

Stupa (Tibetan: cho ten): containing the form of Shakyamuni buddha accompanied above by the previous buddha Kashyapa and the future buddha Maitreya.

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.

The base is a white square platform in the shape of a lion supported throne, with a white snow lion on each side panel. The Direction King of the East, Dhritarashtra, holding a lute, is displayed on the central panel. Atop four graduated steps is a large dome and compartment; the entrance wreathed with gold emblazoned with dark blue 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. Attired in the robes of a monk and seated in vajra posture, the physical form is eclipsed by the awesome presence of the surrounding buddha mind. Above the dome are 13 gold discs, one above the other, representing the 10 bodhisattva levels and the 3 stages of a buddha. Crowned by an ornate parasol, white crescent moon and golden disc of the sun - the top tapering - diminishing into the state of luminosity-emptiness; the entire form is surrounded by the orange radiant light representing the continuous activity of benefiting beings.

At the top left is the buddha of the past, Kashyapa, with the right hand in the mudra of earth witness and the left placed in the lap with a begging bowl. Seated atop a pink lotus blossom he is surrounded by radiant light and a rainbow sphere. At the right is the bodhisattva Maitreya, the future buddha, golden in colour with the two hands at the heart performing the Dharma teaching mudra and holding the stems of two lotus flowers blossoming at the sides supporting a Dharma wheel and gold water flask. Seated on a throne in a relaxed manner with the legs extended in front, he is surrounded by a sphere of light.

Above a dark blue pond - the playground of water birds, before an expansive green landscape, a bowl of lapis lazuli filled with quality objects of enjoyment, silks, fruit, incense, a mirror and music, is offered beneath the canopy of an azure blue sky.

Jeff Watt 5-99

Secondary Images
Related Items
Exhibition Appearances
Exhibition: Wutaishan, Pilgrimage to Five Peak Mountain

Bibliography: Specific Subjects

Thematic Sets
Stupa: Painting, Textile & Print
Stupa (chaitya): Art History
Stupa (Chaitya): Main Page
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery 5