Entries for month: April 2011

Karmapa Black Hat & Shakya Yeshe Black Hat - Confusions

April 30, 2011 ·

Both the 5th Karmapa, Dezhin Shegpa (1384-1415), and the student and representative of Je Tsongkapa, Jamchen Shakya Yeshe (1355?1435), founder of Sera Monastery, received gifts of a black hat from the Yongle Emperor of China - Taming Gyallon. Although both black and somewhat different in design as seen in the examples below where both figures are the central subject. It is not always easy to distinguish the finer characteristics of the black hat when the subjects are depicted as minor figures in larger painted compositions.

Tags: outlines · iconography

Gesar, Dralha & Others - Confusions

April 30, 2011 ·

The general depiction of both Gesar and Dralha follow that of a Tibetan warrior, atop a horse, clad in armor and a helmet with elaborate flag pennants and streamers. And again, both Gesar and Dralha can be accompanied by eight horseman. Aside from these two, numerous characters from the Gesar Epic have the same appearance as do a number of Tibetan mountain gods. It is very easy to confuse most of these figures.

Tags: outlines · iconography

510 Deities of the Mongolian Pantheon

April 29, 2011 ·

The images in this gallery are from the Lokesh Chandra publication of the 510 iconographic images known as the Mongolian Pantheon. The pages below contain all of the images in sequential order. Over the next few weeks individual pages will be created for the various subject groups such as the Sixteen Arhats and the Thirty-five Confession Buddhas along with the deities that are shown with their accompanying retinue figures.

Tags: Mongolia · iconography

Tibet Heritage Fund & the Tsuglhakhang of Sikkim

April 29, 2011 ·

The Tibet Heritage Fund (International) has started work on the restoration of the Tsuklakhang Temple in Gangtok, Sikkim. This is the traditional family temple of the King of Sikkim.

(View images of the work in progress on the HAR website).

"THF starts restoration of Gangtok Tsuklakhang in Sikkim. On March 21, under patronage of Her Highness, Princess Hope Leezum Namgyal of Sikkim and in cooperation with the Tsuklakhang Trust, THF began to work in Sikkim on the conservation of the wall-paintings of Gangtok's Tsuklakhang temple."

"The Tsuklakhang dates to the 1920s, replacing an earlier royal palace. It was designed by Taring Rinpoche and the painters were sent from Shigatse and Gyantse. Today, the temple serves as the central Buddhist temple for the city of Gangtok, where people come for daily circumambulations. 90 monks are currently educated here. Since the merger with India, the temple is looked after by the Tsuklakhang trust."

"On invitation of princess Hope Leezum, a THF made a first exploratory visit in November 2010. Currently, a team consisting of conservator Anca Nicolaescu and three conservation trainees from Ladakh, Yangchen, Tsering Chorol and Skarma, and THF co-director Andre Alexander have begun to conserve the paintings. They need consolidation and cleaning. The project is receiving great attention in Sikkim, see also the first local media reports." (THF Website)

Tags: art

James & Marilynn Alsdorf Collection - Added

April 29, 2011 ·

The miscellaneous objects in this gallery were formerly in the James and Marilynn Alsdorf Collection (Chicago). The strength of the collection is clearly the sculpture. Many Indian, Himalayan and South Asian objects in the Art Institute of Chicago collection were gifts of Mr. and Mrs. Alsdorf. What is presented here is only a small part of the complete collection which is now mostly dispersed. (The objects will be catalogued over the next few weeks).

One of the most beautiful pieces is the Manjushri figure from Kashmir, dated to the 10th century, 5 1/4 inches tall (13.4 cm). The body is well modeled and the rounded musculature and sculpted features are clearly visible. Note the silver inlay eyes. The iconography is some what unusual with the left hand holding both the Prajnaparamita book and the stem of an utpala flower which in turn supports a bowl. The tip of the sword is marked with a half vajra. The legs are in a relaxed posture with the right over left.

Tags: art

Wrathful Vajrapani - Jeweled Crown or Skull Crown?

April 28, 2011 ·

In the Sutra tradition of Mahayana Buddhism the bodhisattva Vajrapani is regarded as one of the Eight Heart-sons of Shakyamuni Buddha and portrayed in a peaceful appearance. In the tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, Vajrapani is typically shown in a wrathful form and further known as Guhyapati - 'the Lord of Secrets.' Historically he is the main recipient, holder and protector of all the Tantra texts and teachings received from the Buddha Shakyamuni (in the appearance of Vajradhara). From the model of the Lower Tantras Vajrapani symbolizes the body of all buddhas of the ten directions and three times and represents enlightened activity. The bodhisattva Manjushri represents mind and Avalokiteshvara that of speech. In Tantric practice Vajrapani is a meditational deity, a Buddha, with numerous forms found in all of the four levels of Tantra classification and popular in all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism - new and old.

The two wrathful forms of Vajrapani known as the Sutra Tradition (do lug) and the Nilambhara (dro zang lug) generally do not have skull crowns or wrathful ornaments such as the fifty freshly severed heads. Mahachakra Vajrapani is sometimes depicted with a skull crown and at other times shown with a jeweled crown. They do however wear the eight races of nagas depicted as snakes - bracelets, anklets, etc. Almost all of the other wrathful forms of Vajrapani have the same fearsome regalia as typical of wrathful Tantric deities such as Vajrabhairava, Vajrakila, Mahakala and the like.

Tags: iconography

King Gesar Main Page - Updated

April 26, 2011 ·

Gesar is a folk hero of Eastern Tibet and predominantly known through literature and live performance. He is believed to have lived around the 10th century. The stories of Gesar, epic in size, are brought to life through dramatic performances, song and public readings of his many adventures. It is quite possibly the longest epic poetry in the world. Despite the popularity of all of this there is relatively little found in the way of art: paintings, murals and sculpture. What objects are known are also dated very late - 19th and 20th centuries. In the 19th century a Nyingma teacher of East Tibet, Mipam Jamyang Namgyal Gyamtso (1846-1912), further popularized Gesar but as a Buddhist religious figure - a deity - creating rituals, meditations and even a divination system with a one month required retreat. Most of the art objects that are currently known appear to be related or inspired by the writings of Mipam.

There are three sets of early Gesar life story paintings known to exist: Le Guimet in Paris with 10 paintings (?), Sichuan Provincial Museum with 11 paintings and the Rubin Museum of Art in New York with one painting. The Guimet set was acquired in approximately 1910 and the Sichuan Museum set in approximately the mid part of the last century. The first two sets are almost identical and obviously copies from the same composition. It is not yet determined which is the earlier of the two sets or whether they were both copied from another (3rd) master set. However both sets can be safely dated to prior to 1910.

The central subject of the Rubin Museum painting is of the uncle of Gesar and obviously from a larger set of compositions depicting all of the major cast of characters in the life story. Aside from the images depicted on HAR there is a single painting depicting Gesar and the eight retinue generals in the collection of the Sichuan University and another two in a private collection in Chengdu. At least two sculpture of Gesar are also known. Both are of the same subject - a peaceful figure, wearing a tall cylindrical hat, seated on a cushion with one leg extended. There are many modern Gesar images in painting and sculpture. Undoubtedly more objects with a slightly less than modern provenance will be located in other collections - institution or private.

The general depiction of Gesar is of a Tibetan warrior, atop a horse, clad in armor and a helmet with elaborate flag pennants and streamers, accompanied by eight horseman. This description is almost identical to that of Dralha 'Enemy God'. It is very easy to confuse the two subjects of Gesar and Dralha. Also look at another similar figure (HAR #73433) which is not yet identified.

Painting Sets:
1. Le Guimet, Paris, France
2. Sichuan Provincial Museum, Chengdu, China (11 paintings)
3. Rubin Museum of Art, New York, USA (1 painting)

Tags: iconography · art

Deities with a Kila Lower Body

April 24, 2011 ·

Deities with a Kila lower body are not so rare in Tantric Buddhism. All of the example listed here are either 'Pure Vision' or 'Revealed Treasure' teachings.

Tags: outlines · iconography

Milarepa: Confusions in Identification

April 24, 2011 ·

Milarepa has a very distinctive look and posture. He can easily be confused with a number of other Tibetan figures that are considered to be his later incarnations, such as Ngagwang Lobzang Tanpa'i Gyaltsen and Shabkar (both from Amdo). In Tibetan Buddhist religious history there are dozens of incarnation lines (tulku) that claim to be descended from the famous yogi and singer Milarepa.

Tags: outlines · iconography

Guru Dragpur Page - Updated

April 23, 2011 ·

Guru Dragpur (English: Wrathful Teacher of the Peg): fierce form of Guru Rinpoche Padmasambhava discovered as a Revealed Treasure 'Terma' by Drugchen Padma Karpo (1527-1592) - based on the meditational deity Guru Dragpo.

There are a number of different forms of Guru Dragpur that have developed after the original discovery of Padma Karpo. An example is the three faced six armed Drigung form of the deity.

Padma Karpo was not the first person to put a kila peg on the lower torso of a deity. Aside from the early examples from the source Vajrakilaya depictions we have the Bon example of Purba Drugse Chempa. There are also the other early 'Pure Vision' examples of Simhamukha with a kila lower body originating with a teacher from Bodong Monastery, later followed by Longsal Nyingpo and his discoveries, along with the discoveries of many other Nyingma teachers. (See the Vajrakila: Confusions in Identification Outline).

Description: Very wrathful in appearance, Guru Dragpur is red in colour, with one face and three round eyes, he has a gaping mouth with bared fangs and flaming hair rising upward. The right hand held aloft firmly grasps a gold vajra scepter and the left a black scorpion - both arms extended to the sides. Adorned with a crown of five skulls, gold earrings, bracelets, necklaces and a snake garland, he wears a string of human heads. An elephant hide covers the shoulders with a tiger skin wrapped about the waist. Without legs, the lower body is composed of a large black kila (Tibetan: phur ba), three edged peg, extending downward from the gaping mouth of a makara sea creature. Standing on a triangular base adorned with skulls, above a sun disc and lotus blossom, he is surrounded by the swirling flames of pristine awareness.

Tags: outlines · iconography