Himalayan Art Resources

Subject: Karmapa (Black Hat Development)

Karmapa (Iconography)

Subjects, Topics & Types:
- Description (below)
- Early Paintings
- Painting Chronology
- Confusions: Black Hats & Blue Hats
- Others...

- Black Hat of the Karmapas
- Black Hats & Blue Hats
- Hats: Karma Kagyu

The Early Black Caps of the 1st through 4th Karmapas were generally adorned on the front with a small white diamond shape. This is typical for all paintings up to the end of the 14th century or so. From the 5th Karmapa to the present the Later Back Cap with ornamentation was commonplace, but not completely standardized as to the symbolic elements and placement.

The central figure of painting HAR #8093 is difficult to identify because the style of composition and drawing is 14th century. However, the vishvavajra on the front of the hat is usually associated with the 5th Karmapa or later. There also appears to be no narrative vignettes in the side registers of any visit to the court of the Chinese Yongle emperor. The identification of the Karmapa is currently a mystery. It is also possible that the addition of the double vajra on the front of the cap style hat was not an invention of the Yongle court but possibly a creation by the 5th Karmapa, Deshin Shegpa (1384-1415).

Study Topics:
- Early Black Caps
- Later Black Caps
- Ornamentation
- Symbol Elements & Stylistic Differences

- Vishvavajra on the front
- Crescent Moon and Sun
- Jewel ornament on the peak
- Gold Bars, vertical, a pair
- Clouds on the two sides

14th Century:
- 8093, 5th Karmapa (1st hat with a vishvavajra)
15th Century:
- No examples available
16th Century:
- 423, 7th Karmapa (with clouds)
- Two Figure Set, mid 16th century (vishvavajra, sun-moon, clouds and jewel)

Jeff Watt 6-2023

(The images below are only a selection of examples from the links above).