Gold, silver, pearls and turquoise
Tibet, 17th - 18th century
H: 21 cm; L: 16 cm; Thickness: 9 cm
Published: Well-Selected, p. 118, no. 88; Treasures from Snow Mountains, p. 147, no. 65; Tibet Museum Catalog, p. 182, no. 1
A gau is an amulet box with a removable back into which a sacred image is placed, along with such things as mantras, relics, and sacred medicines. A cord is attached to the brackets on the sides, so it may be worn around the neck as a portable altar, for blessings and protection and to maintain spiritual connections with deities and Lamas. When not worn on the body, it is placed on an altar at home.
This shrine shaped gau came from the Norbulingka and contains a gilded image of the Buddha Amitayus. The gold work on the front cover of the gau is especially fine. It shows the Buddha Shakyamuni on top, and Palden Lhamo on the bottom, with eight dancing goddesses between them. The inner section of openwork design, outlined with small pearls, depicts Garuda on top, two dragons on the sides, two lions on the lower corners, and two deer kneeling in front of a Dharma wheel, the symbol of the Buddha's teaching.
all images and text © Bowers Museum and Tibet Museum