China, Ming dynasty, Yongle Reign, (1403-1424)
Photo Courtesy of Bowers Museum
Chinese emperors lavished costly gifts on Tibetan high lamas. This one, made during the Ming dynasty, is fantastic both in its amazing detail, and also in its Buddhist subject. The upper part of the object unfolds, like a lotus blooming, to reveal the wrathful deity Vajrabhairava and his entourage.The figures are arranged to form a mandala, or mystic diagram of the universe, as envisioned by Buddhists. Chinese emperors exchanged gifts with Tibetan lamas to maintain cordial political relations and also to celebrate a shared religion, as many emperors practiced the Tibetan style of Buddhism.
Detail: upper part folded
all images and text © Bowers Museum and Tibet Museum