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Green Horse's Head
For Maitreya's Cart
Damdansuren (1868-1938)
Early 20th century
Wood, velvet, metal fittings, paint, and horsehair
H: 34 7/8 in.(88.5 cm) W: 9 1/2 in. (24 cm) L: 32 7/8 in. (83.5 cm)

Fine Arts Museum

The Maitreya Festival held at the Bogdo Gegen's Da Khree (Urga) was one of the most splendid in Outer Mongolia, rivaled only by the spectacle the Ilaghughsan Khutuktu staged at his monastery, Duutuin Khree, west of Da Khree. The Da Khree Maitreya Festival was held on the last day of the New Year's celebration near the end of spring and followed a prescribed path around the Bogdo Gegen's monastic residence. In the nineteenth century this Maitreya Way was often a point of contention between the Mongol religious hierarchy and the Chinese merchants, whose Maimaicheng, the business town that served the khree, threatened to overrun it. The monks of Da Khree pushed Maitreya's cart, colorfully painted and equipped with a parasol and a carved horse's head, all around the khree, stopping at the cardinal points to chant the Five Tracts of Maitreya, which were packed into the cart along with Zanabazar's own image of the Future Buddha (cat. no. 100). Crafting and renovating the horse-headed cart and the other accoutrements of the ceremony were regular monastic responsibilities.

This green head of a horse is all that remains of the Maitreya cart used at Da Khree in the early twentieth century. The artist Damdins,ren, most likely a monk, carved the head out of a core of joined wood, then covered it with green velvet, a color that symbolizes ease and skillful means. The bridle is also velvet, embellished with fittings of gilt copper. A gilt wooden finial tops the horse's head, which rears back in an expressive display of spirit. His mane is appropriately horsehair, dyed a brilliant red. --P.B.

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