Mandala of Vajradhara, Manjushri and Sadakshari -Lokeshvara
Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Thanka; ink, opaque watercolor on gold
Image: 58 x 37 1/2 in. (147.3 x 95.3 cm)
Gift of The Kronos Collections, 1985
Not on view
The Tibetan branch of Esoteric Buddhism, introduced into China during the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), continued to be patronized by early Ming dynasty emperors. Throughout the fifteenth century, a significant community of Tibetan lamas remained active in Beijing, the site of the former Mongol capital city, Dadu, and after 1402 the principal Ming capital.This mandala, or cosmic diagram used in meditation, is painted in rich colors on a coarse cloth ground in the Tibetan manner, but the presence of a Chinese dedication along the lower margin as well as a number of distinctive stylistic features suggest that it was the product of an atelier in China that created images based on Tibetan prototypes. Stylistically, the mandala is related to three others, dated between 1477 and 1479, which are now in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.The iconography of this mandala consists of three main deities, the Buddha Vajradhara (above), together with Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom (lower right), and Shadakshari-Lokeshvara, a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion (lower left), set within a field of thirty-nine subsidiary deities. Each deity is seated on a lotus throne and framed by an ornately figured halo. Vajradhara, who grasps two vajras or thunderbolts, is further distinguished by an encircling array of the twelve auspicious Buddhist symbols.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: [Done] [Given] [Bestowed by owner] on 15th day of 4th month of the 15th year of the Chenghua reign era (May 6, 1479) of the Great Ming dynasty.
(Trans. by Mike Hearn)