Vajrabhairava Mandala, Silk tapestry (kesi), China

元 緙絲大威德金剛曼陀羅
Vajrabhairava Mandala

Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
ca. 1330–32
Silk tapestry (kesi)
Overall: 96 5/8 x 82 5/16 in. (245.5 x 209 cm)
Overall (framed and mounted): H. 113 1/2 in. (288.3 cm); W. 90 1/2 in. (229.9 cm); D. 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm); Wt. 230.3 lb. (104.5 kg)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1992
Accession Number:
Not on view
This tapestry, a treasure of the Department of Asian Art, was woven with colored silk threads and embellished with gilded paper in areas such as the crowns and the jewelry. It was produced for the court in China during the Yuan dynasty, established by Khubilai Khan (1215–1294), grandson of the fabled Genghis Khan (1162–1227).

Production of this extraordinary mandala illustrates the practice of Tibetan Buddhism at the Mongol court. Devotion to Vajrabhairava, the deity at center, was introduced to China by Jining Shaluobaguanzhao, a disciple of the Tibetan master Phakpa, the most powerful monk in China during the late thirteenth century. This disciple was sent to Tibet to study with a teacher famed for his knowledge of the texts and practices related to Vajrabharaiva.

The four portraits at the bottom, identified by Tibetan inscriptions, represent Tugh Temur, the great grandson of Khubilai Khan, who served as emperor of the Yuan dynasty (1328–29), his older brother, and their respective consorts.This silk tapestry likely was commissioned for use in a Vajrabhairava initiation at the court.
#7353. Mandala of Yamantaka-Vajrabhairava
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Inscription: At the base are seven protective deities that appear to be various color coded manifestations of Yamantaka. At either side are pairs of donors identified by name in Tibetan. These woven inscriptions can be seen above and to the right of each figure. Below each inscription there is a vertical silk panel with traces of in-painted with floral scroll patterns. Presumably each of these panels originally contained inscriptions naming the donors. The inscriptions read as follows:

Bottom left corner:
1. "rGyal po Thug the mur" (King Tugh Temur)
2. "Gyal bu Ko shi la" (Prince Qoshila)

Bottom right corner:
3. "dPon mo 'Bha bu cha" (the lady Bhabucha)
4. "dPon mo bHu dha shri" (the lady Bhudhashri)

Bhudhashri was the wife of Tugh Temur and Bhabucha was most probably the wife of Qoshila, Tugh Temur's brother.
[ Francesca Galloway Ltd. , London, until 1992; sold to MMA]
Cleveland Museum of Art. "When Silk Was Gold," October 20, 1997–January 4, 1998.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Defining Yongle, Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth-Century China," April 1, 2005–July 10, 2005.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty," September 28, 2010–January 2, 2011.