Cosmological Mandala with Mount Meru

Period: Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

Date: 14th century

Culture: China

Medium: Silk tapestry (kesi)

Dimensions: Overall: 33 x 33 in. (83.8 x 83.8cm)
Mount: 37 1/4 x 38 x 2 3/8 in. (94.6 x 96.5 x 6 cm)

Classification: Textiles-Tapestries

Credit Line: Purchase, Fletcher Fund and Joseph E. Hotung and Michael and Danielle Rosenberg Gifts, 1989

Accession Number: 1989.140


The elaborate tapestry-woven mandala, or cosmic diagram, illustrates Indo-Himalayan imagery introduced to China along with the advent of Esoteric Buddhism. At the center is the mythological Mount Meru, represented by an inverted pyramid topped by a lotus, a Buddhist symbol of purity. Traditional Chinese images for the sun (three-legged bird) and moon (rabbit) appear at the mountain’s base. The landscape vignettes at the cardinal directions represent the four continents of Indian mythology but follow the artistic conventions of Chinese-style “blue-and-green” landscapes. The dense floral border, with the four vases in the four corners, parallels the imagery of central Tibet, particularly monasteries with ties to the Yuan court.