About this object

A heavily carved large wooden bookcover (top) in a similar style of carving to 50.31.129. The five small seated figures ( the five Dhyani Buddhas or Jinas) sit within arches on pedestals. The central figure's throne or pedestal is in the Nepalese style, the lower columns supported by elephants, with a garuda and mahakara above. From left to right (looking at) the figures are, Ratnasambhava, Akshobya, Vairocana, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi. There is a border in the style of lotus leaves and a single band of 'strings of pearls' decoration. Traces of gilt are still visible and there is a residue above the central figure that has darkened the wood. The reverse side of the cover has been painted with a red pigment and a series of protective circular patterns.

Object specifics

  • Type
    Writing
  • Culture
    Tibetan
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Asia: Central Asia: Tibet [China]: Ü-Tsang: Lhasa
  • Date made
    13th Century
  • Materials
    Gilt Metal; Pigment; Wood
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    From the Collection of Sir Charles Bell
  • Collector
    Charles Alfred Bell
  • Place collected
    Asia: Central Asia: Tibet [China]: Ü-Tsang: Lhasa
  • Date collected
    1913-01-20 before
  • Measurements
    248 mm x 697 mm x 22 mm; 9 3/4 in x 27 7/16 in x 7/8 in
  • Note
    List of Curios No 110:
    Per Barmiak Lama on 20th January 1913. Tibetan bookcover 28" by 10". Five large figures representing the five Jinas (Gye-wa Ri-nga) See Waddell's "Lamaism" pp. 336 and 349. On the extreme left is Rin-chen Jung-ne (Ssk. Ratna Sambhava) with right hand downwards and palm outwards in the "bestowing" (chok-jin) attitude (Waddell's Lamaism pp. 337). He gives spiritual towards the attainment of Buddhahood (S.L. Das Dictionary p.359). In the centre is Nam-par Nang-dze (Ssk. Vairocana) hands in the (chang-chup-chok-ki-cha-gya) (byang chub mchog gi phyag rgya) attitude i.e the attitude of remitting sins and giving knowledge but Nam-par Nang-dze is the "most precious" one.
    Then Ö-pa-me (Ssk Amitabha) with hands in Nyan-sha (mnyam gzhag) i.e "meditative attitude". On extreme right Tön-yö Trup-pa (don yod brub pa) in the attitude of preaching religion. Obtained from Sera Monastery.

    Curator's note: Bell did not acquire this bookcover directly from Sera Monastery, as he did not visit Lhasa until 1920-21. He could have acquired it from one of the aristocratic families he visited during his annual inspection trips to southern Tibet. The Palha family are a likely candidate as Bell notes in his book, Portrait of the Dalai Lama that the Palha family were, 'in alliance with Sera' and he was a regular visitor to them on these trips. Or he could have bought it from a trader in Sikkim or Kalimpong.

    Bell made a feature of his Tibetan manuscript covers in his Residency in Gangtok, Sikkim. He appears to have employed a local carpenter to bracket several of the bookcovers together to form a surround for his fireplace (see attached image). From here he displayed a large number of items in his collection that can now be found in the National Museums Liverpool collection. It is unclear whether or not the fireplace was in working order, but if fires were lit, it would explain the lack of gilt on the bookcovers.

    Written by Emma Martin
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Publications

  • List of Curios

    Bell, Charles Alfred

    Author: Bell, Charles Alfred
    Publisher:
    Date:
    Description: A typed object catalogue from Bell's handwritten notes on a wide variety of objects from his personal collection. This information often contains, the date he obtained an object, its provenance (including where and who he acquired from) and the person responsible for giving him the information. The process of writing the inventory began in December 1912 and continued until the late 1930s.

Object view = Humanities
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