About this object

A large, deeply carved wooden book or pecha cover or glegs-sin. The central panel is intricately carved with three Nepalese style pedestals or thrones with arched nimbus. In the centre, the largest of the pedestals spills onto the upper border, in it sits Prajnaparamita (Tibetan: shes rab phar phyin) she holds a dorje in her raised right hand and a manuscript or pecha in her raised left. Her lower right hand is raised to her heart, but the lower left hand is missing.,The nimbus surrounding her contains garuda, who is supported by two apsara (flying spirits), underneath which are makara (mythical sea creatures). To the left is Nampar Nangdze (Vairochana) who is seated on a similar, slightly smaller pedestal or throne, both his arms are missing. There is a kirtimukha (or face of glory) at the pinnacle of the nimbus and again there is a pair of makara. At the lower portion of the nimbus are pairs of deer (one on top of the other). Seated on the right is Gautama Buddha in the enlightenment or bhumisparsa mudra. His nimbus contains a kirtimukha, makara, deer-like creatures and reclining elephants. Surrounding each of the three thrones are a group of figures seated on lotus pedestals, including Tara, Manjushri and Mahakala. The cover has a deep border of lotus leaves and petals. Traces of gilt can still be seen.

Object specifics

  • Type
    Writing
  • Culture
    Tibetan
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Asia: Central Asia: Tibet [China]: Ü-Tsang
  • Date made
    14th Century
  • Materials
    Gilt Metal; 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: Shigatse
  • Date collected
    1906
  • Measurements
    284 mm x 726 mm x 29 mm; 11 3/16 in x 28 9/16 in x 1 1/8 in
  • Note
    List of Curios No 114:
    Book cover 29" by 11 3/4". "The great Mother" in the centre, Nampar Nang-dze on the left of the cover and Gautama on the right. Given me by the Tashi Lama in 1906. Three throne of each surounded by the "Six supporter" (Truk-gyok).

    Curator's note: Several of Bell's measurements are inaccurate in the List of Curios catalogue, although this is not a perfect match it is the closest in size to this catalogue entry.

    One of Bell's first diplomatic missions on behalf of the British Indian government was to visit the Panchen Lama in 1906. He recalls in his book, Portrait of a Dalai Lama, 'My earliest personal experience of the upper strata of Tibetan politics had been a visit to His Holiness of Tashi Lhunpo. That was in 1906. Apart from formal interviews we had two conversations of three hours each in a pavillion on a sheet of water set well apart from other buildings. The conversations were, of course, in Tibetan; no interpreter was present, and he opened his mind to me. He wanted to be independent of Lhasa and to deal with the British Government as an independent State'.

    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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