Staffs of Office

Description: 1 of 2 (non-matching) monk-magistrate's or shalngo's staff of office. Long square staff of iron covered with damascene work of scrolling foliage and 'shou' or long life symbols. Inset into the staff at the centre are four gilt brass panels, there is one on each side of the staff that are separated into five medallions. The panels are decorated with designs of the Seven Treasures of Royalty and the Eight Auspicious Symbols, the central design of each panel being the phoenix, kirtimukha or 'face of glory' repeated on two of the panels and the crane respectively. An additional single panel sits at the front of the staff in the same openwork design featuring a man sitting in royal ease pose on the back of a stag. The finial of the post is finished with the elemental symbol of the air, the crescent moon and sun or nyi da. The pointed end of the staff is now mounted into a three tiered wooden stand. A handle sits at a right angle to the staff and is finished with a red wool and red silk loop fastened with a knot of leather.

Place collected: Asia: Central Asia: Tibet [China]: Ü-Tsang: Gyantse: Drongtse
Date collected: 1917-06 before
Measurements: Overall: 1700 mm x 265 mm x 270 mm; 66 15/16 in x 10 7/16 in x 10 5/8 in
Type: Religion; Personal Object

Note: List of Curios No 279: A pair of pe-re staffs of office used by the Shal-ngos in Lhasa at the Mönlam festival. Made of iron, embossed with brass gilt in the middle and at the ends. Each has a handle with a ring. The iron is decorated with Jam-sang (damascene) work. The brass gilt figures in the middle are of the Tashi Ta-gye and other figures and signs. These iron staffs are carried by the Shalngos when going to and fro between the assemblies and their monasteries. When they arrive at their place of meeting, they plant the pe-re in the ground. These two pe-re were obtained by Palha Kusho through the Palha Kenchen from the Dre-pung monastery. Only Sera and Drepung have pe-re like this. A few spare ones are kept in each of these two monasteries, perhaps 8 or 10 in each. Paid Palha Kusho Rs 160/- for each of the two pe-re. June 1917. Curator's note: Bell mentions the pere on several occassions when he is in Lhasa in 1921, particularly during the Mönlam festival. Drepung was the largest monastery in the world with between 7,000 - 10,000 monks during the time of Bell's visit to Lhasa. The Shalngos from Drepung and Sera would take over the policing of Lhasa during the Mönlam festival. At the time of Bell's visit there was a great deal of tension between the monastic and military factions in Tibet and with the shalngos in charge there were fears that there may be assassination attempts against leading military figures such as Tsarong and also against Charles Bell himself, for promoting the idea of a larger army to the Dalai Lama. Palha Kenchen was a relation of Palha Kusho, Palha Kenchen was head of the Palha family and lived at Bangyeshar Mansion in Lhasa, where several objects in Bell's collection had come from. He was also a close relation of Palhese, Bell's long-time confidant and advisor. Written by Emma Martin
Accession no: 50.31.116a
Other number(s): 50.31.116 [Accession Number]; 50.31.75 [Previous Number]; CB19 [Collector Number]

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