Description: 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 pedestal sits Prajnaparamita (Tibetan: shes rab phar phyin) all four of her hands are 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, his hands are in the dharmachakra mudra or teaching position. There is a kirtimukha (or face of glory) at the pinnacle of his nimbus, its columns in the shape of jewel-filled vases, perched on top of each is a bird. Seated on the right is Gautama Buddha in the enlightenment or bhumisparsa mudra. His nimbus contains, a kirtimukha and its columns are also in the shape of jewel-filled vases, perched on top of each is a bird. 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. Significant areas of gilt can still be seen on the figures and pedestals. There are several large deep cracks in the wood, a large chiselled out area is also visible on the right.
Place collected: Asia: Central Asia: Tibet [China]: Ü-Tsang: Lhasa
Date collected: 1913-01-17 before
Measurements: Overall: 260 mm x 733 mm x 17 mm; 10 1/4 in x 28 7/8 in x 11/16 in
Note: List of Curios No 108:
Per Barmiak Lama on 17th January 1913. Tibetan bookcover 29 1/4" x 10 1/2" gilt. The central figure is the "Great Mother" (see 104 [British Museum 1933.0508.94]). The large figure on the left is, Nam-par Nange-dze, who cleanese from sin; the large figure on the right is Gautama. The figures are the same as those of No.111 [British Museum 1933.0508.97] obtained from Sera Monastery.
Entry for No.111 reads, 'Tibetan bookcover 26 1/4" by 10". Three large figures, "The Great Mother" in centre; Nampar Nang-Tse on left (looking at cover); Gautama on right, surrounded by his disciples and others. The central figure has the five "celestial victors" (Jinas) on each side of it in the Tru-kü dress. On extreme left are the Jinas in Long-kü dress. On the left of Nang-pa Nang-tse are two of the Jinas above and below are Jampeyang, at top Chenrezi, in middle Chana Dorje (the last at bottom). Obtained from Sera Monastery'.
Curator's note: Although Bell notes that the bookcover was from Sera Monastery, he couldn't have acquired this himself as he didn't travel to Lhasa until 1920-21. There are a couple of options, there is a possibility that he brought this from a trader in Kalimpong or Gangtok or more likely he acquired it via a member of the Phala family. He visited them regularly during his annual tours of southern Tibet and the Palha family were aligned to the Sera Monastery.
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
N58.1996 [Photography Number];
50.31.97 [Accession Number];
CB37 [Collector Number];
T05102 [Photography Number]