Gilt Mandala Inlaid with Turquoise and Coral

Tags: mandala | National Palace Museum


Tibetan, Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1911)
Diameter: 38.6 cm, height: 27.4 cm 
This mandala comes with a finely worked leather box made in the Ch'ien-lung era (1736-1795). It includes a piece of white silk, on which is an inscription in four languages (Manchu, Chinese, Mongolian, and Tibetan), recording an important historical event. When this mandala was made in 1652, it was brought by the Fifth Dalai Lama from Tibet to Chinese soil via Hsi-ning and Inner Mongolia, and offered to the Hsi-huang Temple.

Early Ch'ing dynasty emperors were gifted rulers and administrators, and they knew how to use the power of religion to win over other peoples. Before the 17th century, the Tibetan form of Buddhism had already become the dominant religious belief of the Tibetan people and had been propagated among the Mongol tribes. Starting from the 17th century, the Ch'ing court, seeking to consolidate its influence, made Tibetan Buddhism the most widespread religious belief among the Tibetan, Mongol, and Manchu peoples, thereby holding them together in harmony. In this interaction between religion and politics, this mandala is of even greater landmark significance. On the one hand, the Ch'ing court received the blessings of the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhism, reconfirming their close ties and bringing the Mongols in even closer at the same time. On the other hand, the Dalai Lama was able to promote his Yellow Hat sect to the east and help popularize it. By receiving the confirmation of the Ch'ing court, he stabilized his theocratic status in Tibet.

Text: Chang Li-tuan

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum