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Later Tibetan Gallery



Manuscript Cover
Tibet / China . 15th-16th Century

Set upon an extended lotus base and surrounded by an aureole of flames, the text deals with the contents of the manuscript which would have been contained within a pair of wooden covers, of which this is the top one.

The cover itself is bilingual and this offers some clues to its possible provenance and use.
-Bilingual covers were used in Chinese temples which practiced the Tibetan form of Buddhism and which frequently used liturgies in Tibetan as well as Chinese. Ceremonies at the Yung ho Kung in Beijing (commonly called the "Lama Temple") were often bilingual until the 1930's.

The cover is composed of wood and red laquer, items which Tibetans were relatively unfamiliar with, suggesting that it was made in China, where the colour red has a certain regal character. However the Tibetan writing is error free (a rare find !) and this suggests that a Tibetan wrote that section, although Chinese were extremely good at copying Tibetan writing.

Although most of the texts, mainly sutras and dharanis (extended collections of mantras and ritual instructions), are reasonably well known, there appears to be little system in the collection. They do not appear to stem from one particular tradition, neither do they seem to be connected to each other in any obvious manner. This suggests that either they were favorite texts of a charismatic lama, or that they were texts commonly used in a particular monastery.

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