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19th C. Tibetan Woven Silk Thangka - Tsongkhapa

Tibet, ca. 19th century CE. A striking thangka, fully embroidered in fine silk threads of red, gold, pink, green, black, and cream hues, to honor the Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), a 15th century saint and scholar of Tibet who was the founder of the Gelug Order, surrounded by a sacred ensemble including various Buddhas of the past. Tsongkhapa's abhorrence of the laxity of many monastic orders gave rise to a strong foundation for the Order of the Virtuous, the Gelugpa. Since the Gelugpas wore yellow hats, this order is sometimes referred to as the Yellow Hats, distinguishing it from other orders called Red Hats. Tsongkhapa is known for restoring monastic discipline, the prohibition of the use of alcohol, and requiring strict celibacy as well as a regimented daily schedule. His honorary title is Je Rinpoche -Je meaning "exalted". Size: central image 29.5" L x 19.5" W (74.9 cm x 49.5 cm); with borders 52" L x 26.5" W (132.1 cm x 67.3 cm)

According to Meulenbeld's "Buddhist Symbolism in Tibetan Thangkas (2004): "Tsongkhapa was born of poor parents in Amdo, Eastern Tibet, in the Onion Valley. His keen intelligence was evident when he was little. At a young age, he received various degrees from his studies in Central Tibet where he mastered five main subjects taught by a Tibetan monastery university: abhidharma (metaphysics), madhyamika (the Middle Way, between Being and Non-Being), prajnaparamita (knowledge), pramana (logic), and vinaya (monastic rules) . . . Tsongkhapa founded large monasteries and universities, such as Ganden, Drepung, and Sera."

Due to the vow of celibacy, hereditary succession was not possible. The solution was to designate a new monastery abbot or lama as an incarnation of his predecessor. From this arose the succession to Yellow Hats leadership, the Dalai Lama who is regarded as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara. This line of Dalai Lamas began in the 16th century. Following his death, Tsongkhapa was retroactively named the first Dalai Lama.

Examples like this were created to hang in the grand hall of monasteries. The iconography illustrates how throughout his previous lives, Je Tsongkhapa cultivated his path toward Enlightenment and how his spiritual progression was confirmed by prophesies of the Buddhas of the past.

Condition: Openings for dowels to be placed at upper and lower ends. Only minor fraying at upper ends near these openings. Otherwise excellent.

Provenance: ex-Bricker collection, USA; acquired in Beijing 2003

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