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Panchen Lama Statue

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Period: 17th century (statue), 18th century (reliquary)
Medium: silver (statue), bronze (reliquary)
Origin: Western Tibet (statue), Qing Imperial Household Department (reliquary)
Dimensions: statue height: 5 cm; reliquary length: 4 cm, width: 3 cm, height: 5.5 cm

This image of the Panchen Lama has a tranquil face. His eyes are slightly closed, and his mouth betrays a subtle smile. Judging from the face, the subject of the image was approximately in his early adulthood to middle age. He makes symbolic Buddhist gestures with his hands: the earth-witness mudra (chudi yin) with his right hand and the meditation mudra (ding yin) with his left. He sits in the lotus position (jiafu zuo) upon a cushion atop a gilded bronze lotus plinth, which was probably added at a later date—making it impossible to confirm the original layering of pedestals. The statue is stored within a gilded bronze reliquary made by the Qing court workshops. The gilded bronze reliquary is embellished on four sides with chiseled patterns of foliated-lotuses and wish-fulfilling pearls (moni zhu or ruyi zhu). The front features the Tenfold Symbols of the Wheel of Time (Chinese shixiang zizai, Tibetan rnam bcu dbang ldan).

The yellow label attached to the item indicates the work is an image of the Panchen Erdeni with a reliquary. This statue was once presented in veneration along with a tooth of the Panchen Lama in its own reliquary (display item No. 147 in the exhibition “The Fortune and Longevity of Sumeru: An Encounter between the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery and the Palace Museum”) in the Buddhist sanctuary mezzanine of the western warming chamber within the Hall of Mental Cultivation (Yangxin dian). Both items were brought from Western Tibet as tribute. However, the current lack of clear documentary evidence prevents researchers from knowing which individual in the lineage of the Panchen Lama this statue depicts.

Chinese entry by Ma Shengnan
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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