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The main color of this polychrome Buddhist vestment with ivory embellishments, blue is a representation of Akshobhya (Chinese Achufo), the Eastern Buddha of the Five Great Buddhas. The parts made from bone* are not dyed. The ritual garment is made with blue satin embroidered with designs of bats among clouds, the Eight Treasures, and ocean waves. The intricate overlay is made with ivory beads, plates, and medallions. The larger plates are ornamented with images of tantric deities of Tibetan Buddhism and ritual paraphernalia. The ivory plates on the shawl that drapes around the shoulders features four carvings of dakini (female spirits called in Chinese kongxingmu, lit. “skygoers”). The ivory plates at the waist have carvings of dakini and the four Heavenly Kings. The remaining ivory plates are embellished with crossed-vajra, vajra, lotus patterns, composite floral roundels (baoxiang hua), honeysuckle patterns (rendong wen), and other designs. Apart from the bone headwear, each component of the set is complete. The bone embellishments for the breast and skirt are the most elaborate. Bracelets and armlets are worn with the sleeves. The ribbons attached to the headwear are rather short, and tassels hang from the bottom.
The guru conducting the vajra dance and abhisheka ritual (Chinese guanding, pouring liquid upon an image) wears this type of beaded vestment. Five such garments were stored in the Six Tier Buddhist Sanctuaries (Liupin Folou) in the Forbidden City during the Qianlong reign (1736–1795) of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911).
*The nature of the material of which the beads and tassels are crafted still awaits future technological research [translator's note].
Chinese entry by Luo Wenhua
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying