Gilt Bronze Figure Tsongkapa

Gilt Bronze Figure Tsongkapa, depicted seated in dhyanasana on a double lotus base with both hands raised in dharmacakra mudra holding the lotus stems, wearing robes finely incised with flower head borders, his peaked cap with lappets resting on the shoulders. Flanked by two lotus stems supporting the attributes the Sword of Knowledge and the Book of Wisdom.

Height 17 cm.

Tibeto-Chinese, 18th Century.


From the Collection of Ion and Anna Dufva, Strandvägen 5a, Stockholm, thence by descent within the family. (Ion was the son of A.G. Dufva). The figure was purchased by the couple from the Swedish Geologist and Professor Erik Nyström (1879-1963). Nyström arrived in Shanghai in 1902 and came to live in China for a long time. He was a teacher at the Shanxi University, he led expeditions in China to support Swedish missionaries 1911-12. He worked as an interpreter in 1912 when Throild Wulff were sent by Röhsska Museet to acquire Chinese Works of Art. In 1913 he took the initiative that led to Johan Gunnar Anderssons coming to China.

More information

Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) is a revered Tibetan religious philosopher, and a central figure of the Gelugpa sect that ruled Tibet until the middle of the 20th century. According to tradition, he is an emanation of the Bodhisattva Manjushri. The attributes supported by the blossoms at his shoulder, the flaming sword that cuts through ignorance and the book of wisdrom, are also those of Manjushri.

*Tsongkhapa ([tsoŋˈkʰapa], meaning: “the man from Tsongkha” or “the Man from Onion Valley”,[1] c. 1357–1419) was an influential Tibetan Buddhist monk, philosopher and tantric yogi, whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism.[2] He is also known by his ordained name Losang Drakpa (Wylie: blo bzang grags pa, Skt. Sumatikīrti) or simply as “Je Rinpoche” (Wylie: rje rin po che, “Precious Lord”). He is also known by Chinese as Zongkapa Lobsang Zhaba or just Zōngkābā (宗喀巴).

Tsongkhapa was born in Amdo, the son of a Tibetan Longben Tribal leader who also once served as an official of the Yuan dynasty. It is said that Tsongkhapa’s father was probably a Mongolian because he was the head (darguchi. mong) of a Tibetan tribe of the Yuan dynasty (Mongol Empire). It is possible that a Tibetan philosopher was born from the family of a Mongolian leader. As a monk, Tsongkhapa studied under numerous teachers of the various Tibetan Buddhist traditions which flourished in central Tibet, including Sakya, Jonang, Kagyu and Kadam.

Tsongkhapa was a prolific author with a broad knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, logic, hermeneutics and practice. He wrote numerous works on madhyamaka philosophy (such as Ocean of Reasoning, a commentary on the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā), Mahayana practice (such as Lamrim Chenmo), and Vajrayana (Great Exposition of Secret Mantra). His philosophical works are mainly a synthesis of the Buddhist epistemological tradition of Dignāga and Dharmakīrti and the madhyamaka philosophy of Nāgārjuna and Candrakīrti.

According to John Powers, Tsongkhapa’s work “contains a comprehensive view of Buddhist philosophy and practice that integrates sutra and tantra, analytical reasoning, and yogic meditation.”[9] Guy Newland describes Tsongkhapa’s philosophical approach as one which combines the existence and validity of logic and ethics (conventionally and contingently) with “a radical view of emptiness” which sees all phenomena as devoid of intrinsic nature.[10]

According to Jay L. Garfield, Tsongkhapa also held that it was necessary to develop a correct view of the true nature of reality, and that to do this one had to engage in rigorous study, reasoned analysis and contemplation (alongside of meditation). As Garfield notes, this view of emptiness is not a kind of nihilism or a total denial of existence. Instead, it sees phenomena as existing “interdependently, relationally, non-essentially, conventionally” (which Tsongkhapa terms “mere existence”).*From Wikipedia

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