Have you ever seen Chakrasamvara with such an expression?

Looking at the ceremonial interaction between Han and Tibetan people in the Ming Dynasty from a special brocade thangka丨Snowy Land Heritage⑤

▲Ming Yongle brocade Shengle Vajra Thangka (detail).

  This is a unique Chakrasamvara Thangka.

  Different from the traditional appearance of Chakrasamvara with frowning brows and angry eyes, the Chakrasamvara in this thangka has rippled eyebrows and smiling eyes.

Do Buddha statues also have different "emoticons"?


The magical connection between Thangka and Zhu Di, the founder of Ming Dynasty

  This unique thangka is called the "Ming Yongle Brocade Shengle Vajra Thangka" and is now collected in the Shannan Museum of Tibet.

This Tang cartoon is 526 cm high and 319 cm wide. The center of the painting is 286 cm high and 208 cm wide. It is huge in shape. In the center of the painting are the twin bodies of Chakrasamvara and Dorje Pam. Their shapes are both measured and vivid. Behind the main statue Decorated with a peach-shaped flame pattern, the composition is simple and elegant; it is made of navy blue silk as the base, and the pattern is woven with golden threads. The color is luxurious and elegant; the six-character golden Chinese regular script inscription "Yongle Year of the Ming Dynasty" in the upper right corner of the screen.

▲The six-character golden Chinese regular script inscription "Yongle Year of the Ming Dynasty" in the upper right corner of the Yongle brocade Shengle Vajra Thangka of the Ming Dynasty.

  In this brocade thangka, Chakrasamvara's eyebrows have become decorative twists and turns, his eyes are narrow and slightly curved, the outer corners of his eyes are slender, and his eyebrows are smiling, just like the eyes of characters in Ming Dynasty meticulous paintings; his brows are wrinkled and his nose is The raised lines are greatly reduced, and it looks more like the face of a calm and kind spirit, which is in line with the aesthetic habits of the mainland.

In terms of composition, the main figures occupy most of the picture, making them prominent and magnificent.

In terms of aesthetic tradition, the Yongle-era Thangka shows the style characteristics of a fusion of Chinese and Tibetan. In particular, the huge shape and the prominent composition of the main figure are believed by art historians to have incorporated the aesthetic preferences of Zhu Di, the founder of the Ming Dynasty.

  Yongle is the reign name of Zhu Di, the third emperor of China's Ming Dynasty.

The Yongle period was a critical period for the Ming Dynasty to comprehensively manage Tibet.

On the one hand, Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty inherited Taizu's policy of governing Tibet, further expanded Sino-Tibetan transportation, and strengthened and deepened the connection between the mainland and Tibet; on the other hand, Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty sent Liu Zhao, He Ming and others to Tibet to canonize the leaders of monks and laymen, strengthening his control over Tibet. Tibetan local administration.

  In order to ensure that the envoys of the Ming Dynasty could enter Tibet smoothly, the Ming Dynasty used the material and manpower from Taozhou, Hezhou, Xining and other places along the road to maintain the Qinghai-Tibet Road passing through the Gansu-Qinghai and Duogan areas, and dispatched Sichuan troops Tibetan soldiers and civilians of all ethnic groups repaired the roads.

The establishment of post stations and road repairs were the beginning of the Ming Dynasty's imitation of the Yuan Dynasty in strengthening management of Tibet.

  In accordance with the political ecology of Tibetan monks and laymen co-governing, Emperor Yongle not only strengthened Sino-Tibetan ties in politics and economy, but also paid more attention to the bonding role of culture and religion. These measures profoundly affected all aspects of Tibet's politics, economy, and culture.

  In the "unification" pattern of ceremonial governance of the frontier, the royal woven and embroidered Thangka became a gift given by the court to the leaders of local monks and laymen in Tibet. It reached its peak during the Xuande period of Yongle in the Ming Dynasty and continued to the court of the Qing Dynasty.

  As a unique category that combines Tibetan Buddhist images and Central Plains weaving and embroidery craftsmanship, embroidered Thangkas are historical witnesses of the exchanges, exchanges and integration of the Han and Tibetan peoples in ritual systems, Buddhist thought, artistic aesthetics and other aspects.


"The Yongle Year of the Ming Dynasty" and the Three Great Dharma Kings

  Since the inscription "Great Ming Dynasty Yongle Annual Gift" on the Chakrasamvara Thangka only identifies the recipient, Emperor Yongle, and the recipient is not clear, it has become a hot and difficult point for scholars to research.

And because the small statue of the guru at the top of the thangka does not show a clear sectarian tendency, it can only be said that this type of thangka is related to the three great Dharma kings.

  By checking the images and text descriptions of the published woven and embroidered Thangkas with the inscription "Yongle Year of the Ming Dynasty", the author has counted a total of 6 Thangkas of the same style, including the Yongle Imperial Red Yama Di that once sold for a sky-high price Embroidered Thangka.

▲Hongyanmodi embroidered thangka made by Yongle Emperor (detail).

(Image source: China News Service)

▲ Comparative picture of the inscription "Yongle Year of the Ming Dynasty", the green background on the left is the Yongle Imperial Red Yama Di embroidered thangka, and the right blue background is the Yongle Shengle Vajra brocade thangka of the Ming Dynasty.

  Some scholars speculate that these thangkas were most likely produced when the fifth Karmapa Yinshepa (1384-1415), who was named the Karmapa, returned to Tibet in 1408, or when the Yongle Emperor in 1413, 1419 and 1423 He sent envoys to reward Tibetan monks and lay leaders and subsequently arrived in Tibet.

Judging from the domestic collection sites, there are also monasteries related to the Gelug sect such as the Jokhang Temple, Potala Palace, and Qiongguojie Temple. This seems to mean that the recipients may also include the Gelug who was named the Great Merciful Dharma King. The eminent monk Sakyamuni also disappeared (1354-1435).

  Considering the political situation in Tibet, the Ming Dynasty not only set up a capital garrison, but also took advantage of the profound influence of Tibetan Buddhism in the local area, adopted a policy of establishing and governing Tibet through multiple confederations, and canonized three Dharma kings and five religious kings.

The general procedure for canonizing the three Dharma Kings is as follows: the imperial court sends envoys in advance to request them, eminent monks are ordered to come to Beijing for pilgrimage to receive the conferments, and after returning to Tibet, they continue to send envoys to pay tribute, and the imperial court doubles the rewards in return.

In this process of frequent exchanges, gifts have become an important carrier for maintaining relationships and emotions.

  Historical materials such as "Ming Dynasty Records" record the process of the fifth Karmapa Yinshepa (recorded as Harima in the literature) going to Nanjing to pay a pilgrimage to the founder of the Ming Dynasty and to be awarded the title of Karmapa, and also listed a list of gifts.

Among them, there are three records of Harima paying tribute to Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty, including Buddha relics, statues, horses and other items.

There are as many as 12 records of Ming Dynasty Emperor Chengzu giving gifts to Harima, among which the three most generous gifts were: first, giving a banquet when entering the palace for the first time, second, building Pudu Dazhai for Taizu and his wife, and third, conferring great treasures Dharma King.

These three times, the gold was given as much as a hundred taels, and the silver was given as much as a thousand taels. There were also countless various jewelry vessels, silk fabrics, religious items, daily necessities, livestock, etc.

In addition, when he resigned in the sixth year of Yongle, he mentioned the gift of Buddha statues and other objects, and in the ninth year of Yongle, he mentioned the reward of brocade Buddha statues.


Thangka and Ritual Politics

  The process of conferring the title of three Dharma Kings can be understood as a kind of ritual politics, and weaving and embroidering thangkas is an important ritual instrument embedded in a whole set of ritual systems.

  The Chakrasamvara brocade thangka conveys "oneness" in ritual politics.

This brocade thangka is a treasure that combines the silk weaving skills of the Central Plains court with the art of Tibetan Buddhism. It has multiple attributes such as religious supplies, silk fabrics, and works of art.

As early as the Tubo period, silk had been introduced from the Central Plains to the snow-covered plateau, and gradually developed into an important Buddhist ritual item to express respect. It was widely used in Buddhist statues, Buddhist scriptures and other types of ritual instruments, and even in the decoration of Buddhist temples.

Chakrasamvara is one of the five deities of supreme yoga in Tibetan Buddhism. Its practice activities are inherited in the three main sects of Kagyu, Gelug and Sakya, and spread to the Central Plains with the activities of eminent monks of each sect.

Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty used Buddhist artistic imagery to connect Thangkas with the personal identities of Tibetan eminent monks, so that the recipients would be happy to accept the gifts, and identify themselves with the gift-giver through recognition of the object. A deep spiritual connection is established.

In addition, Buddhist artistic imagery also has the characteristics of inclusiveness that transcend culture, ethnicity, and language, which helps the central dynasty and its recipients to establish cultural identity and achieve their political intention of returning the world to the center.

  This thangka also expresses "hierarchy" in ritual politics.

The tributes brought by Tibetan monks and lay leaders are mainly horses, religious souvenirs, Pulu and other local products, and there are no strict requirements on quantity.

However, regarding the rewards in return, Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty clearly requested that "those who come in thick and thin come back" and "it is better for the imperial court to be kind to those who are far away than to give too little." It is said that the rewards in return are generally three times the value of the tribute.

In the cultural logic of etiquette politics in ancient China, the emphasis on giving, receiving, and repaying gifts does not depend on the benefits of the actual exchange, but on the form of etiquette adhered to in the exchange behavior and the respect for rules in this social behavior. reflect.

Coming to court from all directions, returning home from all over the world, etc., symbolize the emperor's virtue and destiny, and demonstrate the legitimacy of power "inherited by heaven". "Being gentle to people far away" is an integral part of the country's internal affairs.

  Therefore, Emperor Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty presented the most precious brocade thangka to the Tibetan religious leader with the most solemn etiquette. This not only reflected economic benefits, but also touched the soul and won people's hearts and prestige.

Through this method of flexibility rather than force, Chengzu of the Ming Dynasty integrated the central Ming Dynasty and Tibet into a social relationship that included both unity and hierarchy. Social relations are formalized, and exchanges of various objects and rituals are symbolic expressions of this social relationship.

The fusion of Chinese and Tibetan art presented by Thangka enables the giver to stimulate the emotion and recognition of the recipient in a subtle and silent way.

  (The pictures used in this article are provided by the author without indicating the source.)

  (About the authors: Liu Dongmei, professor at the Institute of Tibetology, University for Nationalities of China; Jiao Jiejia, a master’s student at the Institute of Tibetology, University for Nationalities of China.)

  Producer | Wang Xiangyu

  Editor | Li Yilin

  Production | Hu Xiaodie

  (Daozhonghua WeChat public account)