Asian Art

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Descent of the Buddha, 19th century

Phurbu Tshering of Chamdo Attributed to

Tibetan, active 19th century
Opaque watercolor and gold on cotton with silk border
thanka: 18 x 12-1/4 in. (45.7 x 31.1 cm); overall: 39-1/2 x 23-1/2 in. (100.3 x 59.7 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Pratap and Chitra Pal
P.1998.3.3
© 2012 Norton Simon Museum

On view

The event depicted in this "thanka" (rolled painting) is the descent of Buddha Shakyamuni from the thirty-third heaven. A giant triple ladder leads the way from cosmic Mt. Meru down to earth. Considered one of the twelve great deeds of the Buddha, he ascended to heaven to give a discourse to his mother, Queen Maya, who died when he was seven days old and therefore never received his teachings. He then returned to earth to continue his ministration. Halfway down, a group of monks and celestials surround him on clouds, while another welcoming party bearing auspicious gifts awaits his arrival on earth. The Buddha's ability to transcend the earthly realm in a physical way is a result of his extraordinary state of consciousness.


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