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The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism

The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism


Item Code: IAB03

by Antoinette K. Gordon

Hardcover (Edition: 1998)

Munshiram Manoharlal Publication
ISBN 81-215-0260-8

Language: English
Size: 11.5" X 8.8"
Pages: 162 (Color Illus: 2, B & W Illus: 185, Figures: 74)
Price: $55.00   Shipping Free - 4 to 6 days
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About the Book

The rich cultural and spiritual heritage of Buddhism has recently been commanding serious attention among a wide public in the West. Lamaism, the Tibetan offshoot of Buddhism, has itself fascinated not only the specialists but also an expanding number of artists, students, and collectors who have been impressed by the subtlety of Tibetan religious thought and the quality of its art. And Tibetan art, with its brilliant colouring, decorative design, and subtle iconography, has come to be recognized as one the outstanding achievements of religious art in the Orient. Tibetan art, however, perhaps more so than nay other religious art, is permeated with the tenets of the highly developed religious tradition and body of theological dogma to which it give concrete expression. The colourful thangkas, although aesthetically appealing in themselves, cannot be fully understood or appreciated without at least a rudimentary knowledge of the religious precepts of Lamaism and the profuse symbols used in giving these tenets visual form. For the number of gods in the Tibetan pantheon seems to be limited only by the bonds of human imagination, and every image and detail is given symbolic meaning.

The Iconography of Tibetan Lamaism was first published in 1939, for the express purpose of "giving the student interested in Tibetan Iconography a general idea of the development of Buddhism into Lamaism, and making easier the identification of the various deities of the Tibetan pantheon." Although interest in the field has grown over the years, the books has remained the only authoritative work of its kind.

The book gives a descriptive outline of the principal gods in the Tibetan pantheon, tracing the main features and symbols that are used to denote each one. A comprehensive illustrated list of the various ritual objects, talismans, symbols, Mudras (symbolic hand poses), and asanas and vahanas (position of the lower limbs) that are used in he images of gods is accompanied with a word list of the Sanskrit terms most commonly encountered in a study of Lamaism.

A set of thirty-one thangkas from the famous collection of Baron A. von Stael-Holstein, formerly of Peking, China, which came to America after the publication of the original edition of the book, has been included in this new and revised edition.

About the Author

Antoinette L. Gordon, was the research associate in anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History. She made the study of Tibetan art and religion her life-work. Her other works are:Tibetan Religious Art and Tibetan Tales: Stories from the Dsangs Blun.


    Foreword, by William B. Whitney

    Foreword to the Second Edition


    Sanskrit Pronunciation

    Term in General Use

      Sanskrit-English ; English-Sanskrit

    Origin of Buddhism and its Development into Lamaism

    Ritual Objects

    Talismans: Amulets, Horoscopes, Special Weapons, Charms, Luck Flags



    Asanas and Vahanas

    Painting: Thang-kas, Mandalas, Tshog-shing, Bhavacakramudras

    Trikaya System and Chart

    Classification of Sacred Images

    Key to Identification of Sacred Images

    Identification Example





    Forms of Sakyamuni

    Medicine Buddhas

    Thirty-five Buddhas of Confession


    Forms of Vajrapani

    Forms of Avalokitesvara

    Forms of Manjusri

    Feminine Divinities: Bodhisattvas, Taras, Dhyanibuddhasaktis, Pancaraksa




    Minor Gods: Lokapala, Mhapancaraja


    Nonhuman Types: Citipati, Nagas, Garudas, Demons, Witches, Furies, Goddesses of the Bardo

    Greater Mandala of the Chonyid Bardo

    Local Gods: Wealth Gods, Earth Gods, House Gods, Personal Gods, Mountain Gods, Kinnaras, Apsaras, and Yakas

    Historical Persons Defined and Dalai and Tashi Lamas

    The Narthang Series of Thirty-one Thang-kas



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