An Old Tibetan Kha-bTags Preserved at the Mampukuji 萬福寺 Temple in Kyoto
An Old Tibetan Kha-bTags Preserved at the Mampukuji 萬福寺 Temple in Kyoto
Shunzo ONODA (小野田俊藏)
(Bukkyo University, Kyoto JAPAN)
In this paper, I would like to introduce an old Tibetan kha-btags which is preserved at the Obakusan Mampukuji 黄檗山萬福寺 temple in Kyoto. The kha-btags is thought to have been produced in China during Ming (明) dynasty.
For a long time, this brocade kha-btags has been believed to be and handled as Buddhist art. This may be one of the reasons why this kha-btags survived until today. Since kha-btags are part of the daily necessities usually such things never survive. So, it is rare that such an old kha-btags has been found.
There is the following story about this work; In 1673, a priest was sent by the Japanese ex-Emperor Gomizuno 後水尾法皇 with written inquiry to the great Chinese Zen master Yin-yuan 隠元(in Japanese pron. Ingen, 1592-1673) who was residing and preaching in Kyoto. Master Yin-yuan's answer satisfied the ex-Emperor. As a symbol of gratitude, the brocade of Avalokiteｧvara and incense were given by the ex-Emperor on February 3rd of 1673 (寛文十三年). This "brocade of Avalokiteｧvara" is still kept in the Obakusan Manpukuji 黄檗山萬福寺 temple which was founded by the master Yin-yuan.
It was in 1661 that the Master Yin-yuan found this temple, Obakusan Mampukuji, on a hill he called Obakusan 黄檗山, at Uji (宇治) in Kyoto 京都. The name was chosen to commemorate the Chinese temple of the same name Huang-bo-shan Wan-fu-si 黄檗山萬福寺, and because of the number of Chinese cork (黄檗) trees found there. Mt. Huang-bo in China was where the famous Zen Master Huang-bo Xi-yun (黄檗希運禅師, d.850) was ordained. Yin-yuan himself was also ordained and trained there. The temple name, Wan-fu-si 萬福寺, literally "ten thousand-fold happiness temple, had been given under imperial ordinance in 1614 by Emperor Shen-zong Wan-li (神宗万暦皇帝, r. 1572-1620) of the Ming dynasty. Yin-yuan died on April 1st at the age of eighty-two in 1673 the very year when the brocade of Avalokiteshvara was given and brought to the Obakusan Mampukuji. The year 1673 was slightly unusual. The era was changed on September 21 of this year to Empo 延寶, so it was also the last year of the Kanbun 寛文 era. As mentioned above, Yin-yuan died in this year on April 1st. For many years Yin-yuan had been embraced by the ex-Emperor Gomizuno. The ex-Emperor's heart was deeply depressed on hearing of Yin-yuan's death. Not only this, but also a big fire happened in Kyoto and many buildings of the Imperial Palace were burned on May 8th. If this above inquiry to Yin-yuan had been delayed for several months, then this brocade of Avalokiteshvara might not have been given to Mampukuji temple, or it might even have been lost due to the fire.
Now, let us try to survey contents of Mampukuji brocade of Avalokiteshvara. The main figure of this work is the bodhisattva Sadaksarilokeshvara, i.e. Avalokiteshvara of the Six Syllables. It depicts the bodhisattva in one of his most abstract forms. Sadaksari is the personification of his own mantra: Om mani padme hum. The mantra itself appears in bold letters above the bodhisattva, written in the Utchin Script. The bodhisattva has four arms, so, it is sometimes called as Caturbhuja (Four armed) Avalokiteshwara. The two front hands are joined in a gesture of loose joining palms Xu-xin he-zhang (虚心合掌) at his heart. In Nepal or Tibet these hands usually hold a wish-fulfilling jewel symbolic of Avalokiteｧvara's compassionate bodhicitta motivation, but not in this case. The two back hands, the right holds a rosary, the left a lotus. The bodhisattva wears jewels and sits in the lotus position on top of a lotus. The lotus which grows from the ground is supporting the base of the lotus seat of the bodhisattva. Below of the lotus throne is the prayer-poem, "nyi mo bde' legs mtshan bde' legs//nyi ma yi gung la bde' leg zhing//nyin mtshan rtag tu bde' leg nas//skyabs dkon mchog gsum gyi bde leg zhogs//(Fortunate days, fortunate nights, Fortunate midst of the day, days and nights forever fortunate! Come fortune to the Three Jewels the Saviour.)". The most impressive item is the petals of the flowers which are scattered around this Bodhisattva.
The Bodhisattva part was probably covered with a different cloth. Even today the installation mark of such cover cloth can be seen. Size of subject: vertical 327.0cm width 114.5cm; Size with mounting: vertical 378.0cm width 127.5cm.
In 2003, A digital tiling of this brocade was made by the Nissha Printing Co.,Ltd. (日本写真印刷株式会社). Here I try to show expanded shots from the data. Here we see the part of top end of the cloth. The general pattern used with kha-btags can be recognized at the top and bottom of it. From this point too, we can easily understand this was a kha-btags.
The next shot shows the quality of the brocade material. In Japan, this type of brocade is called "aya-ori 綾織" or "ori-nishiki 織錦".
Ven. Tanaka (the cheif officer of the Obaku Cultural Research Institute 黄檗文化研究所) wrote an article entitled "Orinishiki Kannon Daishi-zou ni tsuite 織錦観音大士像について" (Obaku Bunka, no.118, pp.161-168, 1998). In the article, he talks about the inscription which appears below the lotus throne of the main figure. He points out that the contents of this inscription correspond to one of the verses chanted at the time of the evening service in the Mampukuji temple: "願昼吉祥夜吉祥, 昼夜六時恒吉祥, 一切時中吉祥者, 願諸三宝来摂授". The meaning of the Tibetan inscription actually coincides with the contents of above verse. But, I don't think that this is the reason why this kha-btags was presented to Mampukuji temple, or that ex-Emper Gomizuno and Zen master Yin-yuan understood this sentence. The inscription is in Tibetan, and I do not think that either of them could understand Tibetan.
Mr. Toshiyuki Yano (矢野俊行） of Baiyo-Shoin (貝葉書院) studied the above Tibetan inscription. In his article "On the Tibetan Inscription of the Four Armed Avalokiteｧvara preserved in Mampukuji (萬福寺伝来の四臂観音像蔵文銘について)"(Obaku Bunka, no.119, pp.158-161, 1999) he made clear that the content of this inscription coincides with the name of a type of kha-btags; Usually kha-btags is classified in four grades:
1. nang mdzod 内蔵, 2. a she 阿喜, 3. zub she 素喜, 4. bsod btags 索達. He pointed out that this verse corresponds to the third of four subdivisions of nang mdzod:
1.1. rtags brgyad ma 吉祥八瑞, 1.2. srid zhi bde skyid 有寂安楽, 1.3. nyin mo bde legs 鎮日吉祥, 1.4. tshe lha ma 長寿.
He avoided clearly settling on a conclusion but implies this work itself is a kha-btags.
Some of these names of the grades of kha-btags had were used already in the 18th century. A Story of the prophecy concerning kha-btags is recorded in The Autobiography of Jyankya Hutukuto written by Tu'u kwen Blo bzan Chos kyi nyi ma. The story is recorded as a matter which happened in 1715. Two years later, the third Jyankya incarnation, Rol pa'i rdo rje was born. Tu'u kwen introduces the anecdote of prophecy as follows:
de nas lug lo zla ba dang po'i tshes gnyis kyi nyin mdo smad kyi chos sde chen po dgon lung byams pa gling gi srung ma rten khog (f.32b) tu spyan drangs par rje de nyid kyi sprul sku 'byon min gyi lung bstan zhus par/ srung ma nyid kyis kha dar srid zhi bde skyid ma ring ba zhig gi steng du rtags brgyad ma ser po zhig dang/ de'i rteng du nyin bde dkar po dri ma med pa rnams brtsegs te zheng (l.2) dang ring thung snyoms par bsgrigs pa dka' chen shes rab dar rgyas la gnang nas rtog dpyod gyis zhes phebs/ de la thams cad gyis dpyad pas/ sprul sku mi ring bar 'byon pa dang/ byon pa de nyid kyang sku tshe mdzad 'phrin rgyas pa (l.2) dang/ mdzad 'phrin bzang po la brten nas srid zhi'i bde skyid 'phel ba'i brda mtshon du spyad pa phyis su de kho na bzhin du byung 'dug go//(Collected works of Tu'u kwen, vol.1, ka 32a-32b)
(On the second day of January of the Sheep year , The Guardian deity (Srung ma) of the dGon lung Byams pa gling, which was a leading monastery of mDo smad district, was invited to make a prophecy and asked whether a new incarnation of the great one [Jyankya Hutukuto] will be born or not. The Guardian deity himself put one yellow kha-btags of rtags brgyad ma on top of a long kha-btags of srid zhi bde skyid ma. Then on that, he piled up a white kha-btags of nyin [mo] bde [legs]. Then width and length were adjusted by him, and it was delivered to dKa' chen Shes rab dar rgyas, and the deity said "Consider it!". People consider the meaning of this prophecy. They made a conclusion as this is the sign of a prophecy that the new incarnation will be born soon, the incarnated one will become active in his life, and by his holy activities world peace will be promoted. Then, the fact was just like that.)
We have to recognize that the kha-btags piled up in the third level was that of nyi mo bde legs in the prophecy story. The story says there are special relations between the third Jyankya Lama Rol pa'i rdo rje and the kha-btags of nyi mo bde legs. So, there was fixed meaning in Qianlong making an order of production for the kha-btags of nyi mo bde legs. The Kha-btags of nyi mo bde legs was a personal symbol of Jyankya rol pa'i rdo rje who was embraced by Qianlong Emperor very deeply. Qianlong and Jyankya's relationship was a kind of mChod-Yon association. Another fact that we can receive from the above story is that they were using such kha-btags already in that time.
Yano, the author of above article, pointed out that Mampukuji inscription uses the different spelling from that of later times. For example he pays attention to the spelling bde'. It is usually spelled with bde. But he doesn't refer to the fact that the way of adding "a-chung" after every vowel shows the characteristics of old style or the style of ancient Tibetan language. The last stanza is different even grammatically. He shows the example of the Potala Palace thangka which includes the verse of later style as: nyin mo bde legs mtshan bde legs//ni ma'i gung yang bde legs zhing//nyin mtshan rtag tu bde legs pa'i//dkon mchogs gsum gyi bkra shis shog//. Yano compared a work of the Qing period. Mampukuji kha-btags is considered to be the work of Ming period and nothing is strange about its preserving rather old characteristics.
It had been reported already that the Potala thangka has some sister versions. In 1994 The Spencer Museum of Art published a catalogue of the exhibition "Latter Days of the Law, Images of Chinese Buddhism 850-1850" edited by Dr. Marsha Weidner. The exhibition included an embroidery work which is very similar to the Potala thangka. The catalogue also pointed out the existence of another embroidery work at the National Palace Museum of Taiwan which was made with the same design that is almost identical in every detail to other two versions. Later I came to learn that there is another work of the same design in the Old Palace Museum in Beijing as well. In total four versions are known. All of these works are thought to have been produced in Qing dynasty, in Qianlong's time.
The size of four works are seemingly different. The thangka preserved in the Potala Palace is 長:235cm/寛:83cm. The Asian Art Museum version is 209.5 x 86.7cm. Taipei National Palace Museum version is described 綾地縦211糎/横86.5. Beijing National Palace Museum version is H230.5cm L82.5cm . The size seems to be quite different when we only see the numbers in these descriptions. Differences in the way of measuring exists also, but actually it is only a difference in vertical direction depending on the space where each cut was off in the process of mounting. The size of the main figure and other pattern are the same. Please reffer to the handout : I tried to arrange catalogue photos in one place.
As far as we can see from the publications concerning this thangka, it is explained that two of the four i.e. the Potala version and Beijing version are by "糸革 糸糸 "(Keshi) tapestries. According to Tibetan description of this Potala thangka, the work is a "thags thub"(cloth textile). About this Potala version the explanation in Tibetan language says:'di ni rgya nag tu bris pa dang 'thag pa'i gos chen bkras btags kyi thang ga zhig yin/ (This thangka is a silk fabric broidery and was designed then woven in China). Thangka is usually classified in the forms: shing par: wooden block; lhan drub: applique; 'thag drub: brocade; tshem drub: embroidery; tshon thang: paintings. Here the point is whether it was 'thag drub: brocade or tshem drub: embroidery.
The two of the four: The Asian Art Museum version and Taipei version are "satin stitch" or "繍". This is different from "Keshi" tapestry which is considered to be a kind of fabric. Coloring is often added to the surface of such a stitch in some cases of the work of the Qing dynasty satin stitch. In the Taipei version we can also find such coloring. The Taipei catalogue says this embroidery work is mentioned in Bi-dian zhu-lin Xu-bian (秘殿珠林続編)and Zhu Qijin 朱啓金' 's Ci-xiu Shu-hua lu (刺繍書画録). I myself am not referring to both.
Other than the difference of art types (stitch or textile), another point of interest lies among those four versions. The Potala thangka is close in size to the Beijing version in the vertical direction, and the Taipei embroidery is similar in size to the Asian Art Museum version. The Potala thangka and Beijing versions have another similarity on the mountings. I can say nothing about the mounting of Taipei version because I have never actually observed it, and there is no photograph of the mounting in the Taipei catalogue. But if we compare the Potala and Beijing versions, we can find an interesting identity. Both of their mountings have exactly same pattern but thread color is different. When we look carefully, we see that the inconvenience in the difference in size was coped with by a skillful adjustment of the design. It seems that they were manufactured in the same studio.
A more interesting fact draws another conclusion, that there were two sets. This concerns the stamped seals. Patricia Berger, one of the authors of Weidner's catalogue, opines about the seals the following:
"This embroidery (The Asian Art Museum version) bears many of Qianlong's own seals, in positions similar to the other versions in the Palace Museum and the Potala, which bear witness to its having passed imperial scrutiny before being sent as a gift to Tibet."
This description has a slight mistake. Ten seals are actually stamped on the Taipei version, and this is the same as the Beijing version. The Potala and Asian Art Museum versions have only five seals. According to the catalogue of Beijing National Palace Museum, those extra five seals include that of the Last Emperor of the Qing dynasty. The Catalogue of Beijing National Palace Museum says: There are lots of seals such as Qian-long guan-shang "乾隆観賞", Xuan-tong yu-lan-zhi bao "宣統御覧之寶", Tai-shang Huang-di zhi bao "太上皇帝之寶", Bi-dian zhu-lin "秘殿珠林" and so on.
As a conclusion, I boldly assert the following. Two sets of Keshi tapestry and embroidery were made at the time of the Qianlong Emperor. They were probably manufactured at the imperial factory in Beijing as Patricia Berger guessed. Then afterwards, one set was carried as an imperial gift to Lhasa possibly to celebrate The Eighth Dalai Lama's investiture in 1758. An embroidery work within the set carried to Lhasa is now in America. And another embroidery work of the set was brought to Taiwan from Beijing after the end of the Qing dynasty.
We have to know more about the base of the embroideries, but I would like to point out the possibility that the woven cloth is used as the ground for the embroidery work.
Also, there is a possibility that those with tapestries as ground were produced using a similar paper pattern which was transmitted down from the Ming dynasty. If we don't think this way, the expression of half-breaking petals on the circumference in those four works is too strange. We can see non-breaking petals in the same position in Mampukuji kha-btags. It is natural to think that they were trimmed from a bigger cloth. I guess such a process of triming is the reason that the five works including the Mampukuji kha-btags differ from each other in size..