Handicrafts | Bronze Casting


Object Title
Object Description

Tenpe Nyima

Bronze with fire-gilding, painted; 18th century; H: 16,5 cm.; loan from the Paro National Museum
Tenpe Nyima (1567-1619) was the son of the 17th prince abbot of the Drukpa Kagyupa school in Ralang/Tibet. He made several trips though Bhutan and this helped his son, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, to settle down more easily in Bhutan after his escape from Tibet.

Eastern Bhutan
Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel

The Shabdrung, bronze with remains of gilding; 17th century; H: 52 cm.; loan from a private collection.
This unusually large bronze statue of the unifier of the state on the lotus throne wears a hat that is typical for the Drukpa Kagyupa school and the clothes of a monk. The base is decorated with lotus flowers and mythological animals. His right hand shows the symbolic sign for touching the earth, and in his left holds a vase with the elixir of long life.

At the end of the road
Bronze container

Container for ceremonial offerings (yang tro), bronze; H: 19,5 cm, diameter 17 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
The knob is made in the shape of half a vajra. The central motive at the belly of the container are the eight signs of happiness of Buddhism. Food that is offered in this container is to bring luck.

Ritual dagger

Phurbu, dagger: handle of brass, blade of iron; container: copper; L: 26 cm; loan from a private collection
The ritual weapon is used in monastic Buddhism to destroy obstructive powers and influences on the way to enlightenment. In other rituals it is used to transfix or symbolically kill demons. Special pieces like this one are marked on the back with a sign of the master who made them.

Religious dignitaries

Je Jamyang Gyeltsen, bronze, fire-gilding; 18th century, size: 44 cm x 27 cm x 20 cm; loan from the National Museum of Bhutan
Je Jamyang Gyeltsen lived from 1742 until 1803. He was Bhutan's 18th head abbot. The cleric is represented in the seating position of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas* (vajraparyanka), the hands show the gesture of the »Wheel of Teaching« (dharmacakra mudra). On his head he wears the five-leaved Buddha crown and the hair knot of the tathagatas, as are worn during tantric rites.

The dual system of government
A soldiers helmet

Helmet, iron, synthetics, Lurex, viscose rayon; H: 48 cm, diameter: 28 cm; loan from Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup
Soldiers' helmets were padded inside and decorated with a braid in five colours as lucky charm.

Jigme Namgyel

Cotton velvet, silk damask, cotton fabrics, padding, leather; H: 41 cm, diameter: 22 cm; loan from Anthony Aris
This helmet was most likely worn by the second king, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck (1905-1952).

Administrative reform
Buddha Shakyamuni

Copper with fire-gilding; 17th century; H: 46 cm.; loan from the Thimphu Dzong
In the state of complete enlightenment, the Buddha's right hand makes the earth-witness gesture, which reminds of the moment of the Buddha's Enlightenment in which he called upon Earth as his witness. His left hand reclines in the gesture of meditation. The clarity of representation mediates the superhuman essence of the Buddha.

The Buddhas life
Arhat Hashang
Statue, bronze with painting; 17th century; H: 24 cm.; loan from the National Museum, Paro
The 16 Arhats* were the Buddha's first disciples who attained Buddhahood. Arhat Hashang is often represented with laughing children.
The Noble Eightfold Path
Arhat Gopaka

Statue, bronze with painting; 17th century; H: 24,5 cm.; loan from the National Museum, Paro
Arhat means »The one who defeated his (inner) enemies«. The Arhat* form the ideal examples for those who walk the path of enlightenment.

The Noble Eightfold Path
Buddha Maitreya

Bronze, fire-gilding; measurements: 52 cm x 29 cm x 20 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
In the aspect of Sambhogakaya Buddha Maitreya also appears as Bodhisattva* and wears the jewelry and clothing of a prince.

The Saddharmapundarika Sutra

Diamond sceptre (vajra* in Sanskrit , dorje in Tibetan), brass; L: 14 cm., B: 4,5 cm.; loan from a private collection
Used as a ritual tool in tantric rites, the vajra symbolises the »method« (upaya*), acting selflessly for the good of all living beings. In rituals it is held in the right hand as the male principle. In the left hand, the lama holds a bell (drilbu) as symbol of eh female principle of wisdom. Specific gestures of the hands symbolise the unification of method and wisdom and the lifting of the opposites in the insight of the emptiness of all appearances. This state of lifting the mode of thinking in dualities is visualised in the spherically shaped centre.

The Vajrayana

Silver with partial fire-gilding, painted, set in with corals and turquois; 16th century; H: 35,5 cm; loan from the National Museum, Paro
Amitayus* is an emanation of the Buddha Amithaba*. The hand clasped in the gesture of meditation and the vase of long life show that the »clear sighted wisdom « of meditation takes away internal restraints on the path to enlightenment and holds the power to prolong life in the worldly area.

The five tathagatas
Green tara
Copper with fire-gilding; partially painted, set in with turquois; 19th century; H: 23 cm; loan from Tobgye S. Dorje
All appearances of Tara are embodiments of the protective activity of the enlightened compassion. Seeing that enlightenment ripens on the soil of active compassion, Tara is also known as the »Mother of all Buddhas of the three ages«. Her left leg, which rests on the lotus throne, shows her remaining in meditation; her dangling right foot indicates that she so acts for the benefit of all beings. Her left hand is raised in the »gestures of threefold refuge«; her right hand rests on the knee in the »gesture of granting wishes«. The lotus flowers on both sides show that, due to her kindness, enlightened beings may always come forward.
The bodhisattvas
Thangtong Gyalpo

Bronze, fire-gilding; measurements: 30 cm x 20 cm x 15 cm; loan from a private collection
Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464) taught in monasteries of all of Tibetan schools. He has been venerated for his anti-sectarian attitude. A lot of what he handed on to his numerous disciples, he had learned from deities in visions. Thangtong Gyalpo is seen as saintly builder of the iron-chain bridges in Bhutan, which is indicated by a few chain links in his left hand.

The lama
Butter lamp

Butter lamp (chökong), gold; 19th century; H: 21,5 cm; loan from the Paro Dzong
Following an old Indian tradition, light is offered to the gods and thus religious merit is obtained. Next to plant arabesques, the bowl is decorated with eight Buddhist symbols of happiness, arranged in pairs. The foot is made up of two rows of lotus petals.

Dagger used for ritual purposes

Ritual Dagger, brass handle, iron blade; length 26 centimeters; on loan from a private collection
The magical dagger (phulbu) used to tame or to fixate demons, is also used for symbolic killings, through which the spirit of the demons are released to higher planes.

Melting Glaciers
Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel

Bronze, painted; height 28 centimeters; 17th century; on loan from the National Museum of Paro  
About the founder of the Bhutanese state, stories are also told in which he conquers demons and nature gods.

Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel

Especially in the Paro valley, Tsheringma is venerated, a mighty mountain deity who embodies herself in Chomolhari, more than 7000 metres high.

Gods and Sacred Mountains

The Vienna Exhibition
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