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This fine Tibetan amulet or ga’u box dates to the 19th century and encloses a 15th-16th century carved wooden image of Padmasambhava.
The box is made in two halves that fit together. The sides have two pairs of rectangular lugs designed to hold the box together when leather straps are threaded through which would then allow the box to be secured to the body. The front is of silver and the rest is of hammered copper with silver detailing.
The front is chased with a primary motif of a flaming jewel heap perhaps supported by a vase. Such a treasure vase of flaming jewels symbolises the Buddha’s dharma teachings, which, despite being shared with others, never decrease in value. The motif also can be taken to represent long life, health, wealth and prosperity.
Enclosed within the box is the wooden image of Padmasambhava wrapped in Chinese yellow silk, and a paper sheet block-printed flower vase over a line of lantsa script.
The Padmasambhava image has traces of polychrome and gilding. The reverse is marked in black ink with several lines of handwritten lantsa script. The image has wear and a shrinkage crack all befitting its age.
Padmasambhava (‘Born from a Lotus’) also known as Guru Rinpoche, was a tantric Buddhist Vajra master from India who may have taught Vajrayana in Tibet around the 8th-9th century.
Overall the ga’u and image are a fine combination. Ga’us of this type were made to house special images and the image here fits inside the box perfectly.
Beer, R., The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, Serindia, 2004.