Tibetan Buddhism spread to China during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), an empire founded by Kublai Khan (1215-1294) who revered lamas. Later on, during the Ming and the Qing dynasties (1368-1911), lamas came to be honored by people from all walks of life, from members of the imperial families to the common souls, and for reasons ranging from political expediency to religious faith. Followers of the religion scrambled to seek empowerments from lamas, to paint portraits or make statues of Buddhist figures, to chant mantras, to practice meditation, and to build monasteries and stupas. Even more so was the translation and printing of Tibetan Buddhist classics, which was considered state enterprise.
This exhibition centers on the Kangxi Kangyur (the Tibetan Dragon Canon), and includes such artifacts as Buddhist texts, paintings, ritual objects, and gilt-bronze statues. It comprises six sections. The first, "Unparalleled Treasure, " showcases the decorative and wrapping accessories of the Kangxi Kangyur, and the second, "Three Turns of the Dharma Wheel, " the contents of the Kangxi Kangyur. The third, "Beyond the Four Seas, "highlights the Buddhist classics from which Tibetan Buddhist texts were translated, along with Chinese, Manchu, and Mongolian versions of translated Tibetan Buddhist classics. The fourth, "Tibetan Chants on Chinese Land, "covers Chinese-language books of Tibetan Buddhist mantras, and the fifth, "The Venerable Community, " images from the Kangxi Kangyur's cover planks, ritual objects, and paintings, which are grouped into five categories, including buddhas, bodhisattvas, and guardians of the Dharma. The sixth section, "Preserved Treasury of Scriptures" is a situational presentation that features a library of Tibetan Buddhist texts based on the reproduced Co-ne version of the Kangyur.
The National Palace Museum boasts a rich and rare collection of Tibetan Buddhist artifacts. What is presented here is a fine selection of the crème de la crème of the holdings. It is hoped that the exhibition will offer the audience a glimpse into the distinctive features of these objects.