Showpieces of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms from Private Collections
南诏大理国私人珍藏精选

1. 南诏国晚期或大理国 银 双头佛坐像

A Buddha With Two Heads Seated In Dhyanasana With Hands In Bhumisparsha Mudra*.

Period: Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Silver

Height: 28 cm

* For more information on Two-Headed Buddha, please see article on page 342 of "The Divine Treasures of Nanzhao & Dali Kingdoms".

A Buddha With Two Heads Seated In Dhyanasana With Hands In Bhumisparsha Mudra*.

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2. 南诏国(大礼国) 建极二年 铜鎏金 大悲观世音菩萨坐像

A Forty-Two Armed Seated Great Compassionate Guanyin Bodhisattva With Hands Holding Various Attributes And With The Back Cast With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Patina Including Deep Inside Statue And Beneath Base)*.

Period: Dated by Epigraph to 2nd year of Jian Ji Reign (corresponding to AD 861), Nanzhao Kingdom


Material: Gilt Bronze


Height: 54 cm


Epigraph in Chinese:

建極二年辛巳 大禮國皇帝世 隆鑄大悲觀世 音菩薩于蒙捨


Translation of Epigraph:

This statue of the Great Compassionate Guanyin Bodhisattva was cast in the 2nd year of Jian Ji Reign during the Xin Si 18th cyclical year (corresponding to AD 861) by Emperor Shi Long of Da Li Kingdom†.


* For more information on this type of statue, please refer to the article on page 358 of "The Divine Treasures of Nanzhao & Dali Kingdoms".


† During the reign of Emperor Shi Long, he renamed Nanzhao Kingdom to Da Li Kingdom written in Chinese as “大禮国”. This Chinese name is written differently compared to the later 大理国 (i.e. Dali Kingdom) of AD 937 - 1253. So these two separate Kingdoms have different Chinese characters for their names but they share the same Hanyu Pinyin pronunciation. (N.B. By reason of the above Epigraph, it shows that this style and form of Guanyin originated from Yunnan and dated not to Dali Kingdom but to the earlier Nanzhao Kingdom.)

A Forty-Two Armed Seated Great Compassionate Guanyin Bodhisattva With Hands Holding Various Attributes And With The Back Cast With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Patina Including Deep Inside Statue And Beneath Base)*.

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3. 南诏国或大理国 铜鎏金 十一面八臂日月观音立像

An Eleven-Headed And Eight -Armed Sun-Moon Guanyin Standing On Tiered Octagonal Base And Holding Different Attributes (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Patina Including Beneath The Base).

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)


Material: Gilt Bronze


Height: 61.5 cm


* For more information on this type of Sun-Moon Guanyin statue, please refer to the article on page 384 of "The Divine Treasures of Nanzhao & Dali Kingdoms".

An Eleven-Headed And Eight -Armed Sun-Moon Guanyin Standing On Tiered Octagonal Base And Holding Different Attributes (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Patina Including Beneath The Base).

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4. 南诏国晚期或大理国 金 阿嵯耶观音坐像

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Dhyanasana With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra.

Period: Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)


Material: Gold


Height: 8.4 cm


Weight: 133.5 g

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Dhyanasana With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra.

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5. 南诏国晚期或大理国 金 阿嵯耶观音坐像

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Lalitasana On A Rock Base With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra.

Period: Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)


Material: Gold


Height: 11.5 cm


Weight: 256.1 g

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Lalitasana On A Rock Base With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra.

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6. 南诏国晚期或大理国 金 阿嵯耶观音坐像

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Pralambapadasana On A Plinth Over Lotus Base With Two Feet Resting On Lotus Supports And With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra.

Period: Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)


Material: Gold


Height: 11.4 cm


Weight: 277.3 g

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Pralambapadasana On A Plinth Over Lotus Base With Two Feet Resting On Lotus Supports And With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra.

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7. 南诏国或大理国早期 铜鎏金佛立像

A Buddha With Right Hand Pendent And Left Hand Holding Hem Of Robe Standing On A Lotus Base Resting On Octagonal Plinth (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Patina Including Beneath The Base).

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Early Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)


Material: Gilt Bronze


Height: 47.8 cm

A Buddha With Right Hand Pendent And Left Hand Holding Hem Of Robe Standing On A Lotus Base Resting On Octagonal Plinth (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Patina Including Beneath The Base).

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8. 南诏国 全义四年 银阿嵯耶水月观音坐像 背带铭文

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Rajalilasana On A Rock Base In The Style Of Water-Moon Guanyin And The Back Cast With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters*.

Period: Dated by Epigraph to 4th year of Quan Yi Reign (corresponding to AD 819) Nanzhao Kingdom


Material: Silver


Height: 50 cm


Epigraph in Chinese:

全義四年歲次己亥九月庚子 瓏(?)十六日天降瑞祥於凤鳴山 聖觀音坐於云气端佛光萬乘 當顯法界浩蕩形去不息共赴 妙果神府南詔國驃信蒙勸利 晟為感天恩命鑄阿嵯耶觀音 聖像於崇聖寺永為供養当願 一切眾生諸(?)菩(?)薩(?)皆(?)成(?)道(?)功(?)德(?)


Translation of Epigraph:

In the 4th year of Quan Yi Reign, on the auspicious 16th day of 9th Geng Zi lunar month during the Ji Hai 36th cyclical year (corresponding to AD 819), the Great Heaven granted a propitious omen whereupon the Holy Guanyin sitting on floating celestial clouds with Buddha’s lights multiplied ten thousand folds descended on Feng Ming Mountain when instantly the majesty of Dharmadhatu is manifested and continued even when the form has disappeared and those who witnessed such omen then proceeded to the amazing heavenly palace. Being moved and touched by the incident and to express gratitude to the Great Heaven, the Emperor Piao Xin Meng Quan Li Sheng of Nanzhao Kingdom ordered the casting of this holy image of Acuoye Guanyin to be placed in Chong Sheng Si Temple for eternal worship with the wish that all sentient beings and the many Bodhisattvas together could achieve Buddhahood.


* For more information on this type of statue, please refer to the article on page 280 of "The Divine Treasure of Nanzhao & Dali Kingdoms".

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Rajalilasana On A Rock Base In The Style Of Water-Moon Guanyin And The Back Cast With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters*.

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9. 大理国 明政三年 木 阿嵯耶观音立像 背带铭文

An Acuoye Guanyin Standing On Lotus Base With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra With The Back Inscribed With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters.

Period: Dated by Epigraph to 3rd year of Ming Zheng Reign (corresponding to AD 971), Dali Kingdom


Material: Wood


Height: 110 cm


Epigraph in Chinese:

明政三年歲次辛未十一月吉日 大理國皇帝段素顺敕賜普明寺 真身觀世音聖像一區永為供養 追為亡人 X X X 阿左黎段思睿 赦封 X X X X X X 國師五世祖 愿彼一念往生早登諸佛之國土

Translation of Epigraph:

On an auspicious day of the 11th month of the 3rd year of Ming Zheng Reign in the Xin Wei 8th cyclical year (corresponding to AD 971), Duan Su Shun, the Emperor of Dali Kingdom, gifted a holy statue of the True Body Guanyin to Pu Ming Temple for eternal worship (and) in memory of the late X X X Azuoli teacher Duan Si Rui, who had been bestowed X X X X X X the State Preceptor and Fifth Founder, with the wish that the deceased can swiftly reach the land of the Buddhas.

An Acuoye Guanyin Standing On Lotus Base With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra With The Back Inscribed With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters.

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10. 南诏国 天啓十八年 木 阿嵯耶观音坐像 背带铭文

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated in Lalitasana On Rock Base With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra With The Back Inscribed With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters.

Period: Dated by Epigraph to 18th year of Tian Qi Reign (corresponding to AD 857), Nanzhao Kingdom


Material: Wood


Height: 98 cm


Epigraph in Chinese:

時天啓十八年歲次丁丑八月 鹤慶地淹唯金雞林免遭災厄 王豐佑命以金雞木刻阿嵯耶 觀音聖像(?)于X X寺永為供養 以利蒼生免于(?)水(?)患福壽永享


Translation of Epigraph:

In the 8th month of the 18th year of Tian Qi Reign in the Ding Chou 14th cyclical year (corresponding to AD 857), the whole Heqing area, with the exception of Jinji forest, was struck by a flood disaster. Feng You, the Emperor (of Nanzhao Kingdom) ordered the carving of this Acuoye Guanyin holy (statue ?) to be made of wood from this Jinji forest and for it to be placed in X X Temple for eternal worship. This was done to benefit the common people so that (floods ?) can be avoided and they can enjoy happiness and longevity forever.

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated in Lalitasana On Rock Base With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra With The Back Inscribed With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters.

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11. 南诏国晚期或大理国 铜鎏金 四臂不空羂索观音坐像

A Four-Armed Amoghapasa Lokeshvara Seated In Pralambapadasana With Two Upper Hands In Anjali Mudra And Lower Right Hand Holding Prayer Beads And Lower Left Hand Holding Lasso.

Period: Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)


Material: Gilt Bronze


Height: 23 cm

A Four-Armed Amoghapasa Lokeshvara Seated In Pralambapadasana With Two Upper Hands In Anjali Mudra And Lower Right Hand Holding Prayer Beads And Lower Left Hand Holding Lasso.

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12. 南诏国或大理国早期 银 大黑天立像

A Six-Armed Standing Mahakala Holding Remaining Attributes Of Sword And Cup And Wearing Sandals.

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Early Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Silver

Height: 26.8 cm

A Six-Armed Standing Mahakala Holding Remaining Attributes Of Sword And Cup And Wearing Sandals.

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13. 大理国 明治二年 金嵌绿松石 大鹏金翅鸟

A Celestial Bird With Feet Resting On Lotus Base Having Turquoise Inlays And The Back Of Tail Cast With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters*.

Period: Dated by Epigraph to 2nd year of Ming Zhi Reign (corresponding to AD 998), Dali Kingdom


Material: Gold and Turquoise


Height: 21.2 cm


Weight: 830 g


Epigraph in Chinese:

明治二年大理國皇帝 段素英為重修佛頂寺 鑄聖像一軀併寫大涅 槃經書於塔頂永為供 養願合寺僧眾遠離洪 患水惡護佑十方安居


Translation of Epigraph:

In the 2nd year of Ming Zhi Reign (corresponding to AD 998), Emperor Duan Suying of Dali Kingdom, in order to commemorate the reconstruction of Foding Temple, cast this holy image and copied the Mahaparinirvana Sutra for placement at the top of the pagoda for eternal worship and also made the wish that all monks of this temple be kept safe from floods and treacherous rapids; and may all beings of the ten directions live peacefully.


* For more information on this Celestial Bird of Yunnan, see pages 324-325 of "The Divine Treasures of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms" and pages 169-192, 396-401 of “The Hidden Treasures of Nanzhao & Dali Kingdoms”.

A Celestial Bird With Feet Resting On Lotus Base Having Turquoise Inlays And The Back Of Tail Cast With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters*.

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14. 大理国 金 宝塔 内含一块骨舍利

A Square-Shaped Pagoda With A Bone Relic Enshrined In It.

Period: Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)


Material: Gold


Height: 16.2 cm


Weight: 486 g

A Square-Shaped Pagoda With A Bone Relic Enshrined In It.

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15. 大理国 铜鎏金阿嵯耶观音立像

A gilt bronze Acuoye Guanyin standing in samabhanga pose with right hand raised in vitarka mudra and left hand lowered in varada mudra.

China, Yunnan, Dali Kingdom (AD 937-1253)

Height: 44.5 cm

A gilt bronze Acuoye Guanyin standing in samabhanga pose with right hand raised in vitarka mudra and left hand lowered in varada mudra.

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16. 南诏国 贞明皇帝 五方金佛 (毗卢遮那佛、阿閦佛、宝相佛、阿弥陀佛、微妙声佛) 坐于银底座 背带铭文

A Set Of Five Dhyani Buddhas (Vairocana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha And Amoghasiddhi) Seated On Silver Lotus Stands Each With An Epigraph Cast In Chinese Characters On Their Respective Backs Stating Their Individual Name, Related Paradise And The Name Of Emperor Who Commanded The Making.

Material: Gold and Silver

Height: 21.3 cm each approximately

Weight of gold Buddhas: 269 g (Vairocana), 249 g (Akshobhya),
208 g (Ratnasambhava), 224 g (Amitabha) and 268 g (Amoghasiddhi)

Period: Dated to Zhen Ming Reign (AD 878 - ?), Nanzhao Kingdom

Exhibited in China Cultural Centre, Singapore on 4 Nov 2016

2016年11月4日在新加坡中国文化中心展出

A Set Of Five Dhyani Buddhas (Vairocana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha And Amoghasiddhi) Seated On Silver Lotus Stands Each With An Epigraph Cast In Chinese Characters On Their Respective Backs Stating Their Individual Name, Related Paradise And The Name Of Emperor Who Commanded The Making.

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17. 毗卢遮那佛

A gold seated figure of Buddha Vairocana (Cardinal Direction: Central).

For size and weight of gold see No. 16.

A gold seated figure of Buddha Vairocana (Cardinal Direction: Central).

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18. 阿閦佛

A gold seated figure of Buddha Akshobhya (Cardinal Direction: East).

For size and weight of gold see No. 16.

A gold seated figure of Buddha Akshobhya (Cardinal Direction: East).

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19. 宝相佛

A gold seated figure of Buddha Ratnasambhava (Cardinal Direction: South).

For size and weight of gold see No. 16.

A gold seated figure of Buddha Ratnasambhava (Cardinal Direction: South).

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20. 阿弥陀佛

A gold seated figure of Buddha Amitabha (Cardinal Direction: West).

For size and weight of gold see No. 16.

A gold seated figure of Buddha Amitabha (Cardinal Direction: West).

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21. 微妙声佛

A gold seated figure of Buddha Amoghasiddhi (Cardinal Direction: North).

For size and weight of gold see No. 16.

A gold seated figure of Buddha Amoghasiddhi (Cardinal Direction: North).

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22. 南诏国或大理国早期 铜 阿嵯耶观音立像

An Acuoye Guanyin Standing On Lotus Base Resting On Octagonal Plinth With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra (N.B. With Rich Melon- Colour Patina And Cuprite Encrustations).

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Early Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Bronze

Height: 95 cm

An Acuoye Guanyin Standing On Lotus Base Resting On Octagonal Plinth With Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra (N.B. With Rich Melon- Colour Patina And Cuprite Encrustations).

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23. 云南 大理国 金铸五股金刚杵戒

A Rare Gold Vajra With Five Prongs In Ring Form.

Period: Dali Kingdom (AD 937 – 1253)

Material: Gold

Height: 6.8 cm Weight: 85.3 grams

A rare vajra made in ring form and cast in solid gold. There are five prongs and there are three
heads of possibly Mahakala in the middle section of the vajra. The faces are fierce with round
threatening eyes and bulbous nose. A third eye is found on the forehead. The curved part of
the four outer prongs each has a face with third eye and sporting a goatee. Separating the
faces on the four prongs and the Mahakala heads are lotuses with beaded base. The ring loop
is formed by the meeting of the heads of two dragons securing in the middle a now-missing
gemstone. This vajra ring was for ritual use and worn as a talisman to give protection and
to ward off evil. This vajra ring shows strong Vajrayana Buddhist influence in Yunnan at the
material time. This style of artifact is not known to have been made outside of Yunnan.

A Rare Gold Vajra With Five Prongs In Ring Form.

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24. 云南 大理国 金铸大黑天普巴杵戒

A Rare Gold Mahakala double Phurba In Ring Form.

Period: Dali Kingdom (AD 937 – 1253)

Material: Gold

Height: 10.9 cm Weight: 112 grams

A rare gold Mahakala double phurba made in ring form. The face of Mahakala is ferocious and
intimidating. He has knitted brow; big bulging and slanting eyes; and bulbous nose. There is
an urna which is a round dot between the eyebrows and it symbolizes the third eye or divine
vision. His mouth is agape revealing his upturned fangs. He wears a headdress of skulls and
he sports curly beard. Mahakala basically means “The Great Black One”. He is regarded as
the emanation of Avalokitesvara in its wrathful form and the Protector of Buddhist faith
and viharas (temple structures). He is important to his devotees as he protects them from
dangers and against bad and evil influences which hinder their path of cultivation towards
enlightenment. Many have revered and invoked Mahakala to help transcend all forms and
matters and even time. He is absolute and truly benevolent and ever-present for his devotees.
His compassion in reality is boundless or measureless although he is portrayed as fierce and
wrathful. The ring loop is in the form of coiled snake. This phurba was worn as a ring for
rituals and for the worship and practice in connection with Mahakala. It could also be used
in exorcism to vanquish and expunge evil and negative forces. This phurba was made by
way of solid casting. This style of artifact is not known to have been made outside of Yunnan.
The presence of this artifact shows strong Vajrayana Buddhist influence in Yunnan at the
material time.

A Rare Gold Mahakala double Phurba In Ring Form.

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25. 云南 南诏国 银大威德金刚普巴杵戒

A Rare Silver Yamantaka Phurba In Ring Form.

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 – 902)

Material: Silver

Height: 13 cm

A rare silver phurba (tantric peg) made in the form of a ring with the face of Yamantaka. Yamantaka is the Conqueror of Death and he is the ferocious emanation of Manjushri. In this phurba ring, Yamantaka is portrayed as a three-eyed bull’s head with terrifying facial expression and high pointed horns. On the face of the bull, there is a knitted brow; snorting nostrils; and gaping mouth showing fangs. On the right and left sides of the bull’s head are three more fiercelooking faces/heads with three eyes and gaping mouths showing fangs and adorning skull diadems. Above the bull’s head is a single ferocious face/head with three eyes and a gaping mouth showing fangs and wearing a five-skulled diadem. At the apex is the head of Manjushri. The whole three-tiered head structure of the Yamantaka phurba ring is supported by a lotus base and below it is a three-sided peg tapering to a sharp adamantine point. The finger loop of the ring is in the form of a coiled snake. The presence of this Yamantaka phurba ring is evidence of the worship of Yamantaka and its practices at the material time in Yunnan. Yamantaka is also considered a Dharmapala (Protector of Dharma). The practices of and reverence to Yamantaka are with the view to terminate death. In other words, the devotees and faithful are to clear all obstacles and obscurations (including mental) in order to attain Nirvana (Enlightenment) to end the cycles of birth, death and rebirth. To achieve this end, they are to acquire the resplendent wisdom of Manjushri manifested in the form of Yamantaka through meditation practices, mantra recitations and acquiring and understanding the wisdom teaching transmitted to them. Yamantaka is the principal meditation deity of the Gelug School and the main yidam of the Sakya School, both of Tibetan Buddhism. This Yamantaka phurba ring was clearly made as a devotional and sacred object in the worship of Yamantaka and its practices. It was also used as a ritual weapon in exorcism to conquer and destroy evil spirits and negative forces as Yamantaka is said to have conquered even Yama, the Lord of Death and the sight of the sharp three-sided blade and also the sharp adamantine point terrify them. This phurba ring was found together with the silver statue of a standing Guardian on pedestal of Plate 65 at page 361 of "The Hidden Treasures of Nanzhao & Dali kingdoms" by Woon Wee Teng.

A Rare Silver Yamantaka Phurba In Ring Form.

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26. 云南 大理国 铜四面大黑天金刚橛

A Rare Bronze Tantric Ritual Dagger With Four Faces Of Mahakala.

Period: Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Bronze

Height: 21.5 cm

A Rare Bronze Tantric Ritual Dagger With Four Faces Of Mahakala.

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27. 南诏国 铜鎏金 三面八臂马头明王坐像 背带篆书铭文

A Three-Headed And Eight-Armed Hayagriva Seated In Dhyanasana On A Lotus Resting On Rock Base With Two Frontal Hands In Anjali Mudra And A Seated Buddha On Diadem And With The Back Cast With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Patina Including Inside The Statue And Beneath The Base).

Period: Dated by Epigraph to the Reign of Emperor Zhongxing (AD 897 - 902), Nanzhao Kingdom

Material: Gilt Bronze

Height: 42.5 cm

Epigraph in Chinese:

奉為中興皇帝敬造
大聖西方馬頭明王

Translation of Epigraph:

(This statue of) Hayagriva Great Sage of the West is respectfully made by order of and for Emperor Zhongxing (who reigned from AD 897 – 902).

A Three-Headed And Eight-Armed Hayagriva Seated In Dhyanasana On A Lotus Resting On Rock Base With Two Frontal Hands In Anjali Mudra And A Seated Buddha On Diadem And With The Back Cast With An Epigraph In Chinese Characters (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Patina Including Inside The Statue And Beneath The Base).

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28. 南诏国 铜 狮子尖顶饰

A Rare Bronze Finial Of A Seated Lion.

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 – 902)

Material: Bronze

Height: 13.8 cm

A rare bronze finial of a seated lion with mouth agape revealing its teeth. On the back of the lion, there is a braided mane and a flayed upright tail. This lion is adorned with a necklace with a bell pendant on its chest. This finial was once attached to the top section of a staff probably made of wood which is now missing.

The lion is the symbol of power and authority and accordingly, a staff with a lion finial must have been held by someone in the imperial household or a high official. It may also have been held by senior Buddhist priests as the lion is the symbolic representation of the Buddha. The Majjhima Nikaya contains the Shorter and Greater Discourses on the Lion’s Roar and the Digha Nikaya contains the Great Lion’s Roar to the Udumbarikans. The Buddha’s discourses on the Dharma (i.e. Buddha’s teachings) are equated to the roar of the lion which is clear, firm, powerful and resounding.

This lion finial captures all the qualities of the lion and it shows graphically its strong muscles, strength and power. It was also made in a very animated way to show the lion roaring in accordance with the Buddhist Discourses. This type of art form shows that the Yunnanese had achieved very high artistic skills and techniques. Similar-looking lions appear in The Long Roll of Buddhist Images in many places (for example, see pages 197, 209, 213 and 215 of “The Sculpture and Painting Arts of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms”). This Chinese style lion was also adopted in Japan during Heian-Kamakura Period (12th - 13th century) [see page 152 of “Art Treasures of Japan” and page 120 of “Masterpieces from the collection of the Nara National Museum”).

In Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms, there was the practice of holding staff by officials, noblemen, priests or people connected with Buddhist faith as can be seen in Nanzhao Tu Zhuan (see pages 186-188 and 193 of “The Sculpture and Painting Arts of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms”). A Yunnanese staff/sceptre with a jade bird finial can be seen on Plate 251 at page 534. The practice of wielding staff was also prevalent in Liao Dynasty (AD 907 - 1125) [see pages 62 and 69 of “Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire (907 - 1125)”].

A Rare Bronze Finial Of A Seated Lion.

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29. 南诏国晚期或大理国 银 四臂大黑天立像

A Silver Statue Of A Standing Four-Armed Mahakala Holding Trident And Other Implements.

Period: Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Silver

Height: 46.9 cm

A silver standing Mahakala with four arms and a strong and sturdy body. The bearded face shows a very ferocious and savage expression and the mouth is agape revealing two upturned fangs ever-ready to devour everything which is malevolent and hideous. He has huge frightening eyes and bulbous nose and his scowling expression shows his extreme rage and wrath. The forehead is adorned with a headband with three skulls. He wears a necklace with fi ve severed heads or skulls which could symbolize the transformation of the fi ve poisons of anger, desire, ignorance, jealousy and pride into the fi ve wisdoms. He further wears a garland of six severed heads or skulls across his belly. His hair is tied up in a high chignon with a scrolling cloud appearance. His upper right hand holds a towering trisula (trident) coiled with a snake and with a skull below the middle prong. This trident symbolizes his power over the three kayas (i.e. the spheres of desire, form and formless). It is also used to pin down and destroy evil or negative forces and to uphold goodness. The lower right hand holds a kapala or bowl fi lled with blood to quench his thirst and it symbolizes the subjugation of Mara or the evil ones. The upper left hand holds a damaru (hand-drum) which symbolizes his power over dakinis. The lower left hand holds the rope to bind those who break vows or to catch and restrain the deviant, sinner or those who go astray. His head, arms, wrists, body and legs are coiled with snakes and he is covered with celestial scrolling streamer with ruyi-patterned ends. He wears a short dhoti (loincloth) revealing his firm and muscular knees and legs and his dhoti is fastened with a prominent bow at his abdomen. This bow is similar to that of Acuoye Guanyin.

Mahakala basically means “The Great Black One”. In The Long Roll of Buddhist Images by Zhang Sheng Wen drawn sometime between AD 1173 – 1176, a similar figure is depicted which is labeled and described in Chinese as “大聖大黑天神” [Da Sheng Da Hei Tian Shen] (see page 234 of “The Sculpture and Painting Arts of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms”). The Chinese characters are translated in English to mean “The Great Holy God Mahakala”. There are two rock carvings of similar Mahakala found in Midala Grottoes in Luquan County, Yunnan and in Shi Zhong Si Grottoes in Jianchuan County, Yunnan (see pages 171 and 90, ibid.).

Mahakala is important to his devotees as he protects them from dangers and against bad and evil influences which hinder their path of cultivation to enlightenment. Mahakala’s typical blackness represents his all-embracing, pervasive and comprehensive nature. This is because black is the powerful colour into which all other colours merge and are dissolved, absorbed and ultimately become one blackness. As all colours disappear in black, so in true essence, all names, forms and matters melt and convert into that of Mahakala. Conversely, black can be regarded as the absence of colour thereby reflecting the other nature of Mahakala in essence. Many have revered and invoked Mahakala to help them transcend all forms and matters and even time. He is absolute and truly benevolent and ever-present for his devotees. His compassion in reality is boundless or measureless although he is portrayed as fierce and wrathful. All these very helpful, appealing and special attributes and features of Mahakala made him a very popular tantric Buddhist deity during Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms. This can be gathered from many Mahakala figures discovered which were cast in statues; made in the form of rings for wearing (see pages 476, 484, 486 and 487); carved into the said rock surfaces; and depicted in the said drawing. The presence of Mahakala images in Yunnan shows strong Vajrayana Buddhist influence in Yunnan during the material time.

Mahakala’s popularity is not surprising as he is also regarded as a manifestation of Guanyin (in Yunnan context, Acuoye Guanyin) by being Guanyin’s wrathful emanation. In Yunnan, Acuoye Guanyin was manifested in kind, gentle and compassionate form for supplication whereas Mahakala was manifested in the opposite fiery and wrathful form to battle, crush and get rid of evils and obstacles placed along the path of cultivation. It is a duality to cater to the wishes, needs and expectations of the devotees. On a higher plain, Acuoye Guanyin and Mahakala were worshipped to maintain good fortune, peace and harmony for the rulers and people of Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms and to ward off evil and their enemies so that they could be triumphant and victorious. As such, there was a relatively long period of peace, harmony and prosperity during Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms. The Chinese could not effectively control and subjugate them. It was the Mongols who finally succeeded in attacking and breaking down the defense line in mountainous regions to conquer Yunnan in around AD 1253. There is no known publication of other Yunnanese Mahakala statues made in this size and of silver. This is the tallest known Mahakala statue from Yunnan. The casting of this very fine and beautiful silver statue with very complex and complicated features and with many arms holding different attributes is a testament to the high level of artistry and sophistication attained by Yunnanese at the material time.

A Silver Statue Of A Standing Four-Armed Mahakala Holding Trident And Other Implements.

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30. 南诏国晚期或大理国 银 万佛宝塔 内含金佛立像

A “Ten Thousand Buddha” Pagoda With A Gold Standing Buddha Enshrined In It.

Period: Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Gold and Silver

Height of Silver Pagoda: 47 cm

Height of Gold Buddha: 8.8 cm

Weight of Gold Buddha: 79.4 g

A “Ten Thousand Buddha” Pagoda With A Gold Standing Buddha Enshrined In It.

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31. 南诏国晚期或大理国 银 宝塔 内含金阿嵯耶观音立像

An Octagonal-Shaped Pagoda with a gold standing Acuoye Guanyin enshrined in it with hands in bodhyangi mudra.

Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Gold and Silver

Height of Silver Pagoda: 42 cm

Height of Gold Acuoye Guanyin: 10.5 cm

Weight of Gold Acuoye Guanyin: 77.5 g

An Octagonal-Shaped Pagoda with a gold standing Acuoye Guanyin enshrined in it with hands in bodhyangi mudra.

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32. 南诏国晚期或大理国 银 宝塔 内含金佛立像

An Octagonal-Shaped Pagoda with a gold standing Buddha enshrined in it.

Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Gold and Silver

Height of Silver Pagoda: 47 cm

Height of Gold Buddha: 8.8 cm

Weight of Gold Buddha: 78.5 g

An Octagonal-Shaped Pagoda with a gold standing Buddha enshrined in it.

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33. 南诏国或大理国早期 铜鎏金 阿嵯耶观音坐像

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated On An Ornate Plinth In Pralambapadasana With Two Feet Resting On Lotus Supports And The Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra (N.B. Dark And Rich Azurite Encrustations Deep Inside Statue And Beneath The Base).

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Early Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Gilt Bronze

Height: 38.7 cm

Exhibited in China Cultural Centre, Singapore on 4 Nov 2016

2016年11月4日在新加坡中国文化中心展出

An Acuoye Guanyin Seated On An Ornate Plinth In Pralambapadasana With Two Feet Resting On Lotus Supports And The Right Hand Raised In Vitarka Mudra And Left Hand Lowered In Varada Mudra (N.B. Dark And Rich Azurite Encrustations Deep Inside Statue And Beneath The Base).

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34. 南诏国或大理国早期 铜鎏金 阿嵯耶观音思维坐像

A Pensive Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Lalitasana On A Rock Base With Left Foot Resting On Stylized Cloud Or Lotus Support (N.B. Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations Deep Inside Statue And Beneath Rock Base).

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Early Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Gilt Bronze

Height: 39 cm

A Pensive Acuoye Guanyin Seated In Lalitasana On A Rock Base With Left Foot Resting On Stylized Cloud Or Lotus Support (N.B. Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations Deep Inside Statue And Beneath Rock Base).

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35. 南诏国 银 佛坐像

A silver figure of Buddha with a halo having teja fire seated on a tiered-octagonal base resting on a rectangular "table" plinth with right hand raised in abhaya mudra and left hand lowered in varada mudra.

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 – 902)

Material: Silver

Height: 20.7 cm

A silver figure of Buddha with a halo having teja fire seated on a tiered-octagonal base resting on a rectangular "table" plinth with right hand raised in abhaya mudra and left hand lowered in varada mudra.

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36. 南诏国或更早 银 菩萨大祭坛

An Altarpiece With Two Seated Pensive Bodhisattvas Under Trees Flanked By Mahakasyapa & Ananda, Two Standing Guardian Protectors, Two Kneeling Bodhisattvas And Two Lions With A Front Censer.

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 – 902) or even earlier

Material: Silver

Height: 70.5 cm

An Altarpiece With Two Seated Pensive Bodhisattvas Under Trees Flanked By Mahakasyapa & Ananda, Two Standing Guardian Protectors, Two Kneeling Bodhisattvas And Two Lions With A Front Censer.

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37. 南诏国或大理国早期 银 三面四十二臂观音立像

A Three-Headed And Forty-Two Armed Guanyin Standing On Lotus Base Resting On Octagonal Plinth Holding Various Attributes (Ghanta, Orb/ Mani, Seals, Lotus, Lotus Pod, Flywhisk, Scrolled Scripture, Bowl, Ritual Ring, Skull And Vajra).

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Early Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Silver

Height: 63 cm

A Three-Headed And Forty-Two Armed Guanyin Standing On Lotus Base Resting On Octagonal Plinth Holding Various Attributes (Ghanta, Orb/ Mani, Seals, Lotus, Lotus Pod, Flywhisk, Scrolled Scripture, Bowl, Ritual Ring, Skull And Vajra).

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38. 南诏国或大理国早期 铜鎏金 四臂观音坐于摩伽罗

A Four-Armed Guanyin With Hands In Different Mudras Seated Atop A Makara With Its Feet Resting On A Lotus Base (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations Beneath The Base).

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Early Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Gilt Bronze

Height: 38 cm

This identification is made by virtue of a Buddha figure present on the headdress (an attribute of Avalokitesvara) although the vehicle of Makara (a sacred water creature) is normally associated with Varuna or Ganga. This statue perhaps depicted Yunnanese belief of Guanyin and Makara in connection with Erhai Lake in Dali.

A Four-Armed Guanyin With Hands In Different Mudras Seated Atop A Makara With Its Feet Resting On A Lotus Base (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations Beneath The Base).

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39. 南诏国晚期或大理国 铜鎏金 柳枝观音立像

A Willow Branch Guanyin Standing On Lotus Base Resting On Octagonal Plinth (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Pat ina Including Deep Inside Statue And Beneath Base).

Period: Late Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Gilt Bronze

Height: 55.5 cm

A Willow Branch Guanyin Standing On Lotus Base Resting On Octagonal Plinth (N.B. With Rich Malachite And Azurite Encrustations For Pat ina Including Deep Inside Statue And Beneath Base).

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40. 南诏国或大理国早期 银 文殊菩萨坐像

A Manjushri Holding A Scrolled Scripture In Right Hand Seated In Lalitasana pose On Lotus Base Atop A Lion.

Period: Nanzhao Kingdom (AD 653 - 902) or Early Dali Kingdom (AD 937 - 1253)

Material: Silver

Height: 25 cm

A Manjushri Holding A Scrolled Scripture In Right Hand Seated In Lalitasana pose On Lotus Base Atop A Lion.

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