Tibet, lamas and their hair

People in the Western world tend to think that lamas are monks in general and that, therefore, they have short hair. In fact the term is an honorific title applying to Tibetan buddhist teachers (male or female).

13th century, Tibet, lama, bronze (copper alloy) with cold gold, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

It is very unusual for a lama to be depicted with thick snail-like hair curls like the historical buddha. Nevertheless, the monastic garments, including a meditation cloak, tell us that we are looking at a lama, his eyes closed in rapture, the face painted with cold gold, the hair dyed with  blue pigment. Equally unusual is the robe fastened with a thick embroidered belt and covering both arms.

13th-14th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Koller.

We have seen a few examples of lamas with their long hair combed back.

16th century, Tibet, possibly a Kagyu yogi, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Nagel.

This smiling man with a moustache wears his long curly hair loose. He holds a long-life vase in his left hand and does the teaching gesture with the right hand, displaying a diamond incised in the palm.

14th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, copper alloy with copper inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

15th-16th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy, same as before.

16th century, same, gilt copper alloy repoussé and cold gold, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The majority have short hair, with a receding hairline, more or less pronounced.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Mipa Chokyi Gyalpo, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Also known as Tsugla Gyatso Trengwa, this personage holds a long-life vase in his left hand. His hair forms a straight line at the front.

17th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Some of the eldest are nearly bald, as can be expected.

Same, at the British Museum in London (UK).

On this late work, the lama wears his long hair fastened in the Chinese fashion.

Tibet, lamas and their hats

14th-15th century, Tibet, Drikung Kagyu hierarch, copper alloy with copper inlay, published on http://www.plumblossoms.com.

There is a (confusing) variety of hats associated with the Kagyu school of Tibetan buddhism.

15th century circa, Tibet, Drugpa Kagyu lama, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Seen from the front, the above headdresses form a tall and impressive crown-like volume.

16th century circa, Tibet, lama, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Whereas this one has peaked flaps on each side.

16th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

And this one looks half unfolded on the sides and at the front.

15th century, Tibet, Jonang lama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

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The hat worn by Jonang lamas is like the Indian pandita hat but yellow. This one is richly incised all over with a floral pattern that matches the cloak.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Sakya lama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Nagel.

Derived from the Indian pandita hat, the standard Sakya hat is red.

17th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy and pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The red pandita hat is often worn like a flat cap by Tibetan scholars, and was especially associated with translators. This lama holds a long-life vase in his left hand. The rim of the base supporting the lotus on which he is seated is decorated with a very ornate chased floral pattern.

18th century, Tibet, Gelug lama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This Gelug hat is quite similar to the yellow Jonang hat (The Jonang school was eventually absorbed by the Gelug school).

18th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, gilt copper alloy, at the British Museum in London (UK).

This type of hats, with the sides upright and considerably taller than the front, topped with a lotus bud, is worn by hierarchs such as karmapas (black with visvajra at the front),  shamarpas and situpas (red with a triple gem at the front).

Tibet, lamas on cushion (3)

14th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, brass with copper inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

A standard portrait of a lama dressed in monastic garments with a copper-inlaid and incised hem, seated on a plain cushion, his right hand calling Earth to witness, the other held in the meditation gesture.

14th-15th century, same, dark copper alloy with traces of cold gold, same as before.

This frowning personage has a rosary around his left wrist and holds does the ‘turning the wheel of dharma‘ gesture. His vest and outer robe have a broad hem decorated with a large incised motif. The folds of the cloth are marked with a deep groove.

16th century circa, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy, copper alloy, turquoise, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

This one does a pointing gesture with one hand and holds a flaming jewel inlaid with turquoise in the other. His mediation cloak has slipped off his shoulders and forms a soft mass of cloth wrapping his legs, with the tip of a felt boot showing through. The palm of his hand and the hem of his gown are incised with a floral design. The cushion is placed on a plinth decorated with turquoise-inlaid shapes.

17th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy, private collection, published on Himalayan Art Resources.

An interesting combination of a soft cloth over an antelope skin itself over a blanket covering two cushions, supporting a rotund figure with both legs well wrapped in his cloak, his right hand doing the teaching gesture.

Same, private collection, published on http://www.cambiaste.com

This Kagyu lama sits on three cushions covered with a blanket topped with a soft cloth, a thin cloak covering his shoulders.

 

Tibet, lamas on throne (3)

14th century, Tibet, lama, gilt brass, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (USA).

Seated on a low double-lotus base placed on a small throne supported by  lions and makaras and decorated with a triratna at the front, this lama wears the usual monastic garments, including a meditation cloak with an incised hem. The left hand calls Earth to witness while the other does the meditation gesture.

16th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, copper alloy with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo by Koller.

Coiffed with the Drugpa/Drukpa hat, this Kagyu lama holds a long-life vase in his left hand and does the teaching gesture with the other, seated on a lotus atop a stepped throne supported by lions and decorated with an upright vjara sceptre and ribbons at the front, the upper rim of the throne and parts of his garments richly incised with a floral pattern.

16th-17th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy with silver inlay, at the British Museum in London (UK).

Inspired by earlier works, this more sober sculpture includes silver-inlay for the hem of the robe and the cloth over the throne. His elongated arms and torso are typical of the 17th century (Tibet).

 

Tibet, lamas in patched robe (2)

13th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This lama’s eyes and the seam of his clothes are inlaid with silver, his lips, nails and some seams are inlaid with copper.

The inner garment is decorated with a chased floral motif and scrolled foliage on the hem. His hands do a gesture normally associated with buddha Vairocana, the left one displays an embossed circular design, possibly a dharma wheel.

13th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy, private collection, published on http://www.astamangala.com

Early works often depict lamas with patched up garments, denoting humility, although at times the sculpture has been richly gilt.

13th-14th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, possibly Jigten Sumgon Rinchen Pel, copper alloy with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

Silver is often used to inlay the lama’s eyes and the seams of his clothes, and copper for the lips, nails and hems.

14th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams

Here the vest is made of plain fabric and the patches of the outer garment are delineated with deep incisions but the hems are also plain.

15th century circa, Tibet, lama, brass, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This lama’s meditation cloak is made of strips of embroidered cloth sewn together.

15th century, same as before.

On this example, the outer garments are decorated throughout with a chased floral and rice-grain pattern.

 

Tibet, lamas on throne (2)

13th century circa, Tibet, Kagyu lama, brass, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This character is seated on a lotus over a stepped throne covered with a cloth and supported by two lions and decorated with a vajra sceptre and scrolls at the front.

Same, with silver and copper inlay, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

This lama with a powerful jaw is portrayed in a similar way but the seams of his patched robe and his vest are inlaid with silver. He sits on the same type of throne …

covered with a cloth inlaid with silver and copper.

13th century, Tibet, lama, gilt copper alloy, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

These thrones supporting lamas were very popular in 13th and 14th century Tibet and often decorated with tiny coral and stone cabochons, as above. It is worth remembering that these sculptures are very small (about 9 cm for the previous two and 14 cm for this one), which makes them all the more remarkable.

13th-14th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy with silver and copper inlay, stone and coral, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

The upper part of this throne is inlaid with silver, copper and stones; the cloth is decorated with coral and stone cabochons, and a strip of copper with a chased geometrical motif.  There is an horizontal vajra sceptre at the front of the last but one tier and some scrolled lotuses above.

The artist has used silver for the eyes and the beaded seams of the clothes, and copper for the seams and the incised edges.

13th-14th century, Tibet, lama, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

Here there is an upright vajra sceptre at the front and incised diamonds around the upper edge, no metal or stone inlay.

14th century, Tibet, Kagyu lama, copper alloy with copper and stone inlay, is or was at the Jokhang in Lhasa, published by Ulrich von Schroeder.

Yet another style, with two lions and a yaksha on a cut-out background, the columns and rims decorated with incised and copper-inlaid geometrical shapes and stone-inlaid visvjaras. The copper hem on the lama’s robe has a stippled floral motif. He sports a very ostentatious hat painted with pigments.

Tibet, Karmapas (4)

14th-15th century, Tibet, Karma Pakshi, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The 2nd karmapa wears plain monastic clothes and the (black) hat of the Kagyu order. The absence of gilding and the fact that the waist of his lower garment isn’t visible help date the piece.

17th-18th century, Tibet, Karmapa 2, gilt copper alloy, at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.

After the 15th century, part of the waist of the lower garment shows (over the vest and under the robe, at chest level) and the clothes often have an incised hem.

17th century, Tibet, Karmapa 9, Wangchuk Dorje, copper alloy (labelled ‘silver’) and gilding, at the Liverpool Museum (UK).

This karmapa, with different facial features and no goatee, holds a manuscript in his left hand. He sits on an embroidered cushion covered with a cloth.

17th century, same as before, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The same man wearing fine garments with an incised foliate pattern.