phantasmagoria of figures that
populate Tibetan art in sculpture,
mural paintings and thangkas, some
important historical people and
religious beings can be recognized
by their iconographic conventions.
King Songtsen Gampo ( AD 608-50). He
introduced Buddhism to Tibet and
founded Tubo line of kings, always
wearing high orange or gold turban
with small Amitabha Buddha head
peeping out of the top. Chinese
wife, Wen Cheng, always on viewer's
right. Nepalese wife, Tritiun, on
Padmasambhava ( or Guru Rinpoche,
eighth century). He was invited from
India to Tibet in 747.Exorcized
demons by supernatural powers.
Wearing magical, crown-like, red
hat, severe expression, curled
moustache, he was a sounded earliest
Tibetan Buddhist sect. Carries dorje
and magic scepter with skull-heads.
Tsong Khapa ( 1357-1419). Great
reformer of Tibetan Buddhism.
Founder of the Yellow Hat Sect.
Always seated. Wears pointed yellow
cap with long ear flaps. Usually
smiling, with a bulbous nose. His
image is often repeated with large
and small versions of himself
sitting side by side.
Fifth Dalai Lama ( 1617-1682) He
unified Tibet and made Yellow Hat
Sect the state religion and built
the Potala. Wears pointed yellow cap
with ear flaps. Portly, with double
chins and popping eyes. Often has
small moustache. He was the greatest
Dalai Lama in Tibetan.
Sakyamuni ( fifth century BC). The
historical Buddha . His
enlightenment and teachings set in
motion the Buddhist faith. Often he
has blue hair with a cranial bump on
top, but sometimes crowned. Usually
sits cross-legged on a lotus-flower
Yamantaka the Terrible. Favorite of
the eight guardians of the faith,
popularized by Tsong Khapa. A
wrathful form of the bodhisattva of
wisdom. Colored blue with horned
bull's head. Many arms. Body draped
with skulls. Tramples on human forms
representing stupidity, sloth and
nihilism. Often shown in sexual
embrace ( yab-yun) with his female
partner, Prajna ( Wisdom),
symbolizing the union of compassion
and insight. Four Heavenly Kings,
guardians of the four directions.
Usually found as large statues or
murals in temple porches and
entrances. East is white, carries a
musical instrument. South in blue,
carries a sword. West is red,
usually carries a stupa or dorje.
North is orange and carries an
umbrella. The chief of the four
kings is East.
Tara, the most beloved of female
deities. Special protectress and
savior of the Tibetan people.
Symbolizes fertility. Believed to
fulfill wishes. Green Tara
associated with night and Tritsun;
White Tara with day and Wen Cheng.
Usually seated. Wears pagoda-shaped
crown. Delicate features. Has seven
eyes on face, hand and feet.
Chenrezi, the bodhisattva of
compassion. ( Tibetan manifestation
of India's Avalokitesvara, or
China's Guan Yin.) In full splendor
he displays 11 heads ( of which one
is wrathful) and multiple pairs of
arms. Sometimes encircled by 1,000
hands. In simpler forms he is hard t
distinguish from other crowned