18th/19th c; pine. Tibetan furniture with religious theme important; colors known to use before late 19th C. 31” h. x 43½” w. x 13” d.
This chest is comprised of a storage compartment behind three panels on top and two drawers below. The middle panel is a sliding door and is decorated with a “kang” offering table holding bowls of ritual cakes and jewels, and auspicious Buddhist symbols such as the conch ( visual reference to spreading Tibetan Buddhism), the pomegranate (a wish for descendants to spread the word), and a set of writer’s brushes (indicating the chest was made for a scholar, someone of high status at that time). On the panel on either side of the door is painting of a vase filled with flowers, a reliquary and a symbol of birth and death. Each drawer has a lotus design signifying purity of thought. These symbolic paintings are done in natural mineral colors which can better withstand the ravage of time.
This type of Tibetan chest was used in the home of a devout Buddhist rather than in a temple. This piece is important for having survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution when the Red Army descended on Tibet with the intention of destroying its culture and religion. It was ‘counterrevolutionary’ to have painted furniture from the ‘old society’ in one’s home, especially those with religious scenes or figures. One with religious painting like this chest is now quite rare and valuable. It survived in very good condition, showing a warm patina of old age.