Important Tibetan Chest with Buddhist Symbols


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 consists 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.

This type of Tibetan chest was used in the home of a devout Buddhist rather than in a temple.  This piece can be considered rare for having survived the Chinese Cultural Revolution when it was ‘counterrevolutionary’ to have painted furniture from the ‘old society’ in one’s home, especially those with religious scenes or figures, and had to be destroyed.   This chest is in quite good condition, showing a warm patina of old age.