Though Tibet was never endowed with dense hard wood forests enjoyed by other furniture building communities, it had a rich tradition of highly functional and stunningly beautiful hand painted furniture. Found in monasteries as well as private homes, these hand painted chests, ritual tables and cabinets were living works of functional art decorated with the brilliant colors, iconic symbols and designs used in Tibetan thankas, sculpture and Tibetan rugs. They are rich in meaning as well as beauty and reflect the skill of Tibetan craftsmanship in hand worked wood, leather and hand forged metal of the 16-19th centuries. Because of their size and difficulty of transport, few examples of hand painted Tibetan Furniture have survived the journey across the Himalaya and fewer still have reached the West. We hope that by including this collection on InnerAsia’s website, we have added another glimpse into the wealth of Tibet’s artistic and crafts tradition.
These cabinets were used to store special porcelain, choice Tibetan brick tea, brocade, incense, special occasion dress and other valuables. Because of the cold climate, Tibetans generally prefer living in smaller rooms. These highly decorative cabinets were used for decoration and function and often lined the walls of the main living space or private bedroom where the owner could see and enjoy them.
These intricately decorated, hand painted chests were generally found in monasteries. They were used to store valuable and rare religious manuscripts, painted and sculptural images used only on special occasions, jewel encrusted gold and silver butter lamps and ceremonial garments and costumes used for ceremonial purposed. Often these chests were commissioned and donated by a wealthy patron of the monastery. Smaller leather chests were used as travel trunks for a wealthy family on the move. Tibetans love travel and pilgrimage!
These pegum, choktse are ritual tables and they were made in different sizes. The taller ones were used by lamas or a layman who sat atop a cushioned mattress in a cross legged lotus position, to read religious texts or conduct rituals. The lower tables were also used as table and the place where a lama had his meals served
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