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Sarvavid Vairocana

Series of paintings A guide to meditation on the mandala of Sarvavid Vairocana
Maker unknown
Inner Mongolia, 18th or 19th century
Pigment on paper
MAS, AE.1977.0026
Donated by the Friends of the Ethnographic Museum Antwerp, 1977

Meditation in pictures

The 54 preserved miniatures in this series together form a visual guide for meditation on a mandala. This is a depiction of the cosmos, in this case with Sarvavid Vairocana – the most important of the five heavenly or dhyani Buddhas – in the centre. Such a meditation process is normally transferred from teacher to pupil verbally or in writing. In the Buddhist tradition, that makes a detailed illustration like this one unusual. The paintings were probably made in a Chinese workshop and under the supervision of a Tibetan teacher. They probably served in the tuition of a Mongolian prince. They bear witness to a unique cultural exchange.

In 1923, the series came into the possession of the Flemish missionary Raphael Verbois (1885-1979). He worked in Inner Mongolia and China, and had a strong interest in Buddhism. A monk at the monastery in Wangzimiao (Inner Mongolia) donated the collection to Verbois. He had stored them in his cell and departed for higher studies in Tibet. How exactly he acquired them himself is not known.

See also

Masterpieces from the Governement of Flanders

Flanders possesses a magnificent collection of movable cultural heritage. With the 'Masterpieces Decree', the Flemish government wants to protect these unique cultural objects. Based on the decree, a list of rare and indispensable objects was compiled. Some of them are part of the MAS collection.

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