The Pao-hsiang Lou Pantheon [Photo gallery]

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These plates originate from the publication "Two Lamaistic Pantheons" (1937) by Walter Eugene Clark; From Materials collected by the Late Baron A Von Stael-Holstein. The present publication gives a complete reproduction of the 766 preserved images or inscribed pedestals (omitting the large central image of bCon-kha-pa) of the Pao-hsiang Lou Pantheon (also, Bao-xiang Lou).

In the year 1928 Baron A. von Stael-Holstein brought from Peiping to Cambridge and presented to the Harvard College Library materials for the study of four Lamaistic Pantheons. Only one of these Pantheons has ever been fully described and published in the West.

[...]

The fourth consists of a complete set of photographs of a unique Lamaistic Pantheon found in the Pao-hsiang Lou, a Lama temple situated in the garden of the Tz’u-ning palace in the Forbidden City at Peiping. In July 1926 Stael-Holstein received permission from Mr. Chuang, President of the Palace Committee, to visit a number of Lama temples situated in the Forbidden City — temples which for many years seem to have been entirely neglected. In the upper storey of one of these temples, the Pao-hsiang Lou, he found a collection of bronze statuettes constituting a Lamaistic Pantheon which had consisted originally of 787 figures But it had been visited by thieves, for some of the cabinets had been broken open and thirty-one of the statuettes had been removed. The fact that the pedestals of the images bore contemporary inscriptions (of the reign of Ch’ien-lung) giving the Chinese names of the divinities and personages represented constitutes a unique feature of the Pantheon and greatly enhances its value. Realizing the importance for Lamaistic iconography of this large collection of inscribed images, Stael-Holstein set about immediately to have the statuettes photographed Money was furnished by Mrs. Mason Bross of Chicago, and the photographs were taken, or Chinese assistants supervised, by the late Mr. Benjamin March

The work was done during December 1926 and January and February 1927. All the statuettes of the Pantheon in the upper storey of the temple had been photographed, and Stael-Holstein was just about to transfer operations to the ground-floor to make a complete record of the images there before proceeding to the other temples in the same garden when an official letter from the Palace authorities informed him that his photographers would not be allowed to continue their work.

The upper storey of the temple consists of seven chapels The central chapel contains only a life-sized image of the great Tibetan reformer bCon-kha-pa. There are six side chapels, three on each side of the central chapel. Of these, number one is the northernmost and number SIX the southernmost Each side chapel contains a central altar and two cabinets, one on each side of the altar. On each altar there are nine bronze images, and in each cabinet (except those which have been broken into by thieves) there are sixty-one bronze images The boxes in ‘the cabinets are arranged in five rows — each row containing from eleven to thirteen boxes Originally, therefore, there must have been 787 statuettes (including the large statue of bCon-kha-pa). Thirty-one images had been stolen, but ten empty inscribed pedestals remained. So there are 756 images and 766 inscriptions. On the walls of the side chapels are inscriptions in Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Manchu, stating the parts of the Buddhist scriptures to which the divinities of each chapel belong and giving the names of some of the most important divinities in each chapel Five of the chapels are devoted to Tantric divinities. Only one chapel, the first, is devoted to deities from other parts of the canon.

Gallery: 757 images

Click each photos to see detailled description, exif-information and high-resolution:

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