VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Shambhala
Vm 5951
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The depiction of the mythical Shambhala corresponds to its description in the legend. The land is circular in shape and at its centre is Kalapa with the palace of the ruling dynasty, decorated with precious stones and rare metals. The palace is surrounded by billions of human dwellings and it is flanked by lakes of treasure. Above Shambhala’s layout, a depiction of Tsongkhapa (1357–1419) can be seen among his disciples. The personification of Kalachakra is featured to the left from them and Hevajra to the right. Twenty-five Rigden kings of Shambhala are painted in the celestial sphere, with Atisha (ca. 980–1054) presiding over them. A battle scene is shown in the lower part of the thangka. Rigden Dragpo’s army wearing rose-colour armour is driving away the enemy in blue uniforms and “bird“ helmets. The cavalry is complemented by elephants. The enemy is fleeing to the seat of their commander, who is being bombarded. Rigden Dragpo appears in the scene in several instances: on a wind horse, in a “golden“ chariot and in a tent. There are approximately 120 Tibetan thangka paintings in the Collection of Oriental Art of the National Gallery in Prague. Shambhala is the largest in size, although of a later date in this collection. It is worthy of note particularly owing to its original and narrative treatment of its battle scenes.

History of the Object
Shambhala is a term denoting a mythical kingdom of an uncertain geographical location, where the teaching of Kalachakra (The Wheel of Time) are said to have originated. This teaching was introduced to Tibet in 1027 by Atisha. Shambhala is of great importance to Tibetan Buddhism, as it is believed that the saviours of humankind will arrive from Shambhala when the world is torn by wars and destruction. The Rigden royal family rules in Shambhala (Kulika in Sanskrit), and the rulers always alternate every one hundred years. Rigden Dragpo is the last of the twenty-five kings and his arrival will usher in a golden era when all negative forces will be defeated. The enemies of Dharma will be destroyed and a time of plenty will begin. This is why Shambhala was also associated with the Epic of King Gesar and the arrival of Maitreya, the Future Buddha. In the second half of the 18th century, the sixth Panchen Lama LOzang Palden Yeshe (1738–1779) wrote a guidebook entitled “The Way to Shambhala“ (Shambhala´i lamyig), which helped to revive the Shambhala legend.

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Type
Painting 
Materials
colours on canvas 
Measurements
195 x 135 cm 
Creator name
Unknown monastic painter 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
Tibet 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 19th century ~ AD 19th century 
Creation date
19th Century; Early 19th century 
Function
Thangka (painting) 
Acquisition
Unknown, Purchased in 1986 
Copyright
the National Gallery in Prague 
Acknowledgements
Lenka Gyaltso, Nora Jelínková 
Owner
the National Gallery in Prague 
Museum
Virtual Museum of the Chinese masterpieces 
Credit line
the National Gallery in Prague 

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