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藏中 夏魯寺 十四世紀 佛陀雙神續曼荼羅
This 14th-century mandala from Shalu monastery in Central Tibet, depicts the celestial palace of the 'Secret Union of the Enlightened One', or Buddhasamayoga, a rare subject with an even rarer arrangement of five squares with Vajrasattva placed at center. Inherent to all mandalas is a geometric arrangement, a structural composition defined by textual sources whose aim is to delineate a space inherently void, yet when purely perceived, luminous in nature. As the means to symbolize a divine realm, essential to this visual expression is the orientation of space in a mandala. Composed of the layering upon layering of shape upon shape, texture upon texture, and pattern upon pattern, this mandala is neither static nor confined. Rather, there is an interplay between tension and ease – a negotiation between definition and space – all which is held together with fluid and gestural lines.
At center is a square holding the inner mandala of Vajrasattva, the main deity. Encircling Vajrasattva are five identical squares portraying the inner mandalas of Heruka, Vairocana, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amogasiddhi, all which are linked at the lower corners in an asymmetrical design resembling an open flower. Despite the asymmetry, the geometry of the six inner mandalas is tightly organized within the larger chamber, which is then contradicted by large swathes of singular colors of ground with intricate and fluid scrolling designs in red, green, white, and yellow. Defined borders enclose each of the inner mandalas and the larger architectural border framing this chamber opens at each of the four cardinal directions revealing the tops of crossed vajras whose prongs break from the architectural space with colored flames spewing from makara mouths.
While the space beyond the mandala is more densely packed, the more animate lines and figural depictions make this area feel less bound by geometric order. The outer ring of the mandala shows concentrated scenes depicting the charnel grounds, in a wild display of demons, animals, deities, and bodies and their parts defined within scrolling borders of alternating colors. Figures in the outermost part of the painting – buddhas, teachers, lineage holders, tantric deities including Hevajra and Chakrasamvara, and offering goddesses – are held in rounded orbs connected with interlocking vines from which various flowers with shaded or black edges blossom. As filled as this space is, the richness of the blue background outside the mandala and the open scrolling work in the inner mandala gives depth and space so that the eye can move from one figure to another.
Wall paintings from Shalu monastery reveal similar methods of defining and articulating space as seen in this painting. Grounds of singular colors with small scrolling patterns, deep blue backgrounds, scrolling vines, shading and outlines of black are also employed to arrange space on the monastery walls. Various styles exist within the monastery, which Henss attributes to different Newari artisan workshops rather than to chronological divisions. (Henss, Cultural Monuments of Tibet , Vol. II, 2014, p. 603). This painting relates most closely in style to those from the Sgonma Lahkang painted around 1306. Similar techniques of shading, elongated proportions of the body, as well as the characters of the face resemble images seen on the monastery walls (ibid, p. 603, fig. 864). Moreover, a mandala depicting Akshobya in the Sgonma Lahkang shows identical scrollwork designs within the inner chamber of the mandala, a similar patterning along the borders, the use of twisting vines and foliage to connect figures beyond the mandala, and mirroring treatment in the striated patterns along the dhotis of the deities (ibid, p. 603, fig. 865).
During the 13th and 14th century, the Newari artistic idiom was held in the highest esteem at Shalu Monastery. Newari influence is unmistakable in this mandala, characterized by a balance between precision and movement of line. The twisting torso of the green dancing goddess in the lower register with her arm arching over her head shares an identical posture with a Newari dancer on a red background in an enchanting courtly scene in the Great Korlam (ibid, fig. 871). Although a small detail, the image captures the figural freedom and spontaneity of line in the aesthetic program found within Shalu, especially during this period of renovation in the 14th century. Black contour lines around folds, foliage, and flowers, both of which appear in the mandala and this scene from the Korlam, are employed to create dimensionality. The effortless improvisation of line as well as the depth they create are harnessed within Tibetan iconographical conventions, offering a dynamism that sways between rhythm and restraint.
Sundaram Gallery, South Extension, New Delhi, February 1968
Private Collection, California