Dharmapala Thangka CentreTibetan Antiques

Wooden Printing Block

For making prayer flags

Original Mirror inverted image Side View 1 Side View 2 Side View 3 Side View 4 Back

This wooden printing block is skillfully carved with Tibetan characters. The text contains Buddhist mantras and the names of four animals: Snow Lion, Dragon, Tiger and Garuda. These are the »Four Dignities« or symbolic animals of the four cardinal directions. Tibetan prayer flags often show these four, one in each corner, with a wind horse [Tib.: »Lungta«] in the center. The wind horse is not shown here as it is a text only plate.

Tibetan prayer flags frequently show the animals, one in each corner. The four animals can be associated with different aspects of a bodhisattva. The garuda symbolizes wisdom, the dragon gentle power, the tiger confidence and trust, and the snow lion fearless happiness.

Details of the display on the printed praying flag of the four symbol animals:

NameDirectionPositionTibetanU Chen
TigerSouthTop Lefttagསྟག
Snow LionEastTop Rightgangs seng geགངས་སེང་གེ
GarudaNorthBottom Leftkhyungཁྱུང
DragonWestBottom Rightdrukhའབྲུག

On the printing plate, these names are partly difficult to recognize. From the relatively long name of the snow lion [gangs seng ge] only the middle syllable was carved into in the upper right corner of the plate. Unlike the more recent printing blocks on offer today, the surface of the plate shows clear signs of years of use.

The text has been carved in the Tibetan script »U Chen« mirror inverted. The second illustration is shown here mirror inverted thus corresponds to the printed image on the prayer flag.

The additional text shows the mantras of the protectors of the »Three Families« [Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajrapani]. This is followed by a text intended to provide protection.

Example for a today Tibetan prayer flag

A similar block print at collection of Rubin Museum, New York was published by: Himalayan Art Ressources

Measurements: 5.6 x 4.9 x 0.7" | 14.2 x 12.5 x 1.8 cm
Price: 153 $ | 145 €
Material: Wood
High resolution: Display [4.5 MB, 2530 x 2874 px.]
Age: Late 19th - early 19th cent.
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