Stupa, in Tibetan 'chörten', means offering receptacle. Originally as a memorial monument, its principal function is a reliquary container once used for the corporeal remains of Sakyamuni and other significant Buddhist figures. It is a manifestation of the aniconic Dharma body of the Buddha and his divine presence, represents the past and the present, the body and the mind. Hence, a Pāli text claims: 'The stupa is the Buddha, the Buddha is the stupa'.1
The unique architectural form of the example presented here is quintessentially influenced by Tibetan characteristics. The square Mount Meru base and the tapered steps are Tibetan in style, the rounded dome is Indian in origin. Above is the cubic harmika, consisting of a five-layered conical spire mast, represents the five elements- earth, water, fire, wind, and void. However, this example is also significantly infused with classical Chinese elite aesthetics. The large proportion of the naturally pierced upper section of the throne celebrates the dynamic transformational processes of nature, which manifests in the appreciation of Chinese scholar's rocks and is also close to the Japanese aesthetic of wabi-sabi. It breaks free from the rigid traditional sixty-four-unit proportion.2 Furthermore, the rugged texture of the hollowed centre resembles mountains and caves, particularly the magical peaks and grotto-heavens, which invokes a sense of divinity and tranquillity of the onlookers.
Commonly cast in bronze and gilded, this example is uniquely carved from hardwood. Its generous proportions also entail an extraordinary commission. A related example, carved in zitan, was sold at Christie's Paris, Live Auction 5598 on 8 June 2010, lot 307.
Lyon & Turnbull’s international Asian Art department conduct frequent specialist auctions, in the various locations throughout the UK and via live online auctions. These auctions have a special focus on Chinese and Japanese ceramics, paintings, furniture, jade, textiles and works of art and are perfectly positioned to capitalise on the current strength in the Asian antiques markets.