The Qianlong Emperor as Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom

citation

Maker(s)
Artist: Imperial workshop Emperor's face painted by Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining) (1688-1766)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign, mid-18th century
Medium
Ink, color, and gold on silk
Dimensions
H x W (image): 113.6 x 64.3 cm (44 3/4 x 25 5/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment and funds provided by an anonymous donor
Accession Number
F2000.4
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Thangka (unmounted)

Keywords
Buddhism, China, dharmachakra, dragon, emperor, lotus, Manjushri, monk, nirvana, portrait, Qianlong reign (1736 - 1796), Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), tomb, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

Private collection, Europe [1]

To 2000
Anthony Carter, London, to 2000

From 2000
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Anthony Carter, through Christopher B. Bruckner of Asian Art Gallery, London, in 2000 [2]

Notes:

[1] A letter (see copy in the object file) written by the London solicitors Rochman Landau states that they have seen a written statement that this object was in a previous owner's private European family collection for a period in excess of thirty years (according to Curatorial Note 4 in the object record).

[2] According to Curatorial Note 4 in the object record.

Previous Owner(s)

Anthony Carter

Label

This unusual portrait reflects upon the political strategy of the Qianlong emperor (reigned 1736-96) as well as his personal religious beliefs. Moreover, it is testimony to the multicultural nature of his court and empire. The emperor has had himself portrayed in the center of a thangka, a traditional Tibetan-style religious painting, but he called upon the Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione, who was a Jesuit missionary serving at the Chinese court, to paint his face. By having himself depicted as the enlightened being Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, the Qianlong emperor positioned himself squarely in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. The landscape surrounding him is filled with auspicious clouds and a representation of the five-peaked, Wutaishan sacred mountain in China.

The inscription on the painting proclaims Manjusri to be the ruler of the Buddhist faith. By assuming Manjusri's identity, the Qianlong emperor indirectly laid claim to that role for himself. This was politically significant because relations between the Qianlong court and the Mongol and Tibetan residents of the empire were couched in Buddhist, rather than Confucian, cultural rhetoric. The Qianlong emperor ordered thangkas, with himself as the central deity, displayed in the Tibetan Buddhist chapels that he erected in Peking (modern-day Beijing). One thangka that he sent to the Seventh Dalai Lama is currently displayed in the Potala, the Dalai Lama's residence in Lhasa, Tibet.

Published References
  • Jan Stuart Evelyn S. Rawski. Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits. Exh. cat. Washington and Stanford. p. 120, fig. 5.2.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 82-83.
  • Christopher B. Bruckner. Chinese Imperial Patronage: Treasures from Temples and Palaces. Exh. cat. London. pp. 8-22.
  • Michael Henss. The Bodhisattva Emperor: Tibeto-Chinese Portraits of Sacred and Secular Rule in the Qing Dynasty. vol. 47, nos.3-5, 2 pts. Surrey. pp. 2-16, pp. 71-83, cover illustration.
  • Luo Wenhua. Qianlong shiqi gongting Zangchuan fojiao huihua yanjiu: A Study on Tibetan Buddhist Painting in the Qing Court of the Qianlong Reign [1735-1795]. vol. 1. pp. 363-368.
  • Kate Teltscher. The High Road to China: George Bogle, the Panchen Lama, and the First British Expedition to Tibet. London and New York. pl. 10.
  • Columbia University Qing website. .
  • David M. Farquhar. Emperor as Bodhisattva in The Governance of The Ch'ing Empire. vol. 38, no. 1 Cambridge, June 1978. pp. 5-34.
  • Yumiko Ishihama. The Image of Ch'ien-lung's Kingship as Seen From the World of Tibetan Buddhism. vol. 88 Tokyo. pp. 49-64.
  • Patricia Ann Berger. Empire of Emptiness: Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China. Honolulu. .
  • James T. Ulak. A Decade of Remarkable Growth: Acquisitions by the Freer and Sackler Galleries. vol. 166 no. 548 London, 2007. p. 41.
  • Yumiko Ishihama. Shincho to Chibetto Bukkyo-Bosatuo tonatta Kenryutei: The Qing Dynasty and the Tibetan Buddhist World. Waseda University Academic Series, no. 20 Japan. pl. 3.
  • Original Intentions: Essays on Production, Reproduction, and Interpretation in the Arts of China. p. 187.
  • Claudia Brown. Great Qing: Painting in China 1644-1911. .
  • p. 187.
  • pp. 146-147.
  • p. 217, fig. 25.
  • p. 241, fig. 3.
  • p. 9, fig. 0.7.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum