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Tibetan cosmological amulet for protection against diseases. Gouache painting, Tibet.

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view Tibetan cosmological amulet for protection against diseases. Gouache painting, Tibet.


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Credit: Tibetan cosmological amulet for protection against diseases. Gouache painting, Tibet. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

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This amulet is a protection against diseases (Hummel, loc. cit.) In the top centre, a monk forms the prayer gesture. In the centre, on a tortoise, is a magic square called sme ba dgu, the sign with the nine compartments, each containing a number. The square is surrounded by the eight Chinese trigrams of the pa-kua used in the Book of Changes (I Ching) in the form of hexagrams. The Chinese word pa-kua appears in Tibetan as 'spar kha' Around the eight trigrams, a wreath is formed by the twelve signs of the Tibetan zodiac. Above on the left lies the sign of the Ten Powerful Ones, the 'rnam bcu dbaṅ ldan' symbolising unity of the macrocosm and microcosm and the unity of the body and the soul. This sign comprises the symbols haṃ, kṣa, ma, la, va, ya, and ra in a vertical stack with the sun, the moon and the flame-like sign called the bindu on top. On the right hand side there is another magic square on a lotus base Underneath the tortoise are the signs of the days of the week. According to Winder, "By sun and moon shown as one entity, these have become dissociated from the Sanskrit and hence Indo-European context of deity for each day. The knife of Mars is moved to Monday instead of Tuesday and the thunderbolt of Thursday (Thor's hammer) is moved to Wednesday" Although the Zodiac and the symbols for the days of the week are shown, this is not an astrological chart which would be far more complicated. It is an amulet. Contemplating the cosmological configurations should produce a sense of stability, balance and peace of mind

Physical description

1 painting : gouache on cloth ; cloth 29 x 21 cm

Publications note

Siegbert Hummel, 'Günstige und ungünstige Zeiten und Zeichen nach dem Tibetischen', Asian folklore studies, 1963, 22: 89-132, p.126, quotation from Chags-med Rinpoche
Marianne Winder, Catalogue of Tibetan manuscripts and xylographs, and catalogue of thankas, banners and other paintings and drawings in the Library of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London 1989, no. 52, p. 104.


Wellcome Library no. 581586i



  • Tibetan

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