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South Asia in the Beinecke: Thangka Collection

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Thangka Image

"Tanka of Gautama Buddha." Box 32, Tibet MSS 62. Beinecke Rare Book Library, Yale University Library.

 

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About the Thangka Collection

Excerpted from Thangka Collection (MSS 62) Finding Aid:

"Tankas, also known as thangkas, are hanging scrolls or fabric temple banners that consist of a painted picture panels (called mélong in Tibetan, which means 'mirror'), usually depicting buddhas, mandalas, or great practitioners, which are sewn into or bordered by a textile mountings. Tankas are intended to serve as records of, and guides for, contemplative experiences and visualizations."

View digital images of the thangkas.

Read more about the scope of the collection. 

Short video about the thangkas

June 14, 2013. Andrew Quintman is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University and provides an introduction to the aesthetic, cultural and religious significance of thangka paintings in the Himalaya. [8 mins]

Long video about the thangkas

June 14, 2013. Andrew Quintman is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University and offers a detailed exploration of the aesthetic, cultural and religious significance of thangka paintings in the Himalaya. [21 mins]

Thangka Collection - Highlights

Jatakas

  • Box 34 [Tib. 60.4]: Tanka of Gautama Buddha and scenes from the Starving Tigress Jātaka: circa 1700-1800. “A Tibetan watercolor painting on cotton that depicts Gautama Buddha surrounded by scenes from "The Starving Tigress Jātaka." In the story a bodhisattva sees a starving tigress about to eat her own cubs, and the bodhisattva offers her his own body. Inscription in Tibetan on verso describes the position of the tanka in relation to other tankas. The tanka includes a silk cover and ribbons.”  
  • Box 4 [Tib. 67.2]: Tanka of Gautama Buddha and scenes from the Ruru Deer Jātaka: circa 1700-circa 1800. “A Tibetan watercolor painting on cotton that depicts Gautama Buddha surrounded by scenes from "The Ruru Deer Jātaka," In the story the Ruru Deer saves man, who then betrays the deer, but the deer survives and teaches.” 
  • Box 3 [Tib. 67.3]: Tanka of Gautama Buddha and scenes from the Vessantara Jātaka: circa 1700-circa 1800. “A Tibetan watercolor painting on cotton that depicts Gautama Buddha surrounded by scenes from "Vessantara Jātaka," In the story a compassionate prince gives away everything he owns, including his wife and children, thereby displaying the virtue of perfect charity.” 

Deities and Teachers

  • Box 42 [Tib. 85.15]: Tanka of Mahākāla (?): circa 1650-circa 1750. “A watercolor painting on cotton that depicts Mahākāla with a dark blue body, three heads, and six arms, with ornaments made of human skulls, and accompanied by thirty-eight figures. Consecrated by a lama on the verso with an om-ah-hum and the red hand prints of the lama and the patron.” 
  • Box 37 (Art) [Tib. 68.1]: Tanka of Hayagrīva: circa 1900-circa 1950. Given by the King of Nepal, Tribhuvan Bir Bickrum Shah (circa 1951-1953) to Chester Bowles (Yale 1924), first US ambassador to Nepal. “A Tibetan watercolor painting on cotton with embroidery that depicts Hayagrīva surrounded by thirty-six figures. The painting is mounted on brocade that depicts dragons.”
  • Box 1 [Tib 68.1]: Tanka of Mañjuśrī: circa 1950. Given by Chogyal of Sikkim Tashi Namgyal to publisher Elliott Beach Macrae, who then gifted it to the Beiencke. “A Sikkimese watercolor painting on cotton that depicts Mañjuśrī, accompanied by a white Tārā with seven eyes and Viśrāvaṇa, the chief of the Four Heavenly Kings. The figures are reportedly modeled after the Macrae family. Inscriptions in Tibetan on verso.” 
  • Box 7 [Tib. 83.3]: Tanka of Bardo Thodol Deities: circa 1900-circa 1950. “A watercolor painting on cotton that depicts the 42 Peaceful Deities of Bardo with Samantabhadra in a rainbow framed circle accompanied by human figures below in Nepalese dress and holding black umbrellas. Inscription in Tibetan on the verso. Nine of the inscriptions are consecrations of the divinities on the recto.” 
  • Box 41 [Tib. 85.9]: Tanka of Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen: circa 1600-circa 1700. “A watercolor painting on cotton that depicts Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen wearing yellow and seated on cushions with smaller figures of protective divinities, ten lamas, and Güshi Khan (1582-1655), a Khoshut prince and leader of the Khoshut Khanate.” 

Librarian for South Asian Studies

Brandon J. Miliate, PhD's picture
Brandon J. Miliate, PhD
Contact:
214 Sterling Memorial Library