How This Ornate Saddle Reflects Traditional Tibetan Culture (Video)
This intricate saddle serves as a remarkable embodiment of traditional Tibetan culture, transcending the Western stereotype of Tibet as solely defined by Buddhism. Rooted in a rich historical narrative that encompasses more than just spiritual aspects, Tibet's heritage encompasses military traditions. Crafted from four wooden pieces meticulously bound together with leather thongs, the saddle seamlessly harmonizes aesthetics with functionality. What truly distinguishes this saddle is its ornate embellishments. Gilt copper plates, masterfully shaped through the repoussé technique, adorn its surface. A vibrant crimson fabric provides a striking backdrop to the intricate gold scrollwork.
The saddle pad, featuring a Japanese brocade, showcases pairs of birds and lions, while two dragons grace the front, symbolizing celestial power and creativity. At the saddle's apex, the Wish-Fulfilling Jewel radiates, symbolizing the clarity and purity of Tibetan Buddhism, believed to grant any wish. In the center, a monster mask, drawn from Hindu legend, offers an auspicious touch of good fortune. This saddle, though evoking the artistry of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, hails from the 1940s, commissioned by a Tibetan nobleman appointed as the governor of eastern Tibet in 1942. Its existence stands as a reminder of the enduring beauty and continuity of traditional Tibetan culture, bridging centuries of history to its very twilight.
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Top image: Tibetan horse saddle. Metropolitan Museum of Art / Public Domain.