Base for an offering mandala used in Tibetan Buddhist rituals

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, Probably Yongle reign, early 15th century
Enamels on brass, wire, traces of gilding (cloisonné)
H x W x D: 7.7 x 31 x 31 cm (3 1/16 x 12 3/16 x 12 3/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 13: Looking Out, Looking In: Art in Late Imperial China
Ceremonial Object, Cloisonne


Buddhism, China, flower, lotus, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), stand, WWII-era provenance

Arthur Leeper, Los Angeles [1]

To 1998
Anthony Carter, London, acquired from Arthur Leeper, to 1998 [2]

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Anthony Carter in 1998


[1] According to Curatorial Note 3 in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Anthony Carter
Arthur Leeper


This object draws attention to the frequent interaction and gift exchange between Tibet and China in the first half of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). This colorful cloisonne object was made for a Tibetan temple to serve as the base for a three-dimensional mandala, or cosmic diagram. Worshipers would pile grain on top of the base as a holy offering. The grain was arranged inside concentric iron rings to create a tiered tower.

The mandala base was made in China under imperial patronage as a gift for the emperor to give to visiting Tibetan lamas or prelates. The design features auspicious Buddhist symbols, including a stylized lotus flower and eight precious objects, such as a conch shell to represent the voice of Buddha and an umbrella to signify his spiritual authority.

Published References
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 144-145.
  • The Ceramics Cultural Heritage: Proceedings of the International SYmposium, "The Ceramics Heritage" of the 8th CIMTEC-World Ceramics Congress and Forum on New Materials. Florence, Italy. pp. 161-173.
  • A Study of Three Cloisonne Enameled Bases for a Mandala in the Cleveland Museum of Art, The Freer Gallery of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. no. 23, January 2007. p. 185.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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