Vajrabhairava Mandala

Period: Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

Date: ca. 1330–32

Culture: China

Medium: Silk tapestry (kesi)

Dimensions: Overall: 96 5/8 x 82 5/16 in. (245.5 x 209 cm)
Overall (framed and mounted): H. 113 1/2 in. (288.3 cm); W. 90 1/2 in. (229.9 cm); D. 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm); Wt. 230.3 lb. (104.5 kg)

Classification: Textiles-Tapestries

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1992

Accession Number: 1992.54


This tapestry, a treasure of the Department of Asian Art, was woven with colored silk threads and embellished with gilded paper in areas such as the crowns and the jewelry. It was produced for the court in China during the Yuan dynasty, established by Khubilai Khan (1215–1294), grandson of the fabled Genghis Khan (1162–1227).

Production of this extraordinary mandala illustrates the practice of Tibetan Buddhism at the Mongol court. Devotion to Vajrabhairava, the deity at center, was introduced to China by Jining Shaluobaguanzhao, a disciple of the Tibetan master Phakpa, the most powerful monk in China during the late thirteenth century. This disciple was sent to Tibet to study with a teacher famed for his knowledge of the texts and practices related to Vajrabharaiva.

The four portraits at the bottom, identified by Tibetan inscriptions, represent Tugh Temur, the great grandson of Khubilai Khan, who served as emperor of the Yuan dynasty (1328–29), his older brother, and their respective consorts.This silk tapestry likely was commissioned for use in a Vajrabhairava initiation at the court.