Tsongkhapa Refuge Field
DateEarly 20th century
MediumPigment, gilding on sized cloth
DimensionsImage : 18 1/8 x 13 1/2 in. (46.04 x 34.29 cm)
Mat : 30 x 24 in. (76.2 x 60.96 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
This painting offers a schematic representation of the Gelug School’s spiritual universe, with Tsongkhapa at its center. The figures directly above Tsongkhapa are his spiritual predecessors going back to the blue-skinned Vajradhara Buddha who appears in a cross-legged seated pose at the very top of the painting. The crowd of figures directly below Tsongkhapa represents all the major classes of Gelug deities, including buddhas, bodhisattvas, arhats, dharmapalas, dakinis, and yidams. They are all supported on a massive lotus pedestal that resembles a tree growing from the earth with Tsongkhapa as its crown. The figures in the upper right and left corners of the painting are Amitabha Buddha and Maitreya Buddha, each sitting in their respective heavenly palaces. The groups of figures floating on clouds below Amitabha and Maitreya represent the great sages and teachers of the Gelug order, and of Vajrayana Buddhism more broadly. Finally the figures at the bottom of the painting represent the Buddhist clergy, lay believers and nature spirits.