TYPE: Tibetan Buddhist lama’s folding travel altar

CIRCA: *1800’s / 19th C.

A small folding wooden altar table that a Tibetan Lama (a Buddhist ‘priest’) would have taken with him on his travels to remote locations to use when performing rituals (being able to fold down so snugly makes such a delicate item ‘travel friendly’, either if it was hand carried or strapped on some sort of pack animal to transport to remote places the lama may have been visiting). The intricate ‘open’ method of hand carving used on the folding sides and front add an almost 3D-like depth to the golden scroll-work; a lotus flower and intricate open trellis work is carved into each end while the front lower panel is decorated with two pigmented peacocks facing each other and open trellis work in their respective squares. The narrow top strip is carved with archaic foliate dragons clutching at a precious pearl, while in the very centre on the front is an auspices Chinese character meaning ‘double happiness’. This may suggest(?) the table may have been built as a gift to a lama with the donor wishing the lama double happiness. *NOTE: This whole golden coloured bottom section is from the 1800’s, while the separate top – described below – is seemingly from another altar, which has been ‘fitted’ at some time in the early 1900’s. This flat top is plain grained wood that has been coated with lac. (Lac is a natural resin secreted by the female lac bug on trees in the forests in parts of Asia. It is an insect that spends its whole life attached to a tree, sucking its sap and converting it into the familiar sticky ‘Lac’ substance that has long been used to provide a glossy protective coating on wood and acts much like a varnish. It is a natural thermoplastic; that is it is a material that is soft and flows when heated but becomes rigid at room temperature.) There are no nails or metal work whatsoever used in its construction, all joins are simply ‘fitted wood’, much like what we today would call ‘dovetailed’, and although quite solid when full erect, and meant to be folded when ‘closed down’, it can also be easily striped down to its component parts if / when necessary. It is in very good condition, especially for its age, and is the first time for sale on the western market, having been in the one collectors hands since the early 1970’s when he bought it in Kathmandu from a migratory Tibetan.

SIZE UNFOLDED: 78.5CM LONG X 37CM WIDE X 39CM HIGH

TOP SIZE: 78.5CM X 37CM X 2CM

BASE FOLDED: 74CM X 36CM X 8.5CM