Under the Yuan dynasty Tibet was vassal of the Chinese empire. The early Ming seek a religious legitimacy from Tibetan lamas without interfering in politics, and Tibet falls into a feudalist regime where dynastic or sectarian civil war is endemic.
The very long reign of gongma Drakpa Gyaltsen was however relatively quiet. Under his protection the new Buddhist sect Gelug creates several monasteries. At the end of this period a young fief leader of Central Tibet named Norzang founds the Jamchen monastery circa 1427 CE with his spiritual teacher of the Sakya traditional sect.
The inscription names as patrons that Sakya master assimilated to a bodhisattva and the "ruling brothers" Norzang and Palzang, eager to create a place of worship where the faithful can reach the stage of omniscience. The name of the artist is Sonam Gyaltsen.
In 1435 Norzang took advantage of the civil war for the gongma's succession to sustainably take over the political power with a function of regent. At this date his brother has disappeared from history. Assuming that the referred place of worship is Jamchen, this defines the post quem and ante quem terminus of the lot at 1427 and 1435 CE, an unusual accuracy for a piece of Buddhist art.
This statuette of a refined execution is 68 cm high, a large size compared to other pieces of its period. It was thus most likely the central part of an altar. It shows Avalokiteshvara in his role as omnipotent Lord with eleven heads and one thousand arms, here reduced for the convenience of the figuration to eight primary arms and thirty-four secondary arms forming a beautiful radiant winged shape. This scarce image of the most popular bodhisattva certainly relates with Norzang's personal ambition.
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