Magnificent Ornaments and Religious Objects from the Himalayas and Mongolia

The Art Museum at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) presents the exhibition “Jewels of Transcendence: Himalayan and Mongolian Treasures” from 30 September 2018 to 24 February 2019. The exhibition showcases more than 400 beautiful and vibrant ornaments and religious objects from the Himalayan and the Mongolian regions during the 13th to the 20th century, which are part of the Mengdiexuan Collection and the Cheng Xun Tang Collection in Hong Kong. Members of the public are welcome to visit the exhibition. Admission is free.

Neither the vast Mongolian desert nor the snow-capped Tibetan mountains have ever existed in total isolation. Ever since the mid-13th century, Tibet and Mongolia have had meaningful exchanges, be that through military campaigns, political relations, or cultural and religious interchange. Before the 20th century, Tibetans and Mongolians in China were united through the “Tibetan Buddhist Society”. Tibetan lamas served as mentors and masters, the providers of faith and culture, while the Mongolian disciples served as followers, sponsors, and proud defenders. The former embodying mercy, the latter, representing power, created a symbiotic relationship that not only allowed the two nationalities to co-exist, but to thrive as one.

The expansive Himalayan region, also known as the “roof of the world”, is home to a diverse array of peoples. Tibetans, Nepalese, Bhutanese, Gurkhas, and Ladakhs are not only bound together by their common geographic landscape but also by a continuity of religious beliefs. They frequently communicated through an intricate web of political, military, religious and commercial exchanges. Beginning in the 18th century, for example, Newari artisans from the Kathmandu Valley produced objects for their neighboring Lhasa and Shigatse aristocracy and they also traveled near and far, opening workshops in these places.

The artisanship of these two regions is bound together by the affinity for gold, silver, turquoise, and coral, their close attention to detail in their head, neck, and waist ornaments, and the extensive use of filigree, inlay and other delicate metal craftsmanship. The Himalayan art of this time is marked by an inseparable bond between religious and daily life. The ornaments from this region, with their strong Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu elements, captured the unity of man and the divine. Ornaments spoke for the soul and showed outward devotion to the divine. Your eyes will be dazzled by their splendor, but by reaching beyond the object and into the minds of the sand and snow dwelling peoples, a deep understanding of the past can be achieved.

To tie in with the exhibition, the Art Museum has published an appreciation guide and a catalogue in 3 volumes on the collections of Cheng Xun Tang and Mengdiexuan and Proceedings. The former two volumes fall into the sections of the Himalayas and Mongolia and feature 600 pieces (sets) of collections, each taken from Cheng Xun Tang and Mengdiexuan. For facilitating the understanding of arts in The Himalayas and Mongolia, 5 articles are published in the Proceedings. Glossaries on the common decorative motif and old photos of Tibet from the Newark Museum are also available. In addition, the Art Museum has also organised a keynote speech and a seminar, inviting experts from the US, mainland China and Hong Kong to share their study and research on the craftsmanship of the ornaments and comparison of ornamental style in the regions of the Himalayas and Mongolia.

The opening ceremony for the exhibition was held on 29 September. The officiating guests included Mr. and Mrs. Christopher MOK, owners of Cheng Xun Tang; Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth CHU, owners of Mengdiexuan; Prof. FOK Tai-fai, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Vice President, CUHK; Prof. HO Che-wah, Acting Director of the Institute of Chinese Studies, CUHK; Prof. YIU Chun-chong, Josh, Director of the Art Museum, CUHK and Prof. XU Xiaodong, Associate Director of the Art Museum and Curator, CUHK.

Details of the exhibitions are as follows:

Date: 30 September 2018 – 24 February 2019 Venue: Gallery II & III, Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong Opening Hours: Mondays to Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Sundays and Public Holidays: 1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Closed on Thursdays (except Public Holidays) Enquiry: 3943-7416

Exhibition Highlights


Gold and gilt copper tayo necklace with precious stone inlay

尼泊爾,19 - 20 世紀

高 32.4 厘米,寬 16.5 厘米,厚 4.5 厘米


毗濕奴頭戴五葉金冠,四臂各持輪寶、佛經、頂飾三寶之金剛橛、蓮花,身披 摩伽羅飄帶和腰帶,以九頭蛇「那伽」為華蓋,象徵能量、新生和豐產。帶鱗 片的金蛇尾圍攏成毗濕奴的背光。此條項鏈為庫瑪麗即塔萊珠女神在人間的幼 女化身所佩戴。

Vishnu, the second most important deity in the trinity of Hindu gods, rests above this ornate tayo. The placement of this revered god on such accessory would have given the wearer protection against evil spirits. In his four hands, Vishnu holds a quartet of attributes: a manuscript (Sutra), a ritual knife (Phurba) with a triple gem (Triratna), a lotus flower (Padma) and a discus (Chakra). The deity is adorned with gold, seen in his long earrings, three necklaces, ritual celestial scarf of trumpeting makaras, and his belt. Further protecting Vishnu is the canopy of cobra hoods, formed by the Nāgās who hover over the god with their scaly gold tails. Kumari, the child dancers who embodied gods, would have worn this necklace during ceremonies in which they were deemed “Living Goddesses.”


Knife set with gilt silver scabbard and flint striker with coral and turquoise inlay

蒙古,19 世紀末至 20 世紀初 刀長 55.3 厘米,圖海長 21.5 厘米,火鐮長 14 厘米


金屬表面採用纍絲技法,編結出繁複且層疊相交的捲草圖案。綴以不同形制的 珊瑚、松石,紅綠相間,色彩反差強烈。火鐮刃部飾錯金雙龍紋。

This Mongolian knife set is exemplary of the rich detail and virtuosity that went into the portable, everyday objects of the nomadic tribe. The filigree surface is woven into multiple layers, and the blade of the striker is decorated with double-dragon patterns in gold inlay. An elegantly complex system of foliate scrollwork is adorned with coral and turquoise, creating a striking contrast of reds and greens.


Pair of gold damascened iron forearm guards with Manchu inscription

漢地或西藏,18 - 19 世紀 高 33 厘米,寬 15 厘米


表面鋄金。中間開光鑄滿文 huturi jalafun,意即「福壽」。前端飾「榮耀之臉」, 眼睛瞳孔鋄銀,頭帶一對角,眉間有「慧眼」,額頂日、月圖案。此對臂甲裝飾 藏族瑞獸和滿文吉祥字,極具裝飾性,或由武官在節慶禮儀場合佩戴,見證清 宮廷與西藏的交流。