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BOUNDLESS: Contemporary Tibetan Artists at Home & Abroad

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Fig. 9:
Footprints of the Third Karmapa
c. 1339
Thangka: opaque pigments and gold on textile
21 1/8 x 14 3/4 in.

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive; On long-term loan from a private collection.

Images of hand- and footprints in Tibetan Buddhist works often indicate that the depiction has been ritually consecrated, as the footprints of the third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) reveal here. This work also depicts the Kagyu lineage to which the third Karmapa belonged. At the center of each gold-leaf footprint we find a dharmacakra, which stands for the wheel of Buddhist teaching. On either side of the feet and encircled by vines are the eight auspicious symbols: right-turning conch, endless knot, fish, lotus, parasol, vase, victory banner, and the dharamcakra. These same auspicious symbols can be found on the silver cylinder of the prayer wheel nearby in this exhibition.