Author Topic: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.  (Read 2233 times)

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Offline Gusev

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Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« on: June 01, 2015, 04:28:23 PM »
Start the discussion here

The Snow Lion (sometimes also Snowlion) is a celestial animal of Tibet. It symbolizes fearlessness, unconditional cheerfulness, east and the earth element. It is one of the Four Dignities. It ranges over the mountains, and is commonly pictured as being white with a turquoise mane.
From 1909 until 1959 a single snow lion or a pair of them was used as national emblem of Tibet on the coins, poststamps, banknotes and the national flag of Tibet.

The snow lion on the coins is always the left, but looking in different directions (forward, backward, left, up, and back up). Sometimes it is very difficult to determine - where look a lion, because his head is incredible turnaround.
I could not find regularity of head rotation from the date of the mint, and so on.
But the first coin (1909) - a lion is always looking back, and the last coins of Tibet - a lion look forward or to the left.
Below I show the photo to the different positions of the head of the snow lion.
1. Lion looks backwards.
KM: Y#10, Y#A10, Y#11, Y#12, Y#18.1, Y#18.2, Y#A18.1, Y#16.2, Y#16.3, Y#17.1, Y#17.2, Y#17.3, Y#21.1a, Y#21b.

2. Lion looks ahead.
KM: Y#19, Y#19.1, Y#20, Y#23, Y#27.1, Y#27.2, Y#28, Y#28.1, Y#28.2, Y#28a, Y#24, Y#25, Y#26, Y#29,  Y#29.1, Y#30.

3. Lion looking left.
KM: Y#29a, Y#22.

4. Lion looking upwards.
KM: Y#17, Y#A18
.
5. Lion look backwards and upwards.
KM: Y#18, Y#16.1, Y#A19, Y#21a, Y#21, Y#21.2.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.

Offline Gusev

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #1 on: June 01, 2015, 04:30:29 PM »
1. Lion looks backwards.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.

Offline Gusev

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #2 on: June 01, 2015, 04:31:25 PM »
2. Lion looks ahead.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.

Offline Gusev

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #3 on: June 01, 2015, 04:32:28 PM »
3. Lion looking left.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.

Offline Gusev

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #4 on: June 01, 2015, 04:33:11 PM »
4. Lion looking upwards.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.

Offline Gusev

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #5 on: June 01, 2015, 04:33:59 PM »
5. Lion look backwards and upwards.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.

Offline <k>

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2015, 04:40:08 PM »
Excellent synopsis. What will the poor snow lion do, after global warming has melted all the snow?

Offline Gusev

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2015, 05:20:45 PM »
Excellent synopsis. What will the poor snow lion do, after global warming has melted all the snow?
Snow Lion already adapted. :)
The Tibetan Mastiff (Dogs khyi - Lhasa dialect) is an ancient breed and type of large domestic dog originating with nomadic cultures of Tibet, China, Nepal, and India
The dog is widely used by local tribes of Himachal Pradesh, India, to protect their sheep from leopards.
 It is the oldest and the most expensive dog in the world.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2015, 11:18:48 PM »
What a great thread! Thank you, Gusev.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline renau

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2018, 06:11:20 AM »
Some extra information, hope it helps:

The Snow Lion is a mythical animal of Tibet.  It symbolizes fearlessness, unconditional cheerfulness, vibrant energy, East and the Earth element.  It has a beauty and dignity resulting from a body and mind that are synchronized. It ranges over the mountains and is commonly pictured as being white with a turquoise mane.

In Tibetan folk lore, the milk of the Snow Lioness (Tibetan : Gangs Sengemo) contains special nutrients to heal the body and restore it to harmony.  Some holy medicinal remedies are believed to contain the essence of the Snow Lioness’ milk.  Her milk is also used to symbolise the Dharma and its purity.

In Buddhism, the Snow Lion is the protector of Buddha and, in paintings and sculpture, is usually seen as holding up the Buddha’s throne (left and right side of the throne). Sometimes the throne of a Buddha is depicted with eight Snow Lions on it, in this case, they represent the 8 main Bodhisattva-disciples of Buddha Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha.

The body of the Snow Lion is white, while its flowing mane, tail and curls on legs is either blue or green.  While most Snow Lions are gender neutral in Buddhist art, there are some that are represented as obviously male and some as obviously female.  When represented as a symmetrical pair, the male is on the left and the female on the right.  Sculptural Snow Lions are often in repousse metal that has been gilt and painted.





The ROAR of the Snow Lion embodies the sound of “emptiness” (Sanskrit: Sunyata), courage and truth and because of this is often a synonym for the Dharma, the Buddha’s teachings, as it implies freedom from Karma and the challenging call to “awakening”.  The “roar” was considered to be so powerful that just a single “roar” could cause seven dragons to fall from the sky.

The Lhasa Apso is called the Tibet Lion Dog, after its resemblance to the Snow Lion, however, it is unknown whether the dog was bred to resemble the Snow Lion or if the artistic design was influenced by the features of the dog.

The Snow Lion is a personification of the primordial playfulness of “ananda” (joy, bliss) comparable to the Western “unicorn” (although without a horn).  Though, paradoxically, the Snow Lion does not fly but their feet never touch the ground, their existence is a playful continuum of leaping from mountain peak to mountain peak.  The energetic potency (wisdom) of the Snow Lion is expressed in the attribute of the GANKYIL or Wheel of Joy.  The Snow Lion keep in the eternal play. 


The Snow Lion on Tibetan Coins

After the 13th Dalai Lama returned to Lhasa from his exile in Peking (Beijing) in November 1909, the first coins showing the snow lion on the obverse were struck in Tibet.

The snow lion, mostly referred to as «the white lioness» (Tib. Sehge-dkarmo), was certainly known in Tibet before Buddhism was introduced to this country during king Srongtsan Gampo´s reign (ca. 629-650)

It is believed to live high in the mountains, near the glaciers, the
glacier water sometimes being compared to or even taken for the lioness milk. The favorite abode of snow lions is Mt. Kailash (Tib.gans te-si). In western Tibetan versions of the Gesar saga, the snow lion is mentioned as one of the guardians of the four directions, together with three other mythological animals (tiger, Garuda and Dragon), Mt. Kailash forming the center of the universe. This belief may have been behind the design of the coins showing the snow lion with Mt. Kailash in the background.



After the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet, the snow lion adopted some Buddhist features. Often lions were represented in Indian Buddhist art as animals supporting Buddha´s throne. The most famous Buddhist lions, however, are represented at the Ashoka pillar from Sarnath, where they probably represent the spread of Dharma (Buddhist teaching). This lion capital was later adopted as the symbol of India and figures on most modern Indian coins.

Certain deities of the Mahayana use a lion as their vehicle, among others the Boddhisatva Avalokitesvara (Tib. sPyan-ras gzigs, pronounced «Chinrezig») . Since the Dalai Lama is considered to be an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, the lion becomes associated with the Religious and Political leader of Tibet.

A Tibetan, Anak Dorje Namgyal, from Kham (eastern Tibet) once told Wolfgang Bertsch the following proverb: «While the snow lion is having his breakfast, the blue turquoise dragon cannot make any sound (i.e. produce any thunder). Apart from hinting at the fact that there are no thunder storms in early morning times, this proverb illustrates the superiority of the snow lion over the dragon. The belief in the power of the snow lion as being superior to that of the dragon may have played a part when the snow lion was chosen as the symbol of Tibet and its leader on the coin issues of 1909: a few years earlier the Chinese had introduced their new coinage showing a dragon as the symbol of the imperial power in China. The Chinese must have been aware of the challenge presented by the snow lion, when in 1910 they issued a series of coins for Tibet bearing a dragon on the obverse.


In conclusion, one can say that the snow lion as it can be seen on Tibet›s modern coins can be interpreted as one of the guardians of Tibet, also symbolizing Tibet›s power (the more traditional, pre-Buddhist aspect of the lion) and as symbolizing the religious and political authority of the Dalai Lama (the more modern, Buddhist aspect of the lion)

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2018, 07:59:08 AM »
I highly appreciate your little treatise above. All over the world, symbols are used to express complete thoughts. Symbols are especially useful for coins, as coins are small, yet in everyone's hands. Here, we see he snow lion move from the purely religious - with an ability to move into Buddhism, to the political without an effort. An especially interesting aspect for me is the playfulness. Most symbols are serious. Only a few express happiness and they are usually a secondary thought, e.g. after liberty. Understanding the symbolism on coins is vital to understanding coins as well as a gateway to understanding the people who used the coins.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Gusev

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2018, 08:23:02 AM »
Thank, renau
This is a fascinating description of a snow lion story in Tibet.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.

Offline renau

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2018, 03:41:40 AM »
I must add that this is a mere compilation of information and the main source is from Wolfgang Bertsch. Sorry to dont mention before but it is just correct give the merit to those who deserve it.

warm regards
Albert

Offline Gusev

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Re: Snow Lion on the coins of Tibet.
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2018, 08:30:27 AM »
Yes, Wolfgang Bertsch has written many books and articles about Tibet coins.
I have a lot of his books and articles, including unpublished ones.
But I don’t have this study.

Igor.
"Those at the top of the mountain didn't fall there."- Marcus Washling.