Maitreya Canopy & Dhvaja Banners

Above the Maitreya Trinity in the Hundred Dragons Hall, you will see the elegant Maitreya Canopy with a golden dragon circling above the Maitreya statue. In front of this canopy, on the ceiling, hung the Dhvaja banners.


Maitreya Canopy in BTRTM

This specially designed gilt wooden canopy shades Buddha Maitreya. Following traditional Tang Dynasty designs, motifs and colours, you will find inside the parasol, a majestic swirling Tang dragon, both interesting and inspiring.
At the inner edge, you will see the names of the sponsors.
The canopy depicts a single profile twirling chinese-styled fiercesome dragon with a long serpentine scaly body and four limbs almost filling its entire space. Each of its dark-coloured limbs sports a five-clawed feet. Its front right feet grasps a pearl with a spiral pattern while its remaining three feet claw through the space. Flames emanate from its body while it turns and flies back towards its tail. With whiskers, eyebrows and antlers, it gazes intently at the viewer, opening its mouth which reveals a long red tongue and fangs.
Its head is outlined in dark colours while its upper body is golden-green and its belly warm-golden. It has sharp pointed golden vertebral scales along the top of its back with every fourth scale a longer piece. Eight groups of thick clouds are scattered around the majestic dragon while other dense clouds fill the four corners of the rectangular space.
All of the above take place against a lush golden background.


Dhvaja Banners

At the canopy’s front left and right hung two golden parasols. Both parasols are identical, with a long cuboid shaft which has a square base as its body and an inverted umbrella shaped canopy. Long strings of trinkets suspend from the four corners of the canopy. Nine sets of intricate floral-themed ornaments with small bells and precious stones (below) are found on each string, ending with a larger bell at the bottom



On each four sides of the main shaft body is found the long name mantra of Buddha Maitreya (Traditional Chinese: 南無當來下生彌勒尊佛), written vertically in Li Shu (隶书). Below the mantra is a mezzo-rilievo (mid-relief) depiction of a chinese-styled scaled three-clawed dragon flying majestically amongst blue and green cloud scrolls and red flames (above). Unlike the mantra, which were all identically depicted, each dragon on the four sides display different postures.



At the bottom of the main body is a narrower cylindrical tail consisting of long thin basso-rilievo (low relief) ornate panels (above).
A multi-coloured circular lotus flower motif serves as the bottom base of the whole structure, which is visible only when viewed from below (above).

About Canopy

A baldachin (Pali: vitana; Chinese: 天蓋 ; Japanese: tengai 天蓋, sangai 傘蓋, hougai 宝蓋, kagai 華蓋, kengai 懸蓋) is a canopy made of painted or gilded metal or wood; and hung above Buddhist altars and/or over Buddhist statues, said to be derived from parasols used by Indian nobility.
Those placed over abbots' seats are called (Japanese: raiban 礼盤 or jintengai 人天蓋).
Originally, the canopies were made of silk and were intended to resemble a long-handled Indian umbrella (Japanese: kinugasa 絹笠). The canopies were square, circular, hexagonal, octagonal or circular shapes. Many canopies were decorated with arabesque flower patterns (Japanese: housouge 宝相華) in openwork (Japanese: sukashibori 透彫) or relief carving (Japanese: *ukibori 浮彫), dragons, cloud patterns, lotus flowers, eight heavenly beings scattering flowers and incense, offerings and playing music (Flying asparas, Japanese: hiten 飛天) were common.
Often ornamental objects such as the jeweled net (Japanese: ramou 羅網) were hung from the canopy. Trinkets (Japanese: youraku 瓔珞) and/or streamers were hung along the bottom edges. 


About Precious Parasol

The 'Jewelled/Precious Parasol' (Sanskrit: chhatraratna; Devanagari: छत्ररत्न; Tibetan: རིནཆེན་གདུགས, Wylie: rin chen gdugs;) is an auspicious symbol in the Dharmic traditions, similar in ritual function to the baldachin or canopy. In Vajrayana Buddhism, the umbrella or parasol is included in the 'Eight Auspicious Signs' or Ashtamangala.
Müller-Ebeling, Rätsch & Shahi (2002) scholarly chart the origins of the Sacred Parasol as a symbolic depiction of sacred medicinal and hallucinogenic mushrooms of the Himalayan pharmacopeia; representing the protection of beings from harmful forces, illness; represents the canopy or firmament of the sky and therefore the expansiveness and unfolding of space and the element æther; represents the expansiveness, unfolding and protective quality of the sahasrara; under the auspice of the precious parasol all take refuge in the Dharma.
In traditional Buddhist iconography, Tibetan medicine thangkas and Ayurvedic diagrams, the chhatra is uniformly represented as the Sahasrara. In Buddhism, this symbol of material wealth and power symbolizes spiritual power.
The Umbrella or parasol embodies notions of wealth or royalty, for one had to be rich enough to possess such an item, and further, to have someone carry it. It points to the "royal ease" and power experienced in the Buddhist life of detachment. It also symbolises the wholesome activities of keeping beings from harm (sun) like illness, harmful forces, obstacles and so forth, and the enjoyment of the results under its cool shade.
The tradition existing in China is that it originated in standards and banners waving in the air, hence the use of the umbrella was often linked to high ranking (though not necessarily royalty in China).

About Dhvaja Banner

Dhvaja or Victory Banner (Sanskrit: Dhwaja; Tibetan: རྒྱལ་མཚན, Wylie: rgyal mtshan; Japanese: bandou 幡幢, dou 幢, houdou 宝幢, tendou 天幢 ), meaning banner or flag. The basic concept behind banners or flags with symbols is to provide a means of identification and their use as royal emblem is universal. Dhvaja banner was a military standard of ancient Indian warfare. This is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols (Ashtamangala).
In Buddhism, the dhvaja is usually embroidered with the Sutra or Buddha’s name and hung or placed in front of the Buddha’s image. This decoration is to show that the Buddha is leading the people to discipline the Mara, liberate from sins, and achieve eternal happiness. The dhvaja symbolises the victory of the Buddha's Teachings over death, ignorance, disharmony and all the negativities of this world.


In ancient China, the guard of honour used to carry dhvaja during their ceremonial procession. It is like an umbrella made of silk fixed on top of a long post for carriage. After Buddhism entered China, the Buddhist translators wrote the sutras on the long cylindrical silk umbrellas and called it sutra dhvaja.
Normally, the Sutra dhvaja is cylindrical shape, with the pearls fixed on top of the dhvaja to symbolize the mani (felicitous pearl), below is a circular cover (sometimes in hexagonal or octagonal shape), and the yellow silk strips hanged below. The cylindrical dhvaja made of yellow brocade is called Golden Dhvaja, Chinese Dhvaja or Precious Dhvaja.
In order to keep the sutra dhvaja for longer periods, Buddhist translators started to craft the sutra on stone and called it stone dhvaja, and later also called sutra dhvaja. In China, the stone dhvaja started during the Six dynasties, and the crafting of Dharani sutra started during the Tang dynasty.
Within the Tibetan tradition, a list of eleven different forms of the victory banner is given to represent eleven specific methods for overcoming defilements. Many variations of the dhvaja's design can be seen on the roofs of Tibetan monasteries to symbolize the Buddha's victory over four maras.

About Ashtamangala

Ashtamangala (Sanskrit: ashta, "eight"; mangala, "auspicious"; Tibetan: བཀྲ་ཤིས་རྟགས་བརྒྱད Zhaxi Daggyai །, Wylie: bkra-shis rtags-brgyad, ZYPY: Zhaxi Dag'gyä; Chinese: 吉祥八宝, 扎西达杰,) are a sacred suite of Eight Auspicious Signs endemic to a number of Dharmic Traditions such as Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The symbols or "symbolic attributes" (Tibetan: ཕྱག་མཚན།, Wylie: phyag-mtshan) are yidam and teaching tools. Not only do these attributes, these energetic signatures, point to qualities of enlightened mindstream, but they are the investiture that ornaments these enlightened "qualities" (Sanskrit: guna; Tibetan: ཡོན་ཏན, Wylie: yon tan). Many cultural enumerations and variations of the Ashtamangala are extant.
Groupings of eight auspicious symbols were originally used in India at ceremonies such as an investiture or coronation of a king. An early grouping of symbols included: throne, swastika, handprint, hooked knot, vase of jewels, water libation flask, pair of fishes and a lidded bowl. In Buddhism, these eight symbols of good fortune represent the offerings made by the gods to Shakyamuni Buddha immediately after He gained Enlightenment.
The sequential order for the eight auspicious signs in Chinese Buddhism was defined in the Qing Dynasty as:
1. Wheel of Dharma
2. Conch shell
3. Victory Banner
4. Parasol

5. Lotus flower
6. Treasure Vase
7. Golden Fish pair
8. Endless knot


Development of BTRTM Maitreya Canopy and Dhvaja Banners

The initial design was from a similar one at Golden Pagoda Buddhist temple:


This was exquisitely hand crafted and gilded, from cypress wood by highly skilled carvers from China Chin Ting Enterprise Co Ltd, Fuzhou, China.



Installation and securing the Parasol was a challenge due to the size and height involved. A special scaffold was erected to facilitate the installation.



These 2 specially designed gilt wooden Dhvaja Banners announces the arrival of the Maitreya Buddha. Following traditional Tang Dynasty designs, motifs and colours, you will find the banner with the names of previous Buddhas. They were all exquisitely hand crafted and gilded, from cypress wood by highly skilled carvers from China Chin Ting Enterprise Co Ltd, Fuzhou, China.


The initial design was somewhat similar to one at Golden Pagoda Buddhist temple:


In keeping with Tang Dynasty and BTRTM, colourful dragons were added.



Each share of the sponsorship of the Maitreya canopy was $1,000 with 500 shares fully adopted.
Each share of the sponsorship of Dhvaja Banners was $500, with 500 shares fully adopted.


Bibliography:


1. Meher McArthur, Reading Buddhist Art, An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs and Symbols, Thames & Hudson, 2002, ISBN 0-500-28428-8, page 118 – 119
2. William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 2000, ISBN 81-208-0319-1, pages
3. Loden Sherap Dagyab Rinpoche, Buddhist Symbols in Tibetan Culture, 1995, Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-047-9 pages 19 - 20, 27 – 29
4. Chhaya Haesner, Banners from Turfan, The Department of Fine Arts & The University Museum and Art Gallery, In the Footsteps of the Buddha, An Iconic Journey from India to China, The University of Hong Kong, 1998, ISBN 962-8038-23-0, pages 93 – 108
5. Robert Beer, The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs, Boston: Shambhala, 1999, pp. 171-183.


Website:

Baldachin – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Chhatraratna – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Umbrella – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dhvaja – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Buddhist Symbols
Eight Auspicious Signs (Eight Treasures of Buddhism, Ashtamangala)
http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/deta/t/tengai.htm
http://www.aisf.or.jp/~jaanus/deta/d/dou2.htm
天蓋 – 佛門網 Buddhistdoor – 佛學辭彙 – Buddhist Glossary
dhvaja – 佛門網 Buddhistdoor – 佛學辭彙 – Buddhist Glossary

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