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Gallery Six
Online Exhibition – the demons of Mongolia and Tibet

An exhibition of a little-known group of rare and unusual drawings and paintings of demons and spirits of Mongolia and Tibet.

This exhibition provides a glimpse into a medieval world where malignant spirits interfere with daily life, and influence the course of natural events. It is a world which though of the past, is still present.


Historically there was no uniform classification of demons and spirits in the original Tibetan and Mongolian texts, however they have variously been described as ‘jealous demi-gods; smell eaters; snake spirits; trouble makers and demons who terrify travellers; mountain demons; cannibal monsters; invisible carnivores; hungry demons; carrion eating vampires; spirits bearing the curse of the enemy; those who confuse the mind; and spirits hiding in dead bodies.’



It was felt that they must invariably be responsible when the harmony of the universe was disturbed. In addition, within Tibetan traditional medical practice, illness was regarded as a disturbance between the harmony of human and nature – with demons responsible for this disharmony.



Painted images of many of these demonic creatures were used in astrology and in ceremonies to appease the malignant spirits, and in conjunction with the aid of lama intermediaries, it was possible to expel them from the hearth and home.



By using images of the demons and undertaking suitable actions to appease or overcome them, it was thought their powers could be turned around to protect against the very evil they once created.



The use of these effigies of demons was officially tolerated but not encouraged as a cultural form, and thus their iconography was less codified and may vary according to the artists’ perceptions. The quality of the drawings may be naïve in character when compared with the painted icons of the lamaistic pantheon. They usually occur as simple pictures on thin paper, often showing signs of considerable use. They were not really designed to survive for a long time, having been produced for use in a specific exorcising ceremony.



Even so, many of them date from the late 19th – early 20th Century, the paper arriving from the Siberian paper factories via Russian merchants trading at the time. Lively and charming works of art, at once fascinating and at the same time a rare glimpse into a lost, hidden world.


Gallery1: Sculptures  |  Gallery2: Paintings  |  Gallery3: Objets D'art  |  Gallery4: Rugs & Textiles  |  Gallery5: Tsakli, Miniature Thangkas and Manuscript illuminations

on-line gallery opened: 09 Jun. 2003
last updated: 11 Aug. 2015
all text & images © Soo Tze Oriental Antiques
(click on the small image for full screen image with caption.)
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all text & images © Soo Tze Oriental Antiques
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