The Qianlong Emperor as Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom
- Thangka (unmounted)
- Artist: Imperial workshop, Emperor's face painted by Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining) (1688-1766)
- Historical period(s)
- Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign, mid-18th century
- Ink, color, and gold on silk
- H x W (image): 113.6 x 64.3 cm (44 3/4 x 25 5/16 in)
- Credit Line
- Purchase —Charles Lang Freer Endowment and funds provided by an anonymous donor
- Freer Gallery of Art
- Accession Number
- This unusual portrait reflects upon the political strategy of the Qianlong emperor (reigned 173696) as well as his personal religious beliefs. Moreover, it is testimony to the multicultural nature of his court and empire. The emperor has had himself portrayed in the center of a thangka, a traditional Tibetan-style religious painting, but he called upon the Italian artist Giuseppe Castiglione, who was a Jesuit missionary serving at the Chinese court, to paint his face. By having himself depicted as the enlightened being Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, the Qianlong emperor positioned himself squarely in the Tibetan Buddhist hierarchy. The landscape surrounding him is filled with auspicious clouds and a representation of the five-peaked, Wutaishan sacred mountain in China.
The inscription on the painting proclaims Manjusri to be the ruler of the Buddhist faith. By assuming Manjusri's identity, the Qianlong emperor indirectly laid claim to that role for himself. This was politically significant because relations between the Qianlong court and the Mongol and Tibetan residents of the empire were couched in Buddhist, rather than Confucian, cultural rhetoric. The Qianlong emperor ordered thangkas, with himself as the central deity, displayed in the Tibetan Buddhist chapels that he erected in Peking (modern-day Beijing). One thangka that he sent to the Seventh Dalai Lama is currently displayed in the Potala, the Dalai Lama's residence in Lhasa, Tibet.
Private collection, Europe 
Anthony Carter, London, to 2000
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Anthony Carter, through Christopher B. Bruckner (Asian Art Gallery), London, in 2000 
 A letter (see copy in the object file) written by the London solicitors Rochman Landau states that they have seen a written statement that this object was in a previous owner's private European family collection for a period in excess of thirty years (according to Curatorial Note 4 in the object record).
 According to Curatorial Note 4 in the object record.
- Former owner
- Anthony Carter
- On View Location
- Currently not on view
- Buddhism, China, dharmachakra, dragon, emperor, lotus, Manjushri, monk, nirvana, portrait, Qianlong reign (1736 - 1796), Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), tomb
- Collection(s) Area
- Chinese Art
- Web Resource(s)
- Google Cultural Institute
- Rights Statement
- Copyright with museum