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Sonam Gyatso (Third Dalai Lama)

16 th-17 th centuries

Copper, gilding H 14.5

The sculpture of the Third Dalai Lama, one of the prominent historical figures of Medieval Tibet, is a rare example of portrait sculpture in Tibetan art. Soon after his birth Sonam Gyatso was announced as an incarnation of the abbot (died in 1542) of the monastery of Braibun, the largest monastery in Tibet. Gradually he became an outstanding religious figure in Tibet. The title ‘Dalai Lama', probably associated with his name ‘sea of virtue' (‘gyatso', Tib., and ‘Dalai', Mong., both mean ‘sea'), was granted to him by Mongol Prince Altan-Khan, who was impressed by Sonam Gyatso's sermons and announced himself and his subjects as followers of the Buddhism. Later, all the subsequent and two previous incarnations were called Dalai Lamas, thus Sonam Gyatso is regarded as the third Dalai Lama.

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