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Old 4th August 2010, 07:20 PM   #1
Andy Stevens
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Default Interesting Phurba

Here's another one oft our more unusual pieces, bought on a whim and for a silly low price. The question is, have we got a good one? Our own web based research has yielded very little worthwhile information on these mystical weapons other than that there are a lot of repo's coming out of China/Tibet at the moment. We have seen a few of these at antique markets and they often look shiny, cheap and of recent manufacture although often with crude attempts at false ageing. The example we picture appears to be of some age and shows good detail in the casting. Does the iron rod running through the centre signify anything? The patination and verdigris appear genuine to our eye.

Length: 38cm

Weight: 900g

Thanks in advance for all info recieved. Andy and Karina
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Old 5th August 2010, 12:20 AM   #2
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Well, the patina is not that great and the bottom of the piece should be iron, not brass/bronze. The chasing is not that great to my eye either.

Not sure of this is a repo or not, but I do not have a lot of faith in it.
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Old 5th August 2010, 07:56 AM   #3
Tatyana Dianova
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Hi Andy,
Sorry to say it, but to my eye it looks like a cheap repro too...
Here is an interesting and beautiful Phurba example, which I have stumbled upon recently (it is in private museum in Ukraine):
http://www.museummilitary.com/?p=4&art=34
(The article about it is also very interesting, in Russian :-)
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Old 5th August 2010, 08:24 PM   #4
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OLD OR NOT IT IS DEFINITELY WORTH HAVING FOR A SILLY LOW PRICE.
THE ONE FROM THE MUSEUM IN THE UKRANE IS THE FANCYEST ONE I HAVE EVER SEEN. WISH I COULD READ RUSSIAN TO SEE HOW OLD IT IS AND WHAT ITS MADE OF AND ANY OTHER PROVENANCE.
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Old 5th August 2010, 08:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VANDOO
OLD OR NOT IT IS DEFINITELY WORTH HAVING FOR A SILLY LOW PRICE.
THE ONE FROM THE MUSEUM IN THE UKRANE IS THE FANCYEST ONE I HAVE EVER SEEN. WISH I COULD READ RUSSIAN TO SEE HOW OLD IT IS AND WHAT ITS MADE OF AND ANY OTHER PROVENANCE.


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Old 6th August 2010, 02:03 AM   #6
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Now that one is great and made for nobility. Most of the real phurbas are not as ornate, but have the same craftsmanship (good chasing work, good casting, etc).

The one that started this thread is not of that quality and others like it from China are not of that caliber. It is sad that they are getting more accurate in their work, but not in quality.
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Old 6th August 2010, 07:58 AM   #7
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Applause to Google - the translation is not perfect, but quite acceptable
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Old 7th August 2010, 03:36 AM   #8
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THANKS FOR THE TRANSLATION A VERY INTERESTING ARTICLE ON A VERY COOL OBJECT.
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Old 7th August 2010, 07:20 AM   #9
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The way I have understood it, these typically had triple 'blades' as they were traditionally developed from the common tent pegs in early Tibetan nomadic history. As these were enhanced into Tantric ritual objects, there was key symbolism attributed to the three numeric in the blades. According to some sources, the term phur means nail or peg, and in Central Tibet these are phur-pa; while in Khan, Amdo and Ladakh the term is phur-bu.
Since these are ritual objects used symbolically it is noted that they may be made from various materials, not restricted to iron or brass, some are also wood.

Probably one of the best sources for illustrations of the variations on these would be "The Phur-Pa : Tibetan Ritual Dagger" by John C. Huntington, Artibus Asiae supplement XXXIII, Switzerland, 1975. Though this one is tough to locate, I would use interlibrary services or collegiate libraries.

Another article could be found using these services;
"The Phur-Bu: The Use and Symbolism of the Tibetan Magic Dagger", Georgette Meredith, "History of Religions" 6:3 , Feb. 1967, pp.236-253

I thought I would add these resources for the readers who would like to research these interesting items further.

Since so many of these Tibetan items are being produced commercially, it is hard to determine authenticity without close hands on examination. I would suspect this one may be commercial, but seems to be somewhat older, though not necessarily antique.

Good topic!!!
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Old 13th August 2010, 10:50 AM   #10
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Thanks to everyone for their replies! We recently went to the British museum but they didn't have much in the way of phurba. Unfortunately I didn't get a good pic of the one they did have, next time! Anything further we find about ours we will be sure to post! Thanks again!
Andy and Karina
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Old 13th August 2010, 11:52 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Stevens
Thanks to everyone for their replies! We recently went to the British museum but they didn't have much in the way of phurba. Unfortunately I didn't get a good pic of the one they did have, next time! Anything further we find about ours we will be sure to post! Thanks again!
Andy and Karina



Hi Andy,
I just wanted to thank you for acknowledging our efforts, especially Tatyana's fascinating link, which is one I was unaware of as well.
As I mentioned, the Huntington book probably has the best grouping of these to get a better overall understanding of them, and since it is somewhat rare, the museum at the British Museum is likely to have it. Beyond that, using the interlibrary loan service is the best alternative.

Interesting things you post, and I admire your courtesy as well!!! I like your style Andy

All the best,
Jim
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Old 13th August 2010, 05:45 PM   #12
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I found this picture of one of the same blade form. 16cm long the modelling is pretty tight. From "Oriental Art of India, Nepal, Tibet, Micheal J Ridley 1970.
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Last edited by Tim Simmons : 13th August 2010 at 06:16 PM.
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Old 13th August 2010, 06:54 PM   #13
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Nice work Tim!!!!
It looks like Andy's example has the vajra and phur pa incorporated into one, as these are apparantly used in tandem in ritual. I think I will join with Vandoo and Battara in noting that this one has quality that may well be commensurate with one for actual ritual use rather than the commercial stuff out there.
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Old 13th August 2010, 09:56 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim McDougall
Nice work Tim!!!!
It looks like Andy's example has the vajra and phur pa incorporated into one, as these are apparantly used in tandem in ritual. I think I will join with Vandoo and Battara in noting that this one has quality that may well be commensurate with one for actual ritual use rather than the commercial stuff out there.

Hey Jim, i think that Barry and Josť were referring to the one if the museum, not Andy's. I'm pretty sure that Andy's is only a commercial repro. There are so many variations on commercially produced phurbas, but the vast majority of what is available out there has had absolutely no ritual use by Buddhist monks. Many of the repros are beautifully crafted, some with valuable metals and gems like the museum example, quality is not necessarily a guide to authenticity. Keep in mind that these items would be passed down and kept within the practice. They are considered VERY powerful ritual tools. So the availability of real authentic phurpas that have seen real ritual use is next to nil.
Phurpas have traditionally been made out of wood as well as metal. When metal the blades are generally iron or in special cases, meterorite, which it was felt was necessary to employ against certain demons that were immune to earthly materials.
Here are some images of some "real" and some possibly "real" phurpas. The one with the hammer is supposedly 17th century.
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Old 13th August 2010, 11:37 PM   #15
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David, thank you so much for the gently worded and well explained correction I had misunderstood which one they were referring to. I regret for Andy that that appears to be the case, but if nothing else, this is definitely an intriguing item.
I was fascinated by these long before I saw the one in "The Shadow" back in the 90s, and really hoped to find one myself back in those days.

Thanks again David, and Andy, still a nice item, even if not officially a ritual piece.

All the best,
Jim
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Old 14th August 2010, 03:53 AM   #16
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Notice that in David's posting the quality of the metal work - the chasing and casting not found in the original piece in question.

Also the phurba was to pin the demon to the ground and thus be worked with and dispatched. Originally in the Bon religion, it along with Bon got incorporated into Tibetan Buddhist rituals.
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Old 14th August 2010, 05:21 AM   #17
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It is worth noting that (authentic) phurbas can still be found at fair prices in antique stores in India - especially in Janpath in Delhi, where a lot of items from Tibet, Nepal, and elsewhere may be found... IMO the plethora of reproductions has driven down interest and demand, and as a result legitimate antique copies are quite affordable (haggling in Hindi doesn't hurt either ). I'll post a pic of one or two of ours tomorrow...

One last thing I would add: while fine detail may help determine the authenticity of a ritual object, I do not believe the lack of detail is necessarily a sufficient condition to determine a piece is not authentic. I have seen plenty of pooja room statues and castings that are not of the finest quality, as people buy what they can afford.

It is also worth noting that time can and often will take its toll on detail on many older pieces that are not as well cared for as they could be...
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Old 14th August 2010, 06:30 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by laEspadaAncha
It is worth noting that (authentic) phurbas can still be found at fair prices in antique stores in India - especially in Janpath in Delhi, where a lot of items from Tibet, Nepal, and elsewhere may be found... IMO the plethora of reproductions has driven down interest and demand, and as a result legitimate antique copies are quite affordable (haggling in Hindi doesn't hurt either ). I'll post a pic of one or two of ours tomorrow...

One last thing I would add: while fine detail may help determine the authenticity of a ritual object, I do not believe the lack of detail is necessarily a sufficient condition to determine a piece is not authentic. I have seen plenty of pooja room statues and castings that are not of the finest quality, as people buy what they can afford.

It is also worth noting that time can and often will take its toll on detail on many older pieces that are not as well cared for as they could be...

I agree. I think that you can see in the examples i posted that fine detail is not what many of them are about, though a particular intent and presence is obvious.
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Old 14th August 2010, 06:21 PM   #19
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I will say that some authentic pieces have been used over the centuries and thus lots of wear obscures detail and in some cases erases it altogether.
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