Maṇḍalas: Buddhist Maṇḍalas
MAṆḌALAS: BUDDHIST MAṆḌALAS
In general terms, the Sanskrit word maṇḍala (Tib., dkyil 'khor ) refers to something that is round or circular. Maṇḍala also designates a region, terrestrial division, domain, assembly, or group. In Tantric traditions, the term maṇḍala often refers to a space with a specific structure that is enclosed and delimited by a circumferential line into which a deity or deities are invited by means of mantras. This space is often a circle, but may also appear as a square, a triangle, or another shape.
The center of a maṇḍala contains an image or symbol of the main deity, the maṇḍaleśa or maṇḍala lord, for which the maṇḍala is named. The maṇḍaleśa is identified with the whole maṇḍala, and the surrounding deities are the maṇḍaleśa 's aspects. The number of residents of a maṇḍala (e.g., buddhas, bodhisattvas, deities, consorts, offering goddesses, and gatekeepers) differs according to specific schools, giving rise to many varieties of maṇḍalas, which are difficult to classify. A simple maṇḍala has only one maṇḍaleśa with four surrounding deities situated in the four cardinal directions. This simple structure can be expanded by adding four more divine beings in the intermediate directions. Thus, the divinities surrounding the maṇḍaleśa usually number eight or multiples of eight. Greater complexity of the basic structure is achieved by increasing the number of divinities surrounding the center, by varying their spatial relationship to the center, and by grouping them around the center in circles of increasing distance.
Maṇḍalas can be classified structurally as unicyclic, with only one inner circle; bi-cyclic, with a second circle; tricyclic; and quadricyclic. The circles within some tricyclic maṇḍalas are called the body maṇḍala, the speech maṇḍala, and the mind maṇḍala, according to the way in which the deities are represented. Generally, the deities can be represented in one of three ways. They may appear as images with iconographic characteristics, in symbolic form, or as seed syllables (bīja ), which are mantras of deities and are thus considered identical to them. The symbols are often identical with the attributes held by the images. In the body maṇḍala, the deities are represented as anthropomorphic images with iconographic attributes; in the speech maṇḍala, they are represented by their seed syllables; and in the mind maṇḍala, they are represented by their symbols.
Composite maṇḍalas consist of several individual maṇḍalas, each with a central deity. While the simplest maṇḍala houses one to five deities, more complex maṇḍalas may accommodate several hundred or more than one thousand deities. The maṇḍala structure can function as an important device for representing the pantheon of deities in a system or school, as well as the hierarchy of deities within the system. The hierarchical status of the maṇḍala inhabitants declines as one moves away from the center, and those in the outermost ring generally function only as guardians. The element of distance from the maṇḍala's center assumed importance when it came to including Brahmanic and Hindu deities, who were regularly assigned to the periphery of the maṇḍala.
There is no single uniform maṇḍala pattern. Maṇḍalas display various shapes and consist of different constituent parts, depending on the traditions of different schools, the ritual application, the deity worshiped, and the practitioner's qualifications and goals. It must be emphasized, however, that the maṇḍala is not merely a physical structure with a specific design. It is the place in which the practitioner beholds the deities who have been invoked into the maṇḍala and so have become an integral part of the structure.
One basic structural element of maṇḍalas (and yantras ) is the lotus design. The lotus is a South Asian symbol of creation, purity, transcendence, and the sphere of the absolute, but it is especially known as a symbol of the female reproductive organ. In maṇḍalas of lotus design, the central deity is positioned in the pericarp, with the emanations or subordinate deities in the petals. A lotus design may feature one or more concentric rings of petals. Four-petaled and eight-petaled lotus designs are the most common. The petals of an eight-petaled lotus ideally point in the cardinal and intermediate directions and are thus well suited for positioning deities in their respective directions. Eight-petaled lotus designs are commonly found in the center of Buddhist (and also Hindu and Jain) maṇḍalas, such as in some versions of the maṇḍala of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. The free-standing lotus maṇḍalas, which were manufactured in India from brass and later in Tibet from other metals, also feature an eight-petaled lotus with a statue of a tathāgata in the center and small statues of surrounding deities on the lotus petals. A pattern of nine lotuses arranged in groups of three placed one above the other appears in several important maṇḍalas, including versions of the Buddhist vajradhātumaṇḍala ; this pattern also appears in Hindu Tantric maṇḍalas, such as versions of the Pāñcarātra navapadmamaṇḍala and the Śaiva navanābhamaṇḍala.
Maṇḍalas of the goddess Vajravārāhī (Vajrayoginī) include a hexagram consisting of two superimposed equilateral triangles, one pointing upwards and the other downwards. The triangles, which are also found in Hindu maṇḍalas and yantras, symbolize the union of the female and male principles. The hexagram is a widespread symbol and has been used for decorative purposes or as a magical sign in many cultures. It is also known as Magen David, the Shield of David, or as the Seal of Solomon.
Maṇḍalas have been used in different ways in various traditions. Indian Buddhist Tantric texts attest to their use in rituals, most importantly in Tantric consecration or empowerment (abhiṣeka ) rites, which form part of a ritual initiation by a Tantric teacher. The number of empowerments received by the disciple differs according to the type of initiation. In the garland empowerment, a blindfolded initiate casts a flower on the maṇḍala in front of him. The initiate's buddha family is then determined from the place in the maṇḍala where the flower has fallen. A similar ritual is also known in Hindu Tantric traditions. Maṇḍalas for such temporary use in a specific ritual are prepared from various materials, including colored powders. After they have fulfilled their purposes, the maṇḍalas are ritually obliterated. The actual size of maṇḍalas differs according to the practitioner's means and goals. At times they are large enough for the practitioner to enter and move along pathways in them. Maṇḍalas are also visualized as part of Tantric sādhana s (described below).
MaṆḌalas in Indian Buddhist Texts
Descriptions of maṇḍalas for visualization appear in Indian sādhana texts in such collections as the Sādhanamālā. Some of these texts may date back to the ninth century ce or earlier. The term sādhana refers both to the methods employed by Tantric practitioners for the worship of a particular deity and the texts written to guide practitioners, often called yogins, in worship. As part of a sādhana, the practitioner may mentally create a maṇḍala of a deity in the following manner. After completing certain preliminary rites, the practitioner visualizes in succession: (1) an outer enclosure of ritual thunderbolt scepters (vajra ); (2) a pavilion made of thunderbolt scepters; (3) a floor of adamantine stones; and (4) an outer boundary. Next the practitioner visualizes a white downward-pointing triangle inside the pavilion; this is the symbol of the female generative principle, called the "origin of existents" (dharmodayā ), which is said to consist of space. Such an inverted triangle is also common in Hindu maṇḍalas and yantras, where it is a symbol of the female pubic triangle, sex organ, and womb. In the center of the triangle the practitioner visualizes a lotus with multicolored petals, and in its pericarp a five-pronged crossed thunderbolt scepter (viśvavajra ) having the form of space. The spheres of the four great elements (wind, fire, water, earth), arising through the transformation of specific seed syllables, are configured atop one another in the center of the crossed thunderbolt scepter. Generated from the transformation of the four elements, the practitioner then visualizes a square palace, made from various jewels, with four gates, eight columns (two at each gate), four verandas, and four arches. The palace is decorated with garlands, half-garlands, mirrors, fly-whisks, various banners, bells, and other ornaments. In its innermost part the practitioner visualizes an eight-petaled lotus within whose pericarp the deity is enthroned.
Other patterns for maṇḍala visualization do not feature the origin of existents but call for the palace to be situated in the pavilion made of thunderbolt scepters and to rest on the five-pronged thunderbolt scepter, which is inside the pericarp of a huge lotus with multicolored petals. The lotus in turn rests on Mount Sumeru, which is surrounded by the oceans, continents, and subcontinents.
Structural elements of maṇḍalas appear more clearly in complex three-dimensional maṇḍalas made of such materials as wood, metal, or even precious stones. Three-dimensional maṇḍalas are already mentioned in the Dharmamaṇḍalasūtra by Buddhaguhya, a text composed in the eighth century and extant only in its Tibetan translation. This work deals with various aspects of the maṇḍala and its symbolism. The Niṣpannayogāvalī and Vajrāvalī, two complementary works by Abhayākaragupta that were written around 1100, are important documents for the study of late Indian Tantric maṇḍalas. Both texts describe in great detail twenty-six maṇḍalas from various Tantric traditions, including a version of the kālacakramaṇḍala. The Niṣpannayogāvalī focuses on the three-dimensional forms of these maṇḍalas for visualization (bhāvyamaṇḍala ) and describes in detail the iconography of deities. The Vajrāvalī explains the construction and ritual use of two-dimensional maṇḍalas, which are to be drawn or painted (lekhyamaṇḍala ) on the ground. In visualized maṇḍalas, the deities are mentally seen with their distinct iconographic characteristics, whereas in drawn maṇḍalas they are usually only represented by corresponding symbols (cihna, samaya ). The elaborate ritual descriptions in the Vajrāvalī begin with the selection and purification of the site and the drawing of the lines of the maṇḍala, and include important details of the consecration rituals.
MaṆḌalas in the Tibetan and NevĀr Buddhist Traditions
Permanent maṇḍalas painted on cloth are known as paṭa (Skt.), thaṅka (Tib.), and paubhāḥ or paubāhāḥ (Nevārī). Such maṇḍalas on cloth are commonly found in the Tibetan and Nevār Buddhist traditions as objects of general worship, and must have been popular in India as well since simpler versions, which assign anthropomorphic images of deities in the directions and have been called proto-maṇḍalas, are described in the Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa (eighth to eleventh century). Important painted maṇḍala collections of the later Tibetan tradition include the Ṅor collection, a set of 132 maṇḍalas produced at Ṅor Monastery, the headquarters of the Tibetan Sa skya (Sakya) pa Ṅor sect. The collection forms part of a voluminous work, the Rgyud sde kun btus (Compendium of Tantras), which is based on earlier maṇḍala texts and encompasses all Tibetan Tantric traditions, with an emphasis on the Sa skya sect. The text was compiled and the maṇḍala paintings were produced in Eastern Tibet during the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Maṇḍalas are also painted on the walls and ceilings of temples in the Tibetan and Nevār Buddhist traditions, a practice that continues today. The painting of maṇḍalas became part of the Bon tradition of Tibet, which is still active as an organized religion and has absorbed considerable Buddhist influence. In addition to the painting of maṇḍalas, a tradition of manufacturing and installing stone maṇḍalas of Dharmadhātuvāgīśvara, a form of Mañjuśrī, for the purposes of worship started around the seventeenth century among Nevār Buddhists. Many such stone maṇḍalas can be found in the Kathmandu Valley.
A two-dimensional painted or drawn maṇḍala represents a three-dimensional maṇḍala structure from a bird's-eye view. The outer parts of Tibetan painted maṇḍalas are often made up of several concentric rings. The outermost rim consists of a circle of fire, with the flames represented by a line of scrollwork. This flame barrier is usually depicted in five colors: blue, red, green, white, and yellow. Contiguous to the circle of fire is a dark, impenetrable wall of thunderbolt scepters. Some texts identify it with the ring mountain of Buddhist cosmology, the world's most exterior boundary. Such a circle of thunderbolt scepters can appear in different positions on a maṇḍala. Its general function is that of a separator between the outer rings of the maṇḍala.
In some cases, especially in maṇḍalas of wrathful deities, a circle containing eight cremation grounds (śmaśāna ) follows. They are represented as places of religious practice, with four in the cardinal and four in the intermediate directions. The cremation grounds are modeled on a detailed iconographic plan. Each site has been assigned a specific mountain, relic shrine (stupa), river, tree, and ascetic who practices there. An ocean appears between each of the cremation grounds. In some maṇḍalas the circle of cremation grounds is found in the outermost part of the maṇḍala, outside the circle of fire. The cremation grounds encircle a ring of multicolored lotus petals. These are the petals of the huge lotus, which is conceived of as supporting the entire maṇḍala structure. Inside these enclosures is a park-like courtyard, often filled with water or cloud motifs, or displaying symbols of victory and auspiciousness.
A square palace appears in the center of the maṇḍala. Each of the four sides of the palace is interrupted by a T-shaped gate guarded by a gatekeeper. The palace rests on a foundation consisting of a crossed thunderbolt scepter, whose prongs project beyond the T-shaped gates. The palace has an inner courtyard of four basic colors that represent the four directions, usually white (east), yellow (south), red (west), and green (north). The center of the palace, usually marked off by another circle, contains the throne of the deity, which takes such shapes as that of a lotus flower or a wheel. These structural parts of the maṇḍala may be adorned elaborately in various ways.
A comparison between the structural elements of some extant painted maṇḍalas in the Tibetan tradition and those of the visualized maṇḍalas described in Indian sādhana texts shows many similarities. The fire circle of the painted maṇḍala corresponds to the outer boundary, which is visualized as surrounding the whole maṇḍala structure on all sides like a fire. According to some sādhana texts this circle is visualized in five colors, as in the Tibetan maṇḍala paintings. The circle of ritual thunderbolt scepters corresponds to the outer enclosure of thunderbolt scepters, which is identified with the ring mountain in cosmology. The huge crossed thunderbolt scepter of painted maṇḍalas, upon which the maṇḍala palace stands, corresponds to the crossed thunderbolt scepter (viśvavajra ) visualized as resting on the lotus inside the origin of existents. The multicolored lotus petals in the painted maṇḍalas are the petals of this lotus.
While the basic structure of the maṇḍala suggests that it was originally intended to portray the central deity as a king on a throne surrounded by his court inside a palace, various theological and philosophical concepts and schemes became associated with the maṇḍala structure when the maṇḍala symbolism evolved to more intricate and complex levels in the course of time. Such elements as the four gates of the maṇḍala were identified with categories of the Buddhist path. Iconographic characteristics of the maṇḍala deities were interpreted as expressing Buddhist truths. This development naturally led to various interpretations of the maṇḍala structure. The interpretations are extremely varied so that even a single text may provide more than one interpretation of the structural elements of a maṇḍala.
In The Theory and Practice of the Maṇḍala, Giuseppe Tucci called the maṇḍala "a map of the cosmos" and a "psychocosmogram" (Tucci, 1961, p. 23). These terms have been taken over by many later authors, who speak about the maṇḍala as a "cosmogram." This can be misleading, since we do not find representations of the continents in deity maṇḍalas, although cosmological notions often became associated with them. The "world" depicted in a deity maṇḍala is mostly a divine, transcendent world, distinguishable from the universe offered up in another kind of maṇḍala, the offering maṇḍala.
The offering maṇḍala or Mount Meru maṇḍala, which is widely known in the Tibetan tradition, is the symbolic offering of the spheres of the universe to a deity or preceptor. This maṇḍala represents the component parts of the universe according to ancient Indian cosmology: Mount Meru, the four continents, the eight subcontinents, the sun and moon, and the symbols of wealth and auspiciousness. The offering is made in containers of various shapes and materials. The most commonly used container consists of a round plate topped by hollow concentric metal rings of decreasing diameter and held in position by the grain offering that is placed inside. A decoration, which may include the wheel of the law, is placed on the top of the maṇḍala. Handfuls of grain, signifying the components of the universe, are generally heaped into the concentric rings. In this way the donor makes an offering of the universe in miniature. A similar scheme is also represented by free-standing brass, silver, beaded, or wooden structures, which are often placed on altars. Similar to the Tibetan offering maṇḍala is the gurumaṇḍala, which figures prominently in rituals of Nevār Buddhists. It is an ancient ritual offering of Mount Meru and the continents to the gurū, identified with the transcendental Buddha Vajrasattva.
MaṆḌalas in Japanese Shingon Buddhism
Maṇḍalas also play an important role in the Shingon and Tendai esoteric schools of Japanese Buddhism. Kūkai (774–835 ce), who received a Buddhist Tantric transmission of Indian origin from his teacher Hui-ko (746–805) in China, is credited with bringing to Japan copies of a pair of maṇḍalas. The paired maṇḍalas assumed a prominent role in the ritual of the Shingon school that Kūkai subsequently founded, which aims at integrating the individual with the Buddha. The two maṇḍalas are said to represent the two aspects of the dharma, the knower and the known, which are viewed as two aspects of the same reality. One is the so-called Womb or Matrix Maṇḍala (Skt., garbhamaṇḍala or [mahākaruṇā ]-garbhodbhavamaṇḍala ; Jpn., taizō mandara or daihi taizō shō mandara ), meaning "maṇḍala generated from the womb of Great Compassion." The other maṇḍala is the Thunderbolt Realm Maṇḍala (Jpn., kongōkai mandara ), which is one of several known versions of a vajradhātumaṇḍala. The Womb Maṇḍala features in its center the familiar pattern of an eight-petaled lotus with Mahāvairocana occupying the throne. The Thunderbolt Realm Maṇḍala can best be categorized as a composite maṇḍala, an aggregate of originally nine individual maṇḍalas arranged horizontally and vertically in rows of three. When viewed collectively, these individual maṇḍalas are referred to as the "assemblies." Structurally, the Thunderbolt Realm Maṇḍala can be compared to the above-mentioned nine-lotus maṇḍalas. In addition to these two fundamental maṇḍalas, other maṇḍalas are also known in these esoteric Japanese traditions.
Speculations on the Origins of the MaṆḌala
The origins of the Buddhist Tantric maṇḍala are not yet clearly understood. Several scholars have suggested that all Tantric maṇḍalas are rooted in Vedic traditions. The layout of Vedic altars is taken as indicative of an early interest in geometric designs endowed with cosmological symbolism. The method of determining the lines of the compass for the construction of sacrificial altars, the consecration of bricks on the surface of a cayana altar by means of mantras and the locating of deities on the bricks are essential features of Vedic rituals, and aspects of these rituals recur in the practice of constructing maṇḍalas and invoking deities into their parts. The sacred space of maṇḍalas and yantras can be seen as a continuation of the Vedic sacrificial site, and the square enclosure of many Tantric maṇḍalas can be seen as an analogue of the sacred fire altar. But the similarities between the two traditions are limited, since the patterns displayed by Tantric maṇḍalas are distinctly different, as are the details of the rites and the mantras and deities invoked. Influences from other traditions must also have played an important role in the development of the maṇḍala.
Ronald M. Davidson pointed out similarities between Buddhist maṇḍala structures and structural elements of political systems. He suggested a derivation of the form and functions of Buddhist maṇḍalas from the political situation in early medieval India, with the maṇḍala replicating the feudal system of vassals (sāmanta ) and the relationship between overlords and peripheral states. This derivation, however, can only account for selected maṇḍala patterns. Earlier, Stanley J. Tambiah had interpreted maṇḍalas as patterns for social organization.
Some scholars have considered the Wheel of Existence (bhavacakra ) as an antecedent of the Buddhist Tantric maṇḍala. The Wheel of Existence, whose earliest representation is a fifth-century painting found on the wall of cave 17 in Ajaṇṭā, is a graphic and pictorial didactic device for explaining Buddhist teachings, namely the endless cycle of birth and death. It differs considerably from a maṇḍala in its nature and function, since it is not concerned with deities and their emanations in the way maṇḍalas are. The kasiṇa disks used as concentration devices in early Buddhism and recommended, for example, in Buddhaghosa's Visuddhimagga, have also been invoked as antecedents of maṇḍalas. However, these are plain disks and, unlike maṇḍalas, do not represent sacred space. Others have pointed to the symbolism and architectural form of stupas as contributing factors to the development of the Tantric maṇḍala. In contrast, Siegbert Hummel assumed that maṇḍalas originated outside India, probably in Tibet or China. Tucci believed that the symbolism of the maṇḍala was derived from the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia. These were towers built of mud brick with a square foundation and five (later seven) terraces, outside staircases, and a shrine at the summit.
Maṇḍala -like patterns are also found on Chinese mirrors, which led Schuyler Cammann to postulate the derivation of the Tibetan maṇḍala paintings from the Han dynasty's "TLV" mirrors. Cammann studied TLV patterns—three sets of angles, resembling the letters T, L, and V —on the backsides of Chinese mirrors used between 100 bce and 100 ce. TLV patterns seem to represent the universe, but the symbolism of the mirror designs is still a matter of debate. The Chinese mirrors depict the square earth—that is, the Middle Kingdom, or China—at the center of the world with four T-shaped gates. In Tibetan maṇḍalas the T-shaped gates are also visible, but they are crowned with elaborate structures. Squares with T-shaped gates (called earth squares ) are common elements of Hindu yantras as well. In the Chinese mirrors, the outer circle is thought to represent the sky, as indicated by a continuous string of clouds or "drifting cloud" design. In the Tibetan maṇḍala, however, the scrollwork on the outer ring represents fire.
Giuseppe Tucci's The Theory and Practice of the Maṇḍala, with Special Reference to the Modern Psychology of the Subconscious, translated by A. H. Brodrick (London, 1961), remains a readable general source on maṇḍalas. This is a translation of Tucci's original Italian work, Teoria e pratica del maṇḍala, con particolare riguardo alla moderna psicologia de profondo (Rome, 1949). However, Tucci's book, which was influenced by Jung's theory of archetypes, has become somewhat dated and suffers from generalizations and at times a confusing mix of Hindu and Buddhist materials. Also dated, but still a mine of information culled from Indo-Tibetan sources, is Reginald A. Ray's "Maṇḍala Symbolism in Tantric Buddhism," an unpublished doctoral dissertation submitted to the Divinity School of the University of Chicago in 1973. Detailed descriptions of thirty-seven major maṇḍalas in Indian Tantric Buddhist texts can be found in Marie-Thérèse de Mallmann, Introduction à l'iconographie du tântrisme bouddhique (Paris, 1986), pp. 39–82. Buddhaguhya's Dharma-maṇḍalasūtra was translated by Erberto Lo Bue as "The Dharmamaṇḍala-Sūtra," in Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae Dicata, edited by G. Gnoli and L. Lanciotti (Rome, 1987), vol. 2, pp. 787–818. See also Siegbert Hummel, Der Ursprung des tibetischen Maṇḍalas, Ethnos 23 (1958): 158-171; and S. J. Tambiah, World Conqueror and World Renouncer (London, 1976).
For an interpretation of the Buddhist maṇḍala as replicating the Indian medieval feudal system, see Ronald M. Davidson, Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement (New York, 2002), pp. 131–144. A comprehensive treatment of the Tibetan maṇḍala can be found in Martin Brauen, The Mandala: Sacred Circle in Tibetan Buddhism, translated by Martin Willson (Boston, 1998). The book is a translation of the original German work, Das Mandala: Der heilige Kreis im tantrischen Buddhismus (Cologne, Germany, 1992).
Photographs of Tibetan maṇḍalas from different periods and traditions are reproduced in many exhibition catalogues, including Denise P. Leidy and Robert A. F. Thurman, Mandala: The Architecture of Enlightenment (New York, 1997). For the Tibetan Ṅor maṇḍalas, see The Ngor Mandalas of Tibet, vol. 1: Plates, edited by bSod nams rgya mtsho and Musashi Tachikawa (Tokyo, 1989), and vol. 2: Listings of the Mandala Deities, by bSod nams rgya mtsho, revised by Tachikawa, S. Onoda, K. Noguchi, and K. Tanaka (Tokyo, 1991).
For a comprehensive treatment of the two main maṇḍalas of the Japanese Shingon and Tendai schools, see Adrian Snodgrass, The Matrix and Diamond World Mandalas in Shingon Buddhism (New Delhi, 1988), and Michael Saso, Homa Rites and Maṇḍala Meditation in Tendai Buddhism (New Delhi, 1991). Nepalese stone maṇḍalas are described in Adalbert Gail, "Stone Maṇḍalas in Nepal," East and West 50 (2000): 309–358. For the Tibetan offering or Mount Meru maṇḍalas, see Stephan Beyer, The Cult of Tārā: Magic and Ritual in Tibet (Berkeley, 1973), pp. 167–170, and Alex Wayman, The Buddhist Tantras: Light on Indo-Tibetan Esotericism (London, 1995), pp. 101–106. For the gurumaṇḍala of the Nevār Buddhists, see David N. Gellner, "Ritualized Devotion, Altruism, and Meditation: The Offering of the Guru Maṇḍala in Newar Buddhism," Indo-Iranian Journal 34 (1991): 161–197.
For research on maṇḍala and landscape the reader may consult the essays in A. W. Macdonald, ed., Maṇḍala and Landscape (New Delhi, 1997). Buddhist yantras in Southeast Asia have been described in François Bizot, "Notes sur les yantra bouddhiques d'indochine," in Tantric and Taoist Studies in Honour of R. A. Stein, edited by Michel Strickmann (Brussels, 1981), vol. 1, pp. 155–191; see also François Bizot and Oskar von Hinüber, La guirlande de joyaux (Paris, 1994). For a discussion of the designs of Chinese mirrors and a comparison with Tibetan maṇḍala designs, see the following two articles by Schuyler Cammann: "The 'TLV' Pattern on Cosmic Mirrors of the Han Dynasty," in Journal of the American Oriental Society 68 (1948): 159–167; and "Suggested Origin of the Tibetan Mandala Paintings," in The Art Quarterly 13 (1950): 106–119.
Gudrun BÜhnemann (2005)