The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

The Structure and Function of Mandala

Joint Research Coordinator TACHIKAWA Musashi

Reserch Theme List


Mandala are supplementary aids for use in rites and practice (meditation) in esoteric Buddhism (Tantrism). They first appeared in India during the fourth or fifth centuries and achieved full development by around the seventh century, before being transmitted to Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, China, Japan and elsewhere. It is believed that originally mandala (meaning “circle”) were, like bon, trays used for offerings made to Buddhas on altars, but that over time among other uses they came to function as miniaturized worlds, meta-models for the human body, or diagrams of personal space for practitioners, as they have continued to be until today. This research aims to explain the history, structures and functions of mandala, as well as the special characteristics of Buddhist diagrammatic representations of Buddhas as they appear in the mandala in ways that are easy-to-understand for the general population.
We would like to make the results public in a special exhibition entitled “Mandala—Buddha’s images in Tibet, Nepal,” which we hope to hold in the spring of 2003.