Tibetan Buddhist badge

China, 20th century

The Chinese characters on this badge are a phonetic rendering of the Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. The first syllable, Om, symbolizes the practitioner's impure body, speech and mind, in contrast to the pure and exalted body, speech and mind of a Buddha. Mani means jewel, indicating the altruistic intention to remove the difficulties standing in the way of enlightenment, in the same way that a jewel removes poverty. Padme means lotus, and symbolizes wisdom. Hum means indivisibility. Therefore the whole mantra means that by taking a path which is an indivisible union of method and wisdom, the impure body, speech and mind can be transformed into the pure body, speech and mind of a Buddha.

Buddhism was brought into Tibet from India towards the end of the eighth century AD. At this time the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen invited two Buddhist masters into his kingdom and had Buddhist texts translated into Tibetan. Tibetan Buddhism combines essential teachings of Mahayana Buddhism with Tantric and Shamanic forms, also drawing on material from an ancient Tibetan religion called Bon. The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, has lived in exile in India since he fled the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959.

Find in the collection online

More information


P. Attwood, Status symbols: identity and b (London, British Museum Press, 2004)


Height: 20.000 mm
Width: 33.000 mm

Museum number

CM 1997-1-35-4



Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore