Reliquary in the Shape of a Stupa
On View: Asian Galleries, Southwest, 2nd floor
This silver container is in the shape of a burial structure known as a stupa. Stupas take very different forms in Buddhism’s many regions, but they always have a spire of multiple parasols rising from the center. Because of their funerary function, stupas (and stupa-shape containers) became emblems of the enlightened Buddhist’s passage out of the earthly realm. The pictures on the sides of this piece depict the previous lives of the historical Buddha, and an inscription in Chinese indicates that a monk and his mother commissioned the deluxe object to contain a relic from a Buddhist leader.
The inscription may be translated as:
The monk Congcheng, who expounds the Vimalakirti Sutra at the
Weiguo Monastery on Zuo Avenue, and his mother Madame Zhao
[commissioned] to be manufactured one silver reliquary stupa [in the
form] of the Stupa of the Abundant Treasures Buddha (Prabhutaratna),
with the wish that:
Those nearby may take Maitreya as their kin
Those afar may attend Him at the Dragon Flower Tree
That all sentient beings in the experiential realms
May together attain the fruit of becoming a Buddha
Recorded on the twenty-fourth day of the eighth lunar-month in the
third year of the Yongxi reign period of the Great Song dynasty (30
September 986), by Li Lingxun, maker of the stupa.
Gift of Mrs. Walter N. Rothschild and anonymous gift, by exchange
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Reliquary in the Shape of a Stupa, 986 C.E. Silver, height: 14 in. (35.6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Walter N. Rothschild and anonymous gift, by exchange
, 2012.5a-d. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2012.5_side1_PS6.jpg)
side, 2012.5_side1_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2013
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