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Deities and Devotion in Mongolian Buddhist Art

Octagonal Box with Buddhist Symbols and Mantra
18th-19th century
Burlwood, bronze, turquoise, lapis lazuli, coral
35.6 x 34.9 x 8.9 cm.

Gift of David Kamansky and Gerald Wheaton, 2014.23.316

This box may have been made for presentation to a high-ranking Mongolian Buddhist lama. The interior of the box is divided into small trays that could have contained offerings of nuts, candied fruits, hard cheeses and other tasty foods. The exterior sides of the box are decorated with eight auspicious Buddhist symbols: a conch shell, a parasol, a treasure vase, a dharma wheel, a victory banner, a lotus blossom, a pair of fish and an endless knot. The top of the box is decorated with a stylized lotus blossom and a mantra, or sacred incantation, written in Tibetan lantsa script. The materials and decoration of this box resemble those found on a pair of Mongolian covered jars in the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan art that were used in annual prosperity rituals. It is possible that this box, too, could have been used in prosperity rituals.

Reference: Lipton, Barbara. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collections of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. 183-184.