Cloisonne stupa with gilt ornaments

A cloisonne stupa with hollow, uncovered, tiered base; rising from the swelling body of the stupa is a tall spire consisting of thirteen rings telescoping in size from large to small in an upward direction, and surmounted by a gilt, gourd-shaped ornamen. A gilt metal staircase leads to the the main body of the stupa that houses within an empty, lotus-decorated enamel throne within a small opening. A gilt bat frames the top of the opening and gilt lion-head ornaments appear at the sides of the stupa. A lotus scroll pattern interspersed with the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism decorates the surface. The background color of the cloisonne is turquoise with many other colors used in the design; some cells have two or more colors.

Maker(s)
Artist: Imperial workshop
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, Qianlong reign, mid- to late 18th century
Medium
Metal, enamel, gilt in the cloisonne technique
Dimensions
H x W x D: 66.6 x 24.8 x 28.1 cm (26 1/4 x 9 3/4 x 11 1/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1991.6
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 22: Encountering the Buddha
Classification(s)
Ceremonial Object, Cloisonne
Type

Stupa

Keywords
bat, Buddhism, China, lotus, Qianlong reign (1736 - 1796), Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), stupa, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Description

A cloisonne stupa with hollow, uncovered, tiered base; rising from the swelling body of the stupa is a tall spire consisting of thirteen rings telescoping in size from large to small in an upward direction, and surmounted by a gilt, gourd-shaped ornamen. A gilt metal staircase leads to the the main body of the stupa that houses within an empty, lotus-decorated enamel throne within a small opening. A gilt bat frames the top of the opening and gilt lion-head ornaments appear at the sides of the stupa. A lotus scroll pattern interspersed with the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism decorates the surface. The background color of the cloisonne is turquoise with many other colors used in the design; some cells have two or more colors.

Label

This cloisonné stupa was made during the reign of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1735-96), who was a follower of Tibetan Buddhism. Its unusual elaborateness, including the multi-tiered base and stairs that recall imperial architecture, suggest this was commissioned at the Qing court. It is hollow and was originally probably filled with prayer slips, and would have been created as an altar furnishing or offering to a Lamist Buddhist temple. The spire has thirteen rings that represent parasols--symbols of honor--and also allude to the stages along the path to Enlightenment. The stupa is decorated with the Eight Auspicious Buddhist Symbols and lotus scrolls. Some imagery incorporates popular Chinese lore, such as the gilt bat that appears above the aperture, inside of which a small throne represents the presence of the Buddha. In China, bats are a symbol of good fortune, but here it is rendered with "feathery" wings to simultaneously recall the Buddhist guardian figure of a garuda, a bird-like creature.

Published References
  • Milo Cleveland Beach. The Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 24, no. 5 Hong Kong, May 1993. p. 70.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 148-149.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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