Important Cultural PropertyFive-Pronged Vajra Bell with the Four Great Wisdom Kings

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  • 金銅五鈷明王鈴
  • 1 piece
  • Cast bronze and gilding
  • H 17.6, D(rim) 6.1
  • Tang dynasty, China/8th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 731(工146)

 This is a kind of Buddhist handbell appearing Buddhist images on the body such as Four Guardian Kings or Wisdom Kings, etc. Just like this article, bells with images of Wisdom Kings are called Myoo bell. Buddhist handbells are thought to have first been made in the Tang dynasty in China and precedents can be seen in the period between the Tang and the Sung dynasty. This article represents four Wisdom Kings, Gundari (Skt. Kuṇḍali), Gozanze (Skt. Trailokyavijaya), Kongo Yasha (Skt. Vajrayakṣa) and Dai-Itoku (Skt. Yamāntaka) by thickly casting method on the side body of the bell, and the bell itself is portrayed as Fudo Myoo (Skt. Acala). Its iconography is different from the ones mentioned in the Buddhist iconographical publication “Besson Zakki” as ‘brought by Chisho Daishi (Enchin)’ and there would be objections about the specification of the name of deities. Between the images of deities are filled up by small-circle patterns (nanakoji) and incised flower patterns. The shoulder lines are gently curved and gradually narrow toward the base. The bottom edge is shaped with eight-lobed flower petals. The eight demon-eye motifs are at the middle bulge of the handle, and various cords and lotus petals patterns decorate the upper and the lower part of the handle. Moreover, this handle part is so decorative that the center blade of the five-pronged Vajra is shaped an octagon and a knot at middle part, and the side blades with the sharp reverse pickles (sakashi) represents strongly rage-style by the base part emitted from a mouth of a dragon. As there are small holes in the area between the center blade and two side blades, it is very interesting that there is a connection between this article and the other ritual articles of esoteric Buddhism stored in Buddha’s ashes mentioned in the list of those brought back from the dynasty of China by priests, etc.