Extraordinary 19th century Chinese mala - Buddhist rosary - consisting of 108 Chinese carved prayer beads and 4 slightly larger ones stained red dividing the prayer beads into groups of 27 each. Every single bead is carved and ink etched with a figure of lohan (one of the original Buddha disciples) accompanied by one of the following: a Zodiac animal, one of the Eight Buddhist Emblems, an Emblem of the Eight Immortals, one of the Eight Treasures, or some other auspicious symbol or plant. Each bead has unique decoration - none of 108 are the same. Traditionally Buddhist rosary of 108 even-sized beads is used for mantra recitation. The thread represents the continuity of the boddhadharma piercing the 108 worldly passions. The mantras are recited to accomplish the four karmas or enlightened activities of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing, and destroying. On completion of a full cycle of 108 mantras recitations, the mala is turned around and the next mantra cycle is counted in reversed order along the beads. The mala appears to be restrung recently, but the beads themselves are old, with wonderful warm patina from handling. Length when stretched (without the tassel) is 29 inches, total length 58 inches, prayer beads diameter is 13.5 mm. Very unusual object in perfect condition, great for scholar’s desk or a practicing Buddhist.