Important Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) sutra container from a San Francisco dealer who has been in business for over 40 years.
This sutra container came to us as part of a group which belonged to the Avery Brundage Collection. There is a remnant of an old Brundage collector’s seal on the outside rim of the container as seen in the photographs.
This cylindrical design sutra would have had, at one point, a gilt copper roof, as evidenced by the beveled lip inside the rim on which the roof would be supported. Its shape also reveals that it would have been used to store sacred ceremonial scrolls. Most of these sutras were buried underground, below the compounds of a Buddhist temple.
The hand-carved sandstone sutra container is all from a solid stone that is hollowed out. It has a pronounced lip, which is in low relief of the Arabesque scrolling lotus motifs. The body of the container depicts a stylized forest in reference to the Eastern Tsin Dynasty (AD 317-420).
The depiction of Buddha on one side of the container represents the past, showing him in a worldly attire, seated upon a lion motif throne with earthly canopy overhead and flanked by pair of Bodhisattva at his sides with protective mudra. The bodhisattva stand on lotuses separate from the central Buddha. When the sutra is turned, there are depictions of a forest grove in the form of highly stylized gingko trees, wutong trees, bodhi trees, cochal flowers, and wild field grass, representing the journey of Buddha through the forests with the Sun and the moon to show the passage of time.
The opposite side of the sutra depicts the future Buddha in meditative mudra position, seated upon a Tang style throne, with heavenly fringed and flaming finial canopy, accompanied by two flying half bird/half human deities of an Islamic influence. The central Buddha’s feet rest upon a large heavenly lotus, connecting to a pair of outer lotuses supporting the pair of Bodhisattvas at his sides in protective mudra.
Related references :
Tokyo National Museum, Ancient Sutra Mounds of Kyushu / Heiseikan Thematic Exhibition Room
Beyond Representation, Chinese Painting and Calligraphy 8th-14th Century, by W. C. Wong, “In the Palace” pg. 34 -41, “Neo-Confucianism” pg. 74, published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art Yale University Press 1992
China 5000 Years- Innovation and Tranformaiton of the Arts, by Sherman Lee, “Stele with Sakyamuni and Attendants” pg. 150, and pg. 151, 152, 163, 165, published by the Gugenheim Museum 1998
The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology, pg. 452, 453, 455, 457, 477, published by National Gallery of Art, Washington, the Neil Atkinson Museum of Art, Kansas City Yale 1999
Treasures of Asian Art, by Denise Patry Leidy, “Tang and Liao Dynasty Metalwork” pg. 148, 149, 151, published by The Asian Society Galleries, Abbeville Press London 1994
Dimensions: 10" W x 15" H