The Buddha and the Sacred Site

Miniature Stupa with Illustrations of Jataka Tales

  • 18
  • China
  • Five Dynasties period, 955
  • Bronze
  • H. 5 3/16 x W. 3 3/16 x D. 3 1/8 in. (13.2 x 8.1 x 7.9 cm)
  • Harvard Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Nasli M. Heeramaneck, 1930.105

Qian Chu, the last ruler of the tenth-century Wuyue kingdom in south-eastern China, is said to have followed the example of the Indian emperor Ashoka, who ordered the construction of 84,000 stupas. The legendary set of 84,000 "Ashoka stupas" commissioned by Qian Chu are recorded as having been made of bronze and associated with miraculous events. This miniature stupa reliquary is thought to be one of them and to have come from the Pagoda of the Ten Thousand Buddhas in Jinhua, Zhejiang Province. The stupa is molded with scenes from jataka tales (tales of the past lives of the Buddha) featuring King Sibi offering his flesh; King Chandraprabha sacrificing his head; King Sudhira offering his eyes; and Prince Mahasattva sacrificing his body to the tigress and her cubs.

PHOTO CREDIT: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College

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