Dec 8, 2009

Ritual Axe

Ritual Axe

c. 1407-1410

Part of a set. See all set records

Iron alloy with gold and silver inlay

Overall: 40.4 cm (15 7/8 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1978.9.1



Ceremonial weaponry was used in tantric rituals to combat obstacles to enlightenment, such as ignorance, delusions, and selfishness. In 1407, a high-ranking Tibetan monastic patriarch visited the emperor of the Ming dynasty, known as Yongle. The Yongle emperor presented him with a number of gifts, of which this ritual axe was probably a component, since the axe bears his identifying inscription in a cartouche. Imperial Chinese workmanship is noted in the lush rendering of the lion heads from which the blades emerge, the calligraphic serpentine forms, and the cloud motifs.

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