Portable Buddhist Shrine With Two Removable Standing Bodhisattvas, A Lotus Base For A Seated Buddha Image (Now Missing), A Repoussé Panel Depicting The Buddha Amitabha (Amit'abul), And Repoussé Panels On The Doors Representing Guardian Figures
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Buddhist proselytizers from northern China and Central Asia first entered the Korean peninsula in the final decades of the fourth century. In the centuries that followed, Korean Buddhists developed their own traditions of ritual practice and systems of philosophical thought, but they were also in constant dialogue with their monastic counterparts in China, exchanging both texts and images. Icons were frequently presented as gifts among the rulers, merchants, and monks of China, Korea, and Japan, which led to a high degree of stylistic cross-pollination across the three cultures. Private, portable icons like these gilt bronze images—which, though crafted in Korea, share many visual traits with similar objects from China and Japan—provided an ideal medium for intercultural artistic and religious exchange. Such images are likely to have been worshipped on small altars in domestic settings. The portable shrine displayed here, from the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910), helps us to imagine the original display contexts for the images that surround it. A mobile, self-contained setting for icon worship, it differs little in form, material, or concept from the portable shrines that devotees first brought from India to Central Asia and China centuries before.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Portable Buddhist Shrine with Two Removable Standing Bodhisattvas, a Lotus Base for a Seated Buddha Image (now missing), a Repoussé Panel Depicting the Buddha Amitabha (Amit'abul), and Repoussé Panels on the Doors Representing Guardian Figures
Work Type
14th century
Creation Place: East Asia, Korea
Koryŏ dynasty, 918-1392
Level 1, Room 1610, Buddhist Sculpture, Buddhism and Early East Asian Buddhist Art
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Physical Descriptions
Gilt bronze with incised and repoussé decoration
H. 30.0 x W. 34.5 x D. 11.2 cm (11 13/16 x 13 9/16 x 4 7/16 in.)
[Yamanaka & Co., New York, 12/7/1934] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (1934-1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

W. Chie Ishibashi, "East Asian Buddhist Bronzes: A Comparative Analytical Study and a Preliminary Report" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, August 1977), Unpublished, passim

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), no. 46, p. 45

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 68-69

Exhibition History

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 11/23/2008

32Q: 1610 Buddhist Art I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/01/2014

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu