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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
Buddhist Triad: Amitabha Buddha Seated on a Lotus Throne with His Hands Held in the 'Bhŭmisparsa-mudrâ' and Flanked by Two Standing Bodhisattvas, Presumably Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta
Other Titles
Alternate Title: Amitabha, Manjusri, Samantabhadra
Work Type
sculpture, figurine
mid-15th century
Creation Place: East Asia, Korea
Chosŏn dynasty, 1392-1910
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1610, Buddhist Sculpture, Buddhism and Early East Asian Buddhist Art
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Gilt silver
H. 10.8 x W. 10.2 x D. 6.8 cm (4 1/4 x 4 x 2 11/16 in.)
Ralph C. Marcove, M.D., New York (by December 22, 1997), gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1997.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Ralph C. Marcove, M.D.
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Hongnam Kim, The Story of a Painting: A Korean Buddhist Treasure from the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, exh. cat., Asia Society Museum (New York, NY, 1991), no. 30, fig. 3, pp. 2, 3, 48

James Cuno, ed., A Decade of Collecting: Recent Acquisitions by the Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, Mass., Spring 2000), p. 9

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 58

Francesca Herndon-Consagra, Reflections of the Buddha, exh. cat., Pulitzer Arts Foundation (St. Louis, MO, 2011-2012), p. 35 (color plate); p. 45, no. 23

Exhibition History

S425a: Chinese Gilt Bronze Sculpture, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008

A Decade of Collecting: Asian Acquisitions 1990-1999, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 03/11/2000 - 11/05/2000

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 06/01/2013

Reflections of the Buddha, Pulitzer Arts Foundation, St. Louis, 09/09/2011 - 03/10/2012

Cultivating Virtue: Botanical Motifs and Symbols in East Asian Art, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/12/2012 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 1610 Buddhist Art I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

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