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Five-pronged Bell


Five-pronged Bell

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Late Kamakura to Nanbokucho (14th century)
Private collection
H. 173mm
Wood box

This bell with a five-pronged handle is a type of bell, a Dharma implement used in esoteric Buddhism to rouse and delight various deities. Although the bell is standard in form and has a gentle appearance overall, the cow bone-shaped sides and the large beak shapes on the prongs as well as the thin base of the bell give an impression of antiquity that belies the era in which it was crafted. The gilding is well preserved, suggesting the bell was in the possession of a temple over a long period of time. The character “イ” is engraved on the bottom of the bell. However, the temple that it belonged to and where it was handed down is unknown.


Thanks to the solid weight and high quality of the metal used to produce it, the bell has a pure and clear sound, as if it might ring right through to the heavens. The bell almost seems to invite the viewer into a cold and isolated esoteric temple. We can say that this piece is typical of the Kongo bells produced during a high period of the Middle Ages.

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