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Gallery Text

These minute grains are known as shari; they are among the most important objects placed inside the sculpture. Shari are relics of the body of the historical Buddha Śākyamuni, whose mortal remains multiplied after his death so they could be distributed to followers. In medieval Japan, concern over the growing length of time separating followers from the Buddha’s life on this earth in faraway India contributed to intense interest in Buddha relics, especially among nuns, to whom many relics miraculously appeared. To have custody of even one or two such grains was remarkable. The accumulation of so many grains speaks to the high status of those who commissioned the sculpture that contained them, and raises the question of whether the sculpture was in fact a reliquary.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Relic grains (shari)
Ritual Implements
Work Type
ritual implement
Kamakura period, datable to circa 1292
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Kamakura period, 1185-1333
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Glass and quartz
0.3 x 0.3 x 0.3 cm (1/8 x 1/8 x 1/8 in.)
[Yamanaka Shoji Co., Ltd, Awata Kyoto (1936)], sold; to Ellery Sedgwick, Beverly, MA, (1936-1960), passed; to his wife, Marjorie Russell, Beverly, MA (1960-1971), inherited; by Ellery Sedgwick, Jr., Gates Mills, Ohio, (1971-1991), inherited; by Walter Sedgwick, Woodside, CA, (1991-2019), partial and promised gift; to the Harvard Art Museums.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Partial and promised gift of Walter C. Sedgwick in memory of Ellery Sedgwick Sr. and Ellery Sedgwick Jr.
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

John M. Rosenfield, The Sedgwick Statue of the Infant Shotoku Taishi, Archives of Asian Art (1968-1969), Vol. XXII / pp. 56-79, not pictured (Item S.7 / p. 74)

Exhibition History

Prince Shōtoku: The Secrets Within, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/25/2019 - 08/11/2019

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