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A gilt bronze square box with two doors that open to an image of a seated man surrounded by other people.

The gilt bronze box is square in shape and is shown to face forward. There are two doors on the left and right side of the box and are wide open. There is a small handle standing up on the top of the box. Each door has an image of a standing person in swirling robes. These two people are bent backwards and looking outward from the center and down. Inside of the box is a small, round object. Above the object is an image of a man sitting cross-legged on a pedestal in robes. He has his right hand raised. He is encircled by eight smaller people in robes. There are circles around every person’s head and round clouds framing them at the top and bottom.

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
Persistent Link


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.)


Recorded Ownership History
[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 and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 46, p. 45
  • James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 68-69
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Exhibition History

  • S425: East Asian Buddhist Sculpture, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008
  • Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 06/01/2013
  • 32Q: 1610 Buddhist Art I, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 06/01/2024; Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights

Related Works

Verification Level

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