Bell with a Stupa
Esoteric Buddhism refers to a doctrine of “secret teachings” found in certain Buddhist schools, typically featuring mystical concepts and rituals. When performing these rituals, Esoteric Buddhist monks place distinctive metal tools in a specific arrangement on the altar in front of them. While a wide variety of ritual tools are used, they can be broadly divided into two categories. One includes vessels for holding offerings, such as liquids, flowers, or incense. The other includes symbolic objects, such as bells. This symbolic bell adorned the altar and was also sometimes rung during rituals. Its piercing sound may have been used to summon Buddhist deities or to awaken dormant faith in the listeners’ hearts.
The ends of some of the bells’ handles are shaped into stupas, like this one. This bell is made of cast bronze that was then gilded. The upper part of the stupa is removable, and its interior is hollow, perhaps once holding a Buddhist relic. The rim of the bell bears an inscription referencing the year 1306. Its thick, solid workmanship reflects the aesthetics of the early 14th century.