Ritual Buddhist Bottle Vase and Cover, 7th-8th century. Bronze, 8 3/16 x 4 1/4 in. (20.8 x 10.8 cm) (vase without cover). Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton 98.218.1a,b ©2014 Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2400 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55404
Made for Buddhist rituals, this finely finished, elegantly proportioned, lidded bottle vase and basin can be associated with the bodhisattva Guanyin (Avalokitesvara). Called an ambrosia vase, it is the type carried by Kuan-yin and is said to carry the elixir that comforts mortals who are seeking salvation.
Although the specific use of these utensils in Tang Buddhist rites is uncertain, the vase is inscribed with the characters ching cheng hao(« pure, righteous, and good ») and the single character, feng, meaning to « bestow » or « seal up. » These words suggest that these vessels might have once been sealed up as part of an offering in a dedicatory vault beneath a temple pagoda.