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Between and Mortarboard


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Query builder

Temple bell with handle of a pair of addorsed lions and a dragon

Accession Number
2002/2.237A-C

Title
Temple bell with handle of a pair of addorsed lions and a dragon

Artist(s)
Burmese

Object Creation Date
1907

Medium & Support
bronze with traces of polychrome

Dimensions
43 x 24 x 14 in. (109.22 x 60.96 x 35.56 cm);19 in. (48.26 cm);10 1/2 in. (26.67 cm);x 12 x 12 in. x 30.48 x 30.48 cm

Credit Line
Gift of Timothy L. Dickinson and Anja Lehmann

Label copy
March 28 2009
While the history of percussive bells in the cultures of Asia dates back thousands of years, they became particularly important in Burma, where every large temple has dozens of them in all sizes, most of which are donations from the pious. These bells do not have metal clappers and are rung by striking with a wooden stick. An account of Burmese life in the late nineteenth century has a chapter devoted to bells. It relates that
The bells are not intended to summon worshippers to their devotions…The use of bells is to direct attention to the fact of the lauds of the Buddha having been recited. The worshipper, when he has finished, goes to one of the bells and strikes it three times, to bring to the notice of the guardian spirits and the four worlds what he has been doing. There are always a number of deer’s antlers and billets of wood lying near the bell for this purpose.
-From Shway Yoe, The Burman: His Life and Notions, 1896
According to the inscription on this bell, dated June 4, 1907, it was donated to a village monastery by a family who, “keeping nibbana (nirvana) as the ultimate goal,” wanted to accumulate “good merit in this life and subsequent rebirths.” The acquisition of merit is the most common impetus behind donations to monasteries and temples in all Buddhist countries because it is a simple way for a layperson to assure a better life for him- or herself and his or her family in their next incarnation.
(Label for UMMA Buddhist Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject matter
While the history of percussive bells in the cultures of Asia dates back thousands of years, they became particularly important in Burma where every large temple has dozens of them in all sizes, most of which are donations from the pious.
According to the inscription on this bell, dated June 4th of 1907, it was donated to a village monastery by a family, who, “keeping nibbana (nirvana) as the ultimate goal,” wanted to accumulate “good merit in this life and subsequent rebirths.” The acquisition of merit is the most common impetus behind donations to monasteries and temples in all Buddhist countries as it is a simple way for a layperson to assure a better life for him- or herself and their family in their next incarnation.

Physical Description
Bronze temple bell with traces of polychrome, text, and lowermost handle in shape of a pair of addorsed lions. A decorated post threads through the space created by the back-to-back lions, on which an additional handle decorated with addorsed dragons is thread. The open space created between the dragons' connecting tails is where part of a frame would pass through, suspending the bell above the ground. This type of bell does not have a metal clapper, and is rung by striking with a wooden stick.

Primary Object Classification
Metalwork

Primary Object Type
bell

Additional Object Classification(s)
Ritual Object

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
bells (idiophones)
bronze (metal)
dragons
temples (buildings)

& Author Notes

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