Qing Dynasty, Qianlong 4-character mark and of the period
Vajra Length: 17.8cm; Bell Height: 22cm
The gilt-bronze vajra has two handles that stem from a central knop, eachfour-pronged terminal issues from the head of a stylised Makara and rests on a double headed base set on a lotus pedestal. A Qianlong four-character inscription ‘Qianlong nian zao’ is engraved on the central knop.
The bronze inverted bell, also known as a ghanta, is cast in two sections, much like its Xuande period prototype. The gilt bronze vajra handle is constructed like the thunderbolt with a four-pronged terminal issuing from the mouth of the stylised Makara, all above a crowned Vairocana head. The bell section is cast with lança characters set within lappets above a border of vajra designs and a band of dharma wheels, all divided by beaded borders. A four-character inscribed ‘Qianlong nian zao’ is cast on the ungilded stem of the bell.
The vajra, also known as a diamond sceptre or thunderbolt, is a masculine symbol and is believed to hold both the power of the thunderbolt and the virtues of a diamond, which can cut through any substance and remain undamaged. Paired with a bell, the female symbol, it is used together in Buddhist rites to dispel evil spirits and symbolizes a unity of compassion and wisdom.
A smaller example of a vajra is found in Monarchy and its Buddhist Way: Tibetan – Buddhist Ritual Implements in the National Palace Museum p. 80 Catalogue No. 11 (1999) – but without Qianlong mark.
A similar example bell with the same 4-character Qianlong mark can be found in the Taipei National Palace Museum, published in Monarchy and its Buddhist Way: Tibetan – Buddhist Ritual Implements in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1999, p. 80, Catalogue No. 11.
A jade pair of vajra and bell of identical shape and mark can be found published in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Jadeware (III), Hong Kong, 1995, p. 135, Catalogue No. 112