Prayer Wheel and Xylographic Folio Page


Not on view

In a remarkably novel and possibly unique combination of the arts of war and peace, a jade archer's ring and a cigarette holder were repurposed to create this Tibetan prayer wheel. Prayer wheels of various sizes, including small handheld prayer wheels (ma ṇi lag skor) such as this one, have been used in Tibet for centuries. When in use a prayer wheel is spun or rotated clockwise to release the prayers or other auspicious writings that are placed within the drum, in this case a page from a biography of Milarepa (mi la ras pa, 1052–1135), a revered Tibetan saint. Tibetan noblemen frequently wore an archer's ring on their right thumb, not only for archery but also as a form of jewelry. The fact that this prayer wheel has been made from an archer's ring and a cigarette holder suggests that it was assembled by or for an individual to symbolize the renouncing of his secular trappings and vices.

The drum of the prayer wheel consists of a jade archer's ring that has been fitted with a band around its circumference and end caps at the top and bottom. These fittings are made of a copper alloy, decorated with filigree, and set with turquoise and glass stones, converting the ring into a closed drum that is mounted on a thin iron rod that serves as the central axle. The shaped tube that covers the axle is made of green glass and appears to be adapted from a cigarette holder. A small ring on the band encircling the drum would have held a short chain ending in a counterweight, which facilitated the spinning motion of the drum. A xylographic folio page, formerly folded up inside the drum, is in the usual format and technique of a traditional Tibetan loose-leaf book, or dpe cha.

Prayer Wheel and Xylographic Folio Page, Jade, copper alloy, turquoise, glass, paper, Tibetan

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.

Hand-held Prayer Wheel, overall