Finial for a Buddhist staff (khatvanga)


Used in Tibetan Buddhism, which was practiced at the Chinese court throughout the fifteenth century, this finial would have capped a long staff used in rituals to quell demons that are symbolic of obstacles that must be overcome to reach enlightenment. Depicted on this implement are an overflowing vase—an Indic symbol of abundance—and three heads—one human, one decaying, and one skeletal—representing the inevitability of change and death.

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 219

Public Domain

Object Details

Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Date: early 15th century

Culture: China

Medium: Ivory

Dimensions: H. 3 1/2 in. (8.9 cm); W. 1 5/16 (3.3 cm); D. 1 1/16 in. (2.7 cm)

Classification: Ivories

Credit Line: Gift of Florence and Herbert Irving, 2015

Accession Number: 2015.500.6.13


For Audio Guide tours and information, visit
Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies
[ John Eskenazi Ltd. , London, until 1995; sold to Irving]; Florence and Herbert Irving , New York (1995–2015; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Defining Yongle, Imperial Art in Early Fifteenth-Century China," April 1, 2005–July 10, 2005.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Extravagant Display: Chinese Art in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries," December 14, 2010–May 1, 2011.

Asian Art (36,215)
Bone (7,306)
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