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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Seal with mantra in vartu script

Ming dynasty (1368–1644), probably Yongle period (1403–24)
Ivory and iron inlaid with gold
H. 2 in. (5.1 cm); W. 1 1/8 in. (2.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Florence and Herbert Irving Gift,1993
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 219
Vartu is one of the scripts developed in India for writing religious texts. It was also used in Tibet. The invocation on this Chinese seal reads a ra pa ca na. It is dedicated to one the forms of the bodhisattva Manjushri (Wenshu), who symbolizes wisdom.
Inscription: Six-character mantra engraved on base in Vartu, which is an ancient Indian script adapted from cursive Sanskrit by Tibetan monks for ritual use from the 11th century onwards. The transcription of the mantra reas "aa-ra-pa-tza-na-dhi" which is a mantra of Manjusri, the Buddha of wisdom. An inlaid turquoise bead marks the orientation of the seal inscription.
[ J. J. Lally & Co. , New York, until 1993; sold 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.

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