Korean Sutra Box, 13th century AD
Silver, mother-of-pearl, lacquer
48.5 (length) x 25.8 (height) x 26.5 (depth)


Dating from the Goryeo dynasty of the 13th century, the Korean Sutra Box is a finely lacquered and exquisitely decorated container, fashioned to store important Buddhist scriptures, known as sutras. Buddhism was introduced to the Korean peninsula in the 4th century AD and by the 7th century was adopted as the state religion. During the early decades of the 13th century, to reproduce and facilitate the dissemination of Buddhist and Confucian texts, cast-metal movable type was invented in Korea, at least 200 years before Johannes Gutenberg in Europe. This Sutra Box is only one of eight extant from this period. Matching the refined quality of the treasured and sacred illuminated manuscripts that it would hold, the lacquer box is intricately adorned with mother-of-pearl and silver wire to form chrysanthemum, peony, beading, and arabesque scroll motifs. The petite size and density of the motifs, particular to inlaid Korean lacquer, illustrate the sophisticated skills of Goryeo artisans. This box was probably created in the official royal production center for lacquer sutra boxes.


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