Vajra Water Knife
- Date: ca. 15th century
- Culture: Tibet
- Medium: Iron damascened with gold and silver
- Dimensions: H. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm); W. 2 7/8 in. (7.3 cm)
- Classification: Metalwork
- Credit Line: Lent by Anthony d’Offay
- Rights and Reproduction: Photograph © Rossi & Rossi
A wavelike steel blade emitting from a makara (sea monster) and a wave-form hilt earned this blade the title Vajra Water Knife (Tibetan: dorjey chutri).
The makara has an elephant’s trunk and tusks, which are bizarrely paired with the jaws of a crocodile and the flowing mane of a lioness. The traditional Indian makara of antiquity has an aquatic tail, which here, filtered through the Tibetan imagination, has become a great foaming wave.
A variant of the traditional flaying knife (Tibetan: triguk), this blade is a masterpiece of gold and silver workmanship. The contrasting metals damascened into the iron surface create a ritual utensil of threatening beauty.
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Wall of Sutras, Stupas, and the Oldest Printed Book in the World
A Sutra is a type of literary composition in Buddhism. Sutras are outlined according to Five-fold Profound Meanings: Explaining the Name, Describing the Substance, Clarifying the Principle, Discussing the Function, and Determining the Teaching Mark. The Five-fold Meanings are called “five-fold” because they unfold, layer after layer. The golden scroll, pictured above, is the frontpiece of the earliest dated printed book, the Diamond Sutra, dated 868 AD.
The Wall of Sutras is an ongoing project of carving Buddhist sutras into rocks, and stacking them into a wall. This is a custom that started in Tibet a long time ago. Making copies of any Buddhist text or mantra, or Buddha’s speech, is said to be a very virtuous act that creates merit and also blessings. Carving into stone has a special quality of being stable, lasting, and deep. The Sutras are all carved into the rocks by hand, then stacked one by one into the wall, which is located right next to the 108 Stupas.
Stupas are mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of worship.
Tibetan art carved into human skull.