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Iron alloy with gold inlay
Overall: 38.5 cm (15 3/16 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 1978.9.2
Ceremonial weaponry was used in tantric rituals to combat obstacles to enlightenment, such as ignorance and uncontrolled passions. In 1407 a high-ranking Tibetan monastic patriarch visited the emperor of the Ming dynasty, known as Yongle. The Yongle emperor presented him with a number of gifts, of which the axe, mace, flaying knife, incense burner (1983.154), and the gilt bronze Virupa (1972.96) appear to have been a part, since the sculpture and the axe bear his identifying inscription in a cartouche. Imperial Chinese workmanship is noted in the lush rendering of the lion heads from which the blades emerge, the calligraphic serpentine forms, and the cloud motifs.
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