Ritual Sprinkler (Kundika)

  • Korea
  • Korea, Koryo dynasty
  • 12-13c
  • Gilt bronze inlaid with silver
  • H-37.2 D-13
Catalogue Entry

This vessel was meant to hold water for offering at a Buddhist altar. Water is poured into the vessel from the lidded mouth connected to the swell of the torso and poured out from the spout at the top.

In terms of the whole form, this pitcher has a low foot and a relatively slim torso. The spout has roughly beveled edges. In this kind of sprinkler, the projection in the middle of the neck was originally a lid. In the present work, however, the projection is no more a lid, so there is not outstanding swelling on its upper part. On the top side of this projection, metal, perhaps brass or silver, is observed. This area might have been once covered with lacquer.

Three plant leaves, executed in silver wire inlay, which remain still visible today, encircle the spout at the top. The neck is decorated with cloud designs and the shoulders and the bottom are adorned with nuyi pattern (lapet or cloud collar pattern). Swaying willows in the breeze on one side and waving pampas grass on the other add interest to this ewer. Water fowls and small boats are depicted on the surface of the water surrounding them. In the sky, wild geese fly in a row.

This style of ewer, containing willow branches, frequently appears in front of the image of Suigetsu Kannon in Koryo Buddhist paintings. A Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Yijing wrote "There are two types of bottles bottles for holy water and bottles for ordinary water" and asked "How could you separate holy water from unclean water, if you were to pour both into the same copper ewer?" Judging from these, it is likely that holy water was to be separated strictly. Sprinklers were born and developed from the necessity of separating holy water, and several types were produced in India, China, Korea, and Japan. Apparently, in those days in the Koryo dynasty, sprinklers were widely used in daily life, for serving wine or hot honey water, in some cases.