Five-pronged Vajra Bell


Period Heian period, 9th century
Materials and techniques Gilt bronze
Size H.22.0


There are several types of vajra bells which are collectively called kongorei. Illustrated is a gokorei, a vajra bell with five prongs. Other types include tokkorei (single-pronged bell), sankorei (three-pronged bell), kyukorei (nine-pronged bell), hojurei (sacred jewel bell) and torei (pagoda bell). They were ritual objects of Esoteric Buddhism used in various ceremonies to surprise and delight the deities with their beautiful tones.
The illustrated bell, of gilt bronze, has a clapper of 5.4cm, however the metal right for hanging it is missing. The bell is archaic in shape with swelling shoulders, narrowing hips and a splayed out base, and is bare of decoration aside from the three bands, each consisting of three lines. The handle is decorated around the center with four large, very unusual kimoku, 2.6cm in diameter, which are cast as oblong frames with six-petaled flowers placed inside. Above and below the kimoku are eight-petaled lotus flowers bound by two bands. At the top are five prongs, one in the center and four surrounding it. The central prong, octagonal with sides chamfered in the sajimen style, has a very sharp tip. The four surrounding prongs, placed a little lower than the central one, arc in a sharp curve and have pointed tips.
The bell, displaying an archaic style, is important as a rare example of a ritual object from the early period of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism.

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