The Dorothy Methvin McClatchey Collection


Charm Box

Tibet Autonomous Region, China
20th Century

Charm boxes or gau are important items worn by Buddhists living in Tibet. These items contain written prayers, small images or other special amuletic items that are designed to protect the wearer from evil spirits. Tibetan women commonly wear large neck pendants adorned with symbolically significant materials such as turquoise and coral. This piece consists of a hinged silver box with a mosaic of turquoise and cut glass forming geometric and floral patterns. The stones are set in bevels with red sealing wax, a traditional technique for setting stones in Tibet. The symmetrical, geometric form of the upper lid and the accompanying mosaic work resemble the mandalas frequently represented in Buddhist art, particularly thangka paintings. Mandalas are cosmograms which symbolize the universe and the sacred spaces occupied by deities, including a main deity in the center and protector deities in the four directions.