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Nanhee Lee. Angels and Peonies: A Goryeo Dynasty Incense Box with Mother-of-pearl Inlay

The use of incense in ritual and ceremony was widespread in Korea’s Goryeo dynasty (918–1392), as attested by the numerous incense containers and other implements produced. Of these, cases and boxes in mother-of-pearl are particularly noteworthy. The use of mother-of-pearl reached a high level of sophistication in the Goryeo. With external pressure from the Liao (916–1125), Jin (1115–1234), and the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), versions of the Tripitaka (Daejanggyeong) were carved to appeal for divine assistance in combatting invasions (the Kitan in 1011 and the Mongols in 1231). To contain the scriptures, mother-of-pearl sutra boxes were manufactured on a large scale. The technology was carried over into the making of incense boxes and cases, which were used for Buddhist and other rituals.

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Jan/Feb 2016
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