Sarira

Sarira, the relics or cremated remains of Buddhist spiritual masters, were placed in reliquaries like that illustrated and described in the prior section. Sarira were believed to confer blessings and grace on the faithful and to ward off evil. Reliquaries were usually enshrined in the foundation of a pagoda, the multi-tiered tower that is part of a Chinese Buddhist temple complex. If actual remains were not available, then precious substances like pearls, imported from Central Asia and Northwest India, could be substituted.

Xiaoyan Ta (Small Goose Pagoda), Tang dynasty (618 – 907 CE), Xi’an, Shanxi Province, originally constructed 707 CE (photo courtesy of Annette Juliano)

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