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Tang Studies 18-19 (2000-01) Imperial Splendor in the Service of the Sacred: The Famen Tea Treasures PATRICIA KARETZKY BARD COLLEGE The utilization of luxurious objects in sacred ritual is nearly universal. Such opulent materials and articles usually associated with royalty are used metaphorically to represent divinity. ThusJ regal paraphernalia identifies the presence of the celestial-for exampleJ Christian icons wear diademsJ silksJ and velvet embroidered with goldJ hold scepters and orbsJ drink from golden jewel-encrusted chalicesJand sit on tall thrones. Such conventions are well known in the WestJ but their Eastern origins are less frequently discussed. In the mid-1980s a cache of Buddhist objects wrought from precious materials was unearthed in the pagoda of Famen temple r*r5~J located in Fugang countYJShaanxi (about a hundred and fifty kilometers from modern Xi'an). Hidden in the basement of the pagodaJ the magnificent assembly of ritual objects had been untouched since 874, when the temple crypt was formally sealed. These remarkable artifacts demonstrate the extraordinary skill of Chinese artisans as well as the breadth and variety of ceremonial objects used in medieval Chinese Buddhism. Among the variety of articles buried beneath the pagodaJ some belong to the divine regalia of the priests; there are also a collection of devotional icons, three sacred reliquaries with bone fragments in jeweled containersJ ritual implementsJ and a number of objects for serving and drinking tea. Though the tea ceremony is celebrated in JapanJ its practice in China is not well known. This paper will discuss the opulent pieces made for the tea service and place them in the context of Buddhist ritual of the later Tang era. Though much interest has been directed to the Famen horde, 61 Karetzky: The Famen Tea Treasures these tea vessels made of gilt silver, glass, and porcelain have yet to be analyzed in this context.! DISCOVERY AND DATING The ancient pagoda collapsed in August 1981,as the result of heavy rains. During the efforts to restore the structure, a team of workers from the Shaanxi Archaeological Research Treasure and Municipal Cultural Bureau and the Fugang County Museum unearthed the several layers of construction debris (figure 1).2 During examination of the Tang remains, three underground chambers and a hidden niche filled with treasures came to light (figure 2).3 It may be that these vaults had been constructed to preserve the valuable treasures during the imperial proscription against Buddhism (840-45).Famen's fame and proximity to the ancient capital of Chang'an brought it imperial favor for centuries; the temple reached the height of prosperity during the Tang era. Many artifacts, the result of imperial largesse, bear inscriptions that date as early as the reign of Empress Wu (684-705),of Em1 "Shaanxi sheng Famensi kaogudui," Wenwu 1988.10: 1-56. Roderick Whitfield, "Esoteric Buddhist Elements in the Famensi Reliquary Deposits," Asiatische Studien/Etudes Asiatiques 45.2 (1990), points out the presence of these tea articles . See also Karetzky, liThe Famen Temple Finds and New Evidence of Tang Esoteric Buddhism," Archives of Asian Art 47 (1994):78-85. 2 Wenwu, lac. cit. 3 Three subterranean rooms were found linked by portals; the antechamber, measuring 1.2-1.57meters broad and 1.1 meters tall, was connected to a central room by a stone door. Each plank of the door was 0.9 meters high, 0.42 meters broad, and 0.1 meters thick. The central room was 3.06 meters long, 1.42-1.62 meters tall. Leading to the rear room was a second door that was 0.8 meters high and 0.69 meters wide; the rear chamber, square in shape, measured 1.35 meters east and west, and 1.21 meters high. Lastly, the secret niche in the north part of the rear chamber, dug underground with a 0.5 meter deep vertical pit and an opening of 0.65 meters, was square in shape and lined with bricks. 62 Tang Studies 18-19 (2000-01) peror Yizong (859-73),who rebuilt the crypt, and of his successor Emperor Xizong (873-88). There is also a dated inventory inscribed on two stone steles. Historical records establish that Famen was famous for...


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