43.8 x 7.9 x 2.5 cm
This long-handled iron fire spoon is beautifully decorated in gilt with an elaborate design of 'vajra' and phoenix. In Buddhist symbolism, the 'vajra' symbolises the supreme power of compassion and the phoenix symbolises the female power, and is also a clue to the Sino-Tibetan origins of this object.
The fire spoon is used as a ritual implement during 'homa' or fire-sacrifice to make oblations or burnt offerings, usually of ghee, into the sacred fire. The fire sacrifice is a ritual by which the gods may be invoked on important occasions. During 'homa' these fire spoons are used in pairs: a less elaborately designed spoon is used to pour the offering into the fire and a more elaborate one such as this functions as a receptacle; the first spoon is thought of as male and this second, regarded as female. This is in keeping with the Tantric idea of the inseparability of masculine and feminine principles - in the Tantric Buddhist context, the inseparability of wisdom (female) and means (male).
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, 17 April 2001
Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–05 Sep 2015