Water bottle (Kundika)

Period: Goryeo dynasty (918–1392)

Culture: Korea

Medium: Bronze

Dimensions: H. 13 1/2 in. (34.2 cm); W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)

Classification: Metalwork

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1923

Accession Number: 23.115


This type of vessel, known in Sanskrit as a kundika, was originally used in Buddhist ceremonies for sprinkling water for purification. The form originated in India, the birthplace of Buddhism, and was later transmitted to China and Korea. The kundika is one of the usual attributes of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. In the painting of the Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara in the Museum's collection (14.76.6), for example, a kundika bottle, placed in a clear glass bowl and holding a willow branch that symbolizes healing, appears to the right of Avalokiteshvara.

The kundika, as seen in this example, typically has a long neck, above which rises a slender tubelike mouth, which functions as the spout. Attached to the shoulder is another spout, with a small removable lid; it is through this opening that the bottle is filled with water.
A standard vessel type in the Koryō period, kundika were produced in celadon ceramic ware as well as bronze. The Chinese envoy Xu Jing (1091–1153), who visited the Koryo capital in 1123, noted that kundika were "used by the nobility, government officials, Buddhist temples, and common people alike for storing water," indicating the popularity of this vessel type as a utilitarian object in daily life.