Kapala ceremonial cup

Ch'ing dynasty (A.D. 1644-1911)
Height with stand: 14.4 cm Length: 18.3 cm Width: 14.6 cm

Cup made from human cranium. The edge is fitted with a gilt metal rim, the outer edge of which is decorated and inlaid with red, green and blue stones. The inside of the skull is lined with paper and painted with the image of a deity and his consort in gold on a red ground, with a mandala and lotus throne framing them. Around the inside edge of the cup, close to the rim, is a Tibetan inscription written in gold. The cup is set on a gilt triangular stand with small human skulls placed at the corners
. Kapala, or tod-pa in Tibetan, are made from the skulls of donors, usually persons of special rank, wisdom or holiness. Only after meeting the approval of the lamas can a skull be made into a vessel which will be suitable for setting before the gods.

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