97. Tibetan Monastery Key

Tibet, 17th–18th century
Size: key 12.5 cm; leather strap 65 cm

In the popular imagination the monks of Shangri-La sat serene in the flickering light of butter-lamps, reciting sacred sutras and chanting their mantras, for the good of themselves and humanity. Some of the time, no doubt, this was true, but they were also a bumptious and belligerent lot, as this key illustrates. The point of the long thong was to use it as a weapon in the violent altercations that erupted between cantankerous monks. A bit different from the Zen ‘slap of enlightenment’! Violence seems an inalienable part of the Path of Peace.