The almsbowl was one of the few essential possessions of a Buddhist monk specified in the Vinaya
, the sixth century b.c. code of Buddhist monastic practice. Simple monochromatic vessels like this, based on clay Indian prototypes, symbolized the monks' vow of poverty. Of perfectly rounded form, with sides rising from a round base and curving inward to a wide rimless mouth, this bowl is the epitomy of refined elegance and Sung taste.
The oldest surviving lacquered almsbowls are eighth century examples preserved in the Shoso-in Repository in Nara, Japan. This extremely rare bowl appears to be the most refined in form and finish of all recorded examples and has been dated by carbon-14 analysis of its wooden core to about a.d. 1100.