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Amulet Box (Tibetan: ga'u): portable shrines generally made from metal in a repousse style of construction. The purpose and function of an amulet box is for protection when traveling. They often, but not always, have a small window on the front with a religious image inside. Typically the front is very ornate and decorated with the Eight Auspicious Symbols and other motifs. Amulet boxes are also commonly used to store all manner of sacred materials such as small texts, blessing cords, consecrated medicine, relics, and the like. Objects such as this were generally carried when traveling some distance away from home, such as on pilgrimage, or for extended business trips.
A complete amulet box generally has three parts: (1) the metal container of whatever shape, (2) a cloth covering with a buttoned fold for opening, and finally (3) the contents of the amulet box which can be an image made of metal, tsa-tsa, cloth, string, medicine, or anything that is deemed special or blessed.
(See Arts of Asia, volume 31, number 1, May-June 2001. Ga'u, the Tibetan Amulet Box, John Clarke, pages 45-67).
Jeff Watt 7-2008