Buddhist temple gong
Zelkova (elm) wood, iron
10.5" (26.7 cm) high, 15.25" (38.6 cm) wide, 1.5" (3.7 cm) thick
Late 19th to early 20th century
There is some mystery surrounding this folk carving, but it appears to be in the image of a Buddhist temple gong, which were used to keep rhythm during the chanting of sutras. Since fish never sleep, it was a reminder to stay awake during the recitations; the magic pearl in its mouth was said to fulfill all wishes. It would have been struck on the circle in the center of the fish, and the carved out area on the back may have had some effect on the sound. There are traces of gilding on the eye and the pearl and a little white paint on the reverse.