The Aura of Buddhist Material Objects in the Age of Mass-Production

Trine Brox


The article discusses material religion in a commercial setting and sets off this discussion with Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936). Benjamin argues that mechanical reproduction emancipated works of art from religious rituals and evaporated the aura of art. This has resonance among some Tibetan Buddhists in the context of mass-produced Buddhist material objects. Are such objects fit to be given as gifts, implemented in rituals, and worshipped on altars? Based upon ethnographic work at a Tibetan Buddhist market in urban China, the article argues that although objects manufactured in factories for profit are not made or handled according to Buddhist tradition, the aura can be produced in different ways and at different points of an object’s life.


Aura; Buddhist material objects; mass-production; sacralization; Tibetan Buddhism; Walter Benjamin

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