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Lacquer chest


Height: 25.500 cm
Width: 34.000 cm
Depth: 21.000 cm

Gift of Mrs H. Seymour Trower

Asia JA 1912.10-12.20

Rooms 92-94: Japan

    Lacquer chest

    From Japan
    Edo period, early to mid-18th century AD

    Black lacquer with gold makie, gold and silver foil, and mother-of-pearl inlay

    This chest was made for the export market, but is of much higher quality than the kamaboko-bako of a slightly earlier period in The British Museum. The inlaid chequerwork and saw-toothed borders are typical of export work, but the designs on the panels are more classically Japanese in style. On the front right are the conventional 'autumn grasses', which appear repeatedly in Japanese art and decoration, especially paintings. On the left is a depiction of the Kiku Jidō (Chinese Keuh Tsze Tung), the Chinese 'chrysanthemum boy', who according to legend was the favourite of the Emperor Muh Wang (third-tenth century AD). However, Kiku Jidō was exiled for accidentally touching the emperor's cushion with his foot. Before Kiku Jidō was sent away, Muh Wang taught him words of the Buddha that would ensure his safety and long life. In exile Kiku Jidō wrote the words on chrysanthemum petals and the dew which washed the sacred characters away was treasured as an elixir of youth.

    L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)