Important Cultural PropertySutra Box with Phoenixes in Gold Inlay

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  • 鳳凰戧金経箱
  • 1 piece
  • Wood with black lacquer Inlaid gold (sōkin) Mother-of-pearl (raden) Phoenix and peacock pattern (added later)
  • H 39.3, W 20.2, L 25.3
  • Yuan dynasty, China/14th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 955(工198)

  This is a rectangular sutra box with the snuffbox lid. It was used as a box to store sutras in a folding book style.
  The sides of the lid are beveled to fit on the deep box. The entire surface of the box is coated with black lacquer, on which patterns are made using inlaid gold technique (sōkin or chinkin). In a diamond shape on the top surface of the lid is a pair of phoenixes in flight. While the same design of two flying peacocks can be found on the long sides of the body, one of the short sides has a design of two flying parrots and the other short side has four praying bhikkhus among the clouds. Mother-of-pearl of great green turban shells is applied to the rim and the beveled sides of the lid. Inside the box, vermillion lacquer is applied, making a bright contrast with the black lacquer applied to the box surface.
  Boxes similar to this one, including some slightly different in size and pattern, have been handed down to Seiganji Temple in Fukuoka, Jōdoji Temple in Hiroshima, Kōmyō-bō Temple in Hiroshima, the Kyūshū National Museum (from Hagaji Temple in Fukui), Saifukuji Temple in Fukui (from Jōke-in Temple in Kyōto), Daitokuji Temple in Kyōto, Myōrenji Temple in Kyōto and Hōshakuji Temple in Kyōto. Among these, the sutra boxes of Seiganji Temple, Kōmyō-bō and the Kyūshū National Museum are considered the same in terms of the shape, size, accompanying inscription type, year of creation, craftsman and place of creation. A sutra box made by a different craftsman is the one at Jōdoji Temple. The inscription on the back of the lid of each box shows that they were all created in Yanyou 2 (1315) during the Yuan dynasty in Hangzhou of China. The reference mark using the Chinese Thousand Letters engraved on each box suggests that they were mass produced by many subcontractors. Although this sutra box does not bear an inscription, it can be said that this one was also created under similar conditions.
  Due to the use of Chinese Thousand Letters , some estimate that these sutra boxes including this one were used for the complete Buddhist cannon. However, to establish the purpose of use of the box, some issues, such as the issue of the arrangement of characters, need to be resolved first. This sutra box came from Kōsanji Temple in Kyōto.