Important Cultural PropertySutra Box with Chrysanthemums and Vines

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  • 1 box
  • Lacquered wood with mother-of-pearl
  • L. 47.3 cm; W. 25.3 cm; H: 26.4 cm
  • Goryeo dynasty, 13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • TH-364

This box was used to store Buddhist texts. The lid is sharply beveled on all sides, while both the box and the lid are coated with black lacquer and decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay depicting vines with chrysanthemum or peony flowers. The lid features a composition of wave-like vines and chrysanthemums in the center. These are framed by circles, while the circles are surrounded by vines and peonies. Each of these sections is divided by twisted metallic lines.

The sides of the lid and the box have the same composition, although the sides of the box also feature a pattern of floral diamonds arranged diagonally at the bottom. The leaves, petals, and central parts of the chrysanthemums and peonies are mother-of-pearl, while the stems are metal wires. The artist succeeded in creating a detailed, rhythmical pattern by rendering each petal and flower with a separate piece of mother-of-pearl.

One side of the box has two gilt-bronze fittings shaped like the characters 宇 and 霊, respectively. Other sutra boxes decorated with similar mother-of-pearl patterns also exist. Scholars believe they were used to store large collections of sacred Buddhist texts (tripiṭaka), with the characters most likely serving as labels for each box.