Important Cultural PropertySix-legged Chinese-style chest with the motif of Suminoe in mother-of-pearl inlay

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  • 1 piece
  • Lacquered wood
  • 53.0x74.2x74.2
  • Nanbokuchō period/Shōhei 12 (1357)
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • H-4213

The surface is lacquered all over in black. The outer sides are decorated with motifs such as palm trees and herons on a sandy beach and the sun and moon over the clouds and haze. A variety of techniques are used for these motifs: burnished gold makie, flat makie, imbedded silver sheets (hyōmon), cut shapes of silver (kirikane), and small pieces of shell (mijin-gai). Moldings (karadomen) are used from the shoulders of the lid to the rectangular edge of the body. The beveled parts are decorated with mijin-gai.
An inscription written with cut-out silver strips is found on the front side of the body. The text tells that in 1357 a monk called Geia put scrolls of sutra in this karabitsu (six-legged Chinese-style chest) and donated it to the Sumiyoshi Shrine. There is another inscription on the outer side of the bottom, which shows the list of the names of the makie-craftsmen, goldsmiths and other artisans who were involved in the production. Among the lacquerware made in the Nanbokuchō period, which are small in number, this piece is considered to be especially precious.
The pictures of herons flying down on the beach of pine trees (on the outer side of the lid and sides of the body) and the motif of the moon setting behind an island (on the backside of the body) are thought to express the images of the Sumiyoshi area in waka poems, such as the one in the Yorimasa Anthology "I look at the scenery through the pine trees in Sumiyoshi, the moon is setting over the mountains of Awaji Island." This piece is exceptionally important also as utae (a picture that takes its theme from waka)-decorated lacquerware with a clear record of the year of production.

Inscription on the front side, in imbedded cut-out silver strips: "To the Sumiyoshi Grand Shrine, [this karabutsu is] humbly donated, five volumes of hand-copied text in gold paint, Sutras of the Great Vehicle are stored in this karabitsu, in August Shōhei 12 (1357), donor Geia, a Buddhist novice."
Inscription on the outer side of the bottom, in gold powder: "makie-craftsman: Kukaku, a monk; shell-art craftsmen: Hona, a Buddhist novice and Tirano Munekiyo."
Inscription on the outer side of the bottom, in red lacquer: "goldsmiths: Tairano Mitsumori and Tairano Tomomori; woodcraftsman Tairano Mitsuie."