Important Cultural PropertySutra box with chrysanthemum pattern in mother-of-pearl inlay

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  • 1 piece
  • Lacquered wood
  • 37.8x19.2x26.0
  • Goryeo period/13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • TH-303

This shell-inlayed (raden) box is for storing sutra scrolls and was formerly owned by the Mōri Family. The hinge, lock and rings on the sides are thought to be later additions made in Japan. The letter 黄二 (yellow-two) on the one side indicates that this piece was initially one of a set of boxes (黄 "yellow" is the fourth letter in senjimon (lit. thousand-letters text, the long poem that uses one thousand kanji (Chinese characters). It was widely used for learning kanji). At the center of the outside of the lid, the word "Buddha-avatamsaka-nama-mahavaipulya-sutra" (The Flower Garland Sutra) is inlayed, surrounded by a chrysanthemum pattern in diagonal lines, which is diamond-shaped with the branches and leaves on the four sides of a flower. The sides of the body are bordered with crossed-diagonal and circular patterns, the insides of which are decorated with a standing-chrysanthemum pattern, also in diagonal lines. All of the raden are made with thin and exceptionally small pieces of shell and the chrysanthemum pattern is relatively small and doesn't look ostentatious. The shape of the flowers is very similar to the inlay works of the celadon porcelain ware of Koryo made about the same period. The patterns of this box represent the subtle and elegant style of Koryo pattern-art. There is a trace of fire damage on this piece, which tells us that it has survived turbulent times.