Important Cultural PropertyNested Boxes for the Kasuga Dragon Jewel

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  • 春日龍珠箱
  • 2 pieces
  • Wood with pigments Gilt bronze fittings
  • Nanbokucho period/14th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 1279(工271)

  This is a two-tiered box thought to have been handed down to Murouji Temple in Nara Prefecture. Large reverse waves are drawn on the side of the inner box with an enclosing lid (kabusebuta-dukuri) and eight demon shapes standing on a reef in the sea are drawn on the top of the lid and seven demon shapes and a child (doji) shape are drawn on the back of the lid. The reef and the sea are drawn on the side of the lid continuously from the top of the lid. The inside is coated with vermilion lacquer and creates an air of mystery. The outer box has the style of the large chest for storage (karabitsu) and the Five Deities of Kasuga Shrines riding sacred deers and them dependents are drawn on the side. Kasuga Ni no miya (Buddhist form: Yakushi), the Twelve Heavenly Generals and San no miya (Buddhist form: Jizo), the Ten Kings, his clerks Shimyo and Shiroku are drawn on the front. On the observer’s left, Kasuga Ichi no miya (Buddhist form: Shakamuni), the Four Heavenly Kings and the Twelve Heavenly Deities and on the observer’s right, Shi no miya, Waka miya and Juni gu are drawn, respectively. The background is a solid color. Three sacred jewels (hoju) on the lid side confirm the theory that sacred jewels used to be held in this article. Although the lid surface has been severely damaged, it is assumed that Dragon God holding a sacred jewel was drawn. Moreover, eight men wearing Japanese official court dresses (ikan sokutai) with dragons on their back are drawn on the lid back along with three dragons and the gods of wind and thunder. It can be said that these images represent the Eight Dragon Kings.
  It is commonly believed that this article is a box for holding sacred jewels and according to the subject of images drawn on the surface, it is estimated to have a close connection with the faith of Kasuga and Dragon God. Although the faith of Dragon God over Kasuga is complicated and the fifth deity of Kasuga, Waka miya, is also said to have appeared in the form of small snake, there is no doubt that it was based on the faith of Dragon God.