Important Cultural PropertyKanto plain-silk ban (banner)

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  • 1 piece
  • Silk
  • Total L295.7 W32.5
  • Asuka-Nara period/7-8th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • N-25

Ban (or hata: banner) is a kind of flag that used as one of shougongu (implements for Buddhist altars), often at the ceremonies for longer life or the memorial services for the dead. The shape of ban shows resemblance with that of the human body: the bantou (lit.ban-head) part corresponds to the human head, the banshin (lit. ban-body) to the body; and bansoku (lit. ban-leg) to the legs. The characteristics of the Horyuji's ban lie in the following elements: the triangular shape of the head section made with obihimo (thin fabric belt worn over the obi); the rectangular-shaped inner part of the body (called tsubo) with the shorter side at the top, framed with one or two lines of cloth, and; the leg section made with long pieces of cloth hang from the lower end of the body sectioin, with the attachment points of the pieces pleated regularly. Many of the bans framed with one line of cloth have belt-shaped "hands" attached to the body-part at the points where the edge of the inner rectangular part (tsubo-zakai) and the frame conjoin. The bans framed with two lines of cloth usually have round gilt bronze ornaments as decoration.
 This kanto plain-silk ban (kanto: a fine silk striped woven material) uses kanto cloth of vivid red tate-gasuri (a weaving style, dyed vertical (tate) threads are woven with un-dyed horizontal threads) for the first tsubo of the body-part, and yellow plain silk for the other parts except for the edges of the tsubo. Kanto cloth is one of the textiles found almost solely in Horyuji; it is often used for the bans, as well as the joku-s (matting pieces), of Horyuji, while it is hardly seen in the treasures of Shosoin. Horyuji Garan Engi Narabi ni Ruki Shizai Cho (lit. The History of Horyuji temple and the Inventory of its Property) describes kanto cloth as "secret brocade."