Important Cultural PropertyEmbroidered Buddha

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  • 6 pieces
  • Silk
  • L35.0-66.0 W7.0-12.5 each
  • Asuka period/7th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • N-32

There are a few types among the designed patterns in these shubutsu (embroidered Buddha) pieces that illustrate bosatsu (bodhisattvas) and other motifs on the belt-shaped narrow shijira fabrics (fabrics with small wrinkles). One type shows the bodhisattva sitting on renge-za (lotus base) with its heavenly garment waving above the head, together with other motifs, such as flame-jewels on renge-za and clouds. There is also a different type that features celestial musicians playing koto or flute, similarly sitting on renge-za (lotus base) with its heavenly garment waving above the head. Some others do not have bodhisattvas, but features flame jewels, clouds, and palmette.
 All of these pieces are elaborate double-sided embroideries, embroidered with firmly twisted embroidery thread, by the technique called tsugibari-nui (lit. following-needle stitching). The embroidery in the Asuka period uses firmly twisted threads for the outlines of the designs, and embroiders finely inside those outlines. These are the major characteristics that make the embroidery in that period distinct from that in the Nara period, which uses non-twisted kama-ito (lit. pot-thread).
With regards to the width of the base fabric, there are two groups: the ones of twelve-centimeters width, and the others of seven-centimeters width. These widths are known to have been specifically chosen when woven, as all of those fabrics have ori-mimi (edges of fabric) at both of left and right ends. Those of the wider width were used as the leg part (ban-soku) of the large ban (banner) that was hung at the center of Kanjou Ban (N-58, banner for Buddhist initiation ceremonies, National Treasure), one of the most important metalwork pieces in The Treasures of Horyuji. The shubutsu of the narrower width were used as the ban-soku of the small bans attached to the corners of the canopy. In this connection, the widths of the fabrics at that time, including brocade, twill weave, and plain silk, are about fifty-six-centimetres, except for some exceptional pieces.
 In addition to these six embroidered Buddha cloths, unfilled fragments are designated as accompaniments. During the filling and investigation process after the designation, eight fragments of the embroidered Buddha cloths were confirmed, including small pieces. These have been mended and put on display. Moreover, three additional dyed cloths different from the embroidered Buddha cloths were also found, which have been filed as accompaniments.