Important Cultural PropertyKesa robe (Funzou-e)

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  • 1 piece
  • Silk
  • 125.0x249.0
  • Nara period/8th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • N-33

 Funzou-e (lit. excrement-sweeping clothes) is a kind of Buddhist kesa robe made with discarded rags. The rags are washed clean, put on top of one another, and sewn together into a robe. This funzou-e is made with seven horizontal cloths, each of which are made by sewing irregularly shaped pieces of plain silk of different colors together by fine quilting. The surface of the cloths is wrinkled, looking like ripples, and small parts of the cloths of different colors underneath appear where the surface is worn out. These factors work together to create the subtle balance of colors with a unique atmosphere. This is called Shakuson Funzou-e according to the tradition of the temple.Apart from the robe itself, this piece has a black lacquer box with gold maki-e (designs made with metal or color powders) on it as an attachment. This box was donated by Keishouin (the real mother of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, the fifth shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate) when Horyuji held a degaichou (the opening of secret Buddha images at a place different from the temple that owns them) at Ekouin (Ekouin temple), Edo, in Genroku 7 (1694).There is a three-hollyhock-leaves symbol on it, the crest of Tokugawa clan. This black lacquer box with gold maki-e is also valued highly, not only for its aesthetic quality, but also for its representing the standard of lacquer wares in the late seventeenth century.

In Shosoin, there is another robe made in a similar manner, i.e., putting irregularly shaped pieces of plain silk in several colors on top of one another, and sewing them together by quilting. It is one of the treasures owned by or related to Emperor Shoumu, which were donated to the great Buddha statue of Toudaiji (Toudai temple) by Empress Koumyou after his death. Kokka Chinpou-chou (lit. national precious treasure list), one of the lists of those treasures, puts that robe at the top of the list, with the name Kujou Shinou Juuhi-shoku no Kesa (tree-color quilted kesa robe made with nine horizontal cloths). The robe has been stored with great care until this day.