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  • Thumbnail for Byodoin, Hoodo, the Phoenix Hall, at Uji
    Byodoin, Hoodo, the Phoenix Hall, at Uji

    The so-called Phoenix Hall at the temple, Byodoin, in Uji. Built in 1053 by Fujiwara Yorimichi, the Phoenix Hall contains the Amida sculpture carved by Jocho, and the compound attempts to represent on earth the western paradise of Pure Land Buddhism. This image shows the Amida Hall as seen from directly across the pond directly in front of the hall. Because of the placement of the pond, the hall cannot be approached directly from the front, perhaps a physical assertion of the Heian aesthetic preference for indirection.

  • Thumbnail for Thorp Collection 127, Buddha - Tatang.
    Thorp Collection 127, Buddha - Tatang.

    This image and all others identified as ecasia000072 through ecasia000278, are scans of images from the James Thorp Collection, Earlham College. An explanation and description of the collection and its origin are included in the description of image I.D. ecasia000072, "Altar of Heaven at night, Beijing," the first Thorp image presented in this project collection.

  • Thumbnail for Writing Utensil Box with Designs of Hatsuse Mountain Landscape and Monkeys
    Writing Utensil Box with Designs of Hatsuse Mountain Landscape and Monkeys

    In this writing box, the tray below originally held brushes and inksticks. The round metal water-dropper that sits in a depression on the upper left side was used to add some water to the inkstone on which the inkstick was rubbed to make ink. The inkstone also sits in a fitted spce, to keep it from moving around as the inkstick is rubbed on it. The trees on the mountain include hinoki (cypress) tha, along with the cherry tree, are sometimes associated with Hatsuse Mountain in classical poetry. A large applied-silver moon looms from behind the mountain in a cloudless sky. The design on the inside of the lid shows a monkey with its baby reaching for the reflection of the thin-slivered moon in water. - abridged from description by Andrew Pekarik.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics: Raku Tea Bowl, "Summer Festival Music."  View showing interior of the bowl.
    Japanese Ceramics: Raku Tea Bowl, "Summer Festival Music." View showing interior of the bowl. by attributed to Raku Sonyu

    A second view of the bowl named, "Summer Festival Music," an Edo period tea bowl attributed to Raku Sonyu, the fifth generation of the Raku family of potters. Interior view of the piece.

  • Thumbnail for Ginkakuji, garden, detail, path and stone bridge
    Ginkakuji, garden, detail, path and stone bridge

    Path through lower garden at Ginkakuji, with slab of rock that forms bridge across part of the garden pond.

  • Thumbnail for Tokokazari
    Tokokazari

    Even light fixtures in a traditional Japanese bar are fancy.

  • Thumbnail for Sword Guards
    Sword Guards by Rakuju

    A verdant growth of dew-laden pampas grass, the moon shining through it, has long symbolized Musashino, the broad grassy plain where the warriors of eastern Japan created the shogunal capital, Edo. As early as the Heian period Musashino served as a theme for literature and painting, and in the Momoyama period the bending, swaying, moonlit grasses became commonplace in the decorative arts as well. This pair of iron tsuba, large and small for a daisho set of swords, is finely decorated with the requisite pampas grass, dew, and crescent moon in openwork, and further ornamented with a hammered-gold inlaid floral scroll. The artist's name, Rakuju, is inlaid in gold to the left of the tang holes. - Hiroi Yuichi

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics:  Fresh water jar, Iga ware.
    Japanese Ceramics: Fresh water jar, Iga ware. by unknown

    This Fresh water jar ("mizusashi") is a tea ceremony vessel, an example of Iga ware, a style of vessel created in Mie Prefecture and valued highly by tea masters. Approximately 9 or 10 inch tall, wheel thrown using a light stoneware clay body, fired in a wood fueled kiln with resulting flashing coloration and some natural ash glaze deposits. The black lid of the jar is lacquer, rather than clay, as was frequently the case with tea vessels. The soft clay was manipulated, probably while the piece was still on the potter's wheel, deliberately deforming the piece slightly, which has the effect of emphasizing the soft, malleable nature of the material before it is fired.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics: Dish with handle, Ao-oribe ware, view 01.
    Japanese Ceramics: Dish with handle, Ao-oribe ware, view 01. by unknown

    Oribe ware square dish with a broad handle, from the Mino region of Gifu prefecture, in west cental Honshu, a major pottery region. Light stoneware, probably fired in a neutral atmosphere, iron oxide brushwork decoration under a light glaze, with two corners of the piece and the handle dipped in a copper green glaze, creating the characteristic Oribe glaze pattern. (The Avery Brundage Collection, B64P34)

  • Thumbnail for Tea ceremony bowl:  full moon
    Tea ceremony bowl: full moon

    With the rise in popularity of the tea ceremony in the 15th century, artistic style was utilized in many aspects. The most cherished tea-ceremony utensils were celadon porcelains and tenmoku (tea bowls) from China. Later, various kinds of dazzling tenmoku came to be valued.

  • Thumbnail for Shell Matching Game
    Shell Matching Game

    The octagonal, black-lacquered containers for this shell matching game are decorated with the family crest of the Hosokawa clan. The containers hold 360 shells, each one half of a pair with matching designs of subject matter from The Tale of Genji, or with floral and bird decorations. To play the game, the shells are mixed up and players must find the two shell halves with the same picture.

  • Thumbnail for Tamba pottery, view 02., pots in a shop window
    Tamba pottery, view 02., pots in a shop window

    A group of pots in a shop window show the strong traditional form of Tamba jars. Traditionally made as storage jars, the thick rim allowed a cord to be tied securely around the neck of the jar, to hold a cloth in place to close the mouth of the jar. These bold, simple forms were the result of a direct vocabulary of form handed down through generations of potters over the centuries. The forms were often left totally unglazed and the decoration of the surface would come from the action of the fire and the depositing of ash on the surface, forming a natural glaze, as is the case on the second jar from the left in this photo. The two jars on the right probably had an ash glaze poured on them before they were placed in the kiln and the contrast of the runny dark green ash glaze against the dark iron red of the unglazed clay surfaces creates a dynamic pattern. The two pieces on the right have lugs ("loops" of clay) on their shoulders; originally such lugs were made to allow a lid to be

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics: Square dish with bird design, Ao-Oribe ware.
    Japanese Ceramics: Square dish with bird design, Ao-Oribe ware. by unknown

    Square dish with bird design, from the Mino region of Gifu Prefecture. Characteristic Ao-Oribe style ware, with brush decoration done in iron oxide under white glaze, with copper green glaze. Museum Purchase B67P8

  • Thumbnail for Tea bowl
    Tea bowl

    Yohen Tenmoku tea bowl. A popularization of the tea ceremony in the 16th century led to the covetization of finely made Chinese tea bowls.

  • Thumbnail for Writing Table and Writing Utensil Box
    Writing Table and Writing Utensil Box

    Bundai (writing table) and suzuribako (writing utensil box) decorated with a combination of bamboo, paulownia, and the phoenix. The background is done using a technique known as nashiji, similar in appearance to the skin of the nashi, or Japanese pear, in which metal flakes are suspended in lacquer.

  • Thumbnail for Muroji, 007,  kondo, Golden Hall, front view
    Muroji, 007, kondo, Golden Hall, front view

    The kondo at Muroji is one of the original structures remaining from the early Heian period, although it has, of course, undergone numerous repairs and reconstructions since then. Nonetheless, it retains some distinctive characteristics. It is one story in height and has a sense of horizontal balance, rather than the vertical movement of, e.g., the kondo at Horyuji. The roof is cedar bark, rather than the tile of other temples. Rather than being situated in a level compound, surrounded by the defining and containing cloister wall of that compound, the kondo at Muroji stands alone and is fitted with sensitivity into the natural surrounding of the mountainside forest. Hence, in scale, proportion, use of materials, and setting, the kondo at Muroji might be viewed as being perhaps a re-assertion of some indigenous Japanese aesthetic preferences. Interestingly, that suggestion is based entirely upon visual elements, but if we study some of the religious history of Muroji and Mt. Muro, we find some intertwining of Buddhist and Shinto rituals, which might make the suggested aesthetic blending of elements even more plausible. -- BRIEF INTRODUCTORY NOTE RE: MUROJI'S HISTORY: The compound at Muroji is the result of a long history of shift and change, architecturally, artistically, and in terms of religious history. It is a fascinating history and one explored in great richness in the recent landmark work of scholarship, Sherry D. Fowler's Muroji: Rearranging Art and History at a Japanese Buddhist Temple (Honolulu: University of Hawai'I Press, 2005). -- E.g., although we think of Muroji as being a Shingon temple, over its history, at various times, it was aligned closely with other schools of Buddhism, as well. At one point it became a court case whether Muroji should be classified as a Shingon temple or as a sub-temple of Kofukuji, associated with Hossoo school. Shingon advocates constructed a history of Muroji that inserted Kukai to assert the Shingon tradition of the temple and he was, no doubt, very important in the history of Muroji, while the temple was, in fact, founded by Kengyoo, a Hossoo monk from Kofukuji. Dr. Fowler comments, "ninth-century Murooji might be considered a site for monks specializing in ascetic training who followed teachings associated with Hossoo, Tendai, and Shingon." (p.53) -- Adding to this richness of religious history are several other elements that deserve mention here. Mt. Muro was regarded as a sacred space in Shinto tradition, one associated with the dragon believed to reside there, to whom annual rituals were dedicated. That sense of the sacred may be part of why this was chosen as the site for the temple, Muroji, and there continue to be festivals intertwining elements of Shinto and Buddhism. The sacredness of this spot has been enhanced by the legends that Kukai returned from his time in China with relics that he buried at a secret location on Mt. Muro. Still, today, the mountain beyond the Founder's Hall is regarded as a space too sacred to be entered by laity.

  • Thumbnail for Noh play, performance on outdoor stage, Chusonji, Hiraizumi
    Noh play, performance on outdoor stage, Chusonji, Hiraizumi

    Each November there is a performance of a Noh play on an outdoor stage that is on the grounds of Chusonji, at Hiraizumi in Iwate Prefecture. This image is of the performance in the fall, 2000. -- The two stage props seen here are unusual in their elaborateness; noh stages are usually totally bare of props or, if there is a prop, it usually is simpler than is the case here. The several musicians used in noh , e.g., stick drummer, hand drummers, traverse flute player, are along the rear wall of the stage. Out of the photo, on the right, along the edge of the stage, are the members of the chorus who narrate the play. Noh drama, itself, in its form, in its lack of scenery, use of masks for the main actor in most plays, etc., reflects the austere suggestion, the minimalism of Ashikaga aesthetics. The brilliant robe of the shite , the main actor, reflects the addition of a decorative element, probably from the Momoyama period. The painting of the pine on the rear wall of the stage (and bamboo above the musicians' "coming in door" on the right) is a convention found on every noh stage -- it is said that the pine derives from the great pine tree at the Kasuga Shrine, Nara.

  • Thumbnail for Noh stage, National Theatre, Tokyo
    Noh stage, National Theatre, Tokyo

    This is the Noh stage at the National Theatre in Tokyo, photographed after a performance in December, 2000. Off to the left, out of the photo here, is the bridge, the hashigakari , along which the actors (rarely more than three) enter the stage and exit the stage. Constructed of unpainted wood, probably hinoki cypress, without curtains or scenery, the stage design is rooted in the utter simplicity of Ashikaga aesthetics, which was, of course, extraordinarily sophisticated in its focus on essences. This type of simplicity is very difficult to achieve, as any artist will attest to. -- All noh stages are identical in size and configuration and all have only one permanent element of decoration -- the pine tree on the back wall of the stage, seen also, e.g., at the noh stage at Hiraizumi (image ecasia000005).

  • Thumbnail for Essay:  Japanese Music -- Another Tradition, Other Sounds
    Essay: Japanese Music -- Another Tradition, Other Sounds by Holvik, Leonard C.

    Japanese Music: Another Tradition, Other Sounds. Essay on traditional music of Japan by Leonard C. Holvik, former professor of music, Earlham College. Published 1990, Institute for Education on Japan, Earlham College. Presented here in PDF format, to open it requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, which may be obtained as a free download at www.adobe.com

  • Thumbnail for Thorp Collection 121, Buddha on Cliff, Kanku, Gansu.
    Thorp Collection 121, Buddha on Cliff, Kanku, Gansu.

    This image and all others identified as ecasia000072 through ecasia000278, are scans of images from the James Thorp Collection, Earlham College. An explanation and description of the collection and its origin are included in the description of image I.D. ecasia000072, "Altar of Heaven at night, Beijing," the first Thorp image presented in this project collection.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics: Raku Tea bowl, known as "Summer Festival Music."  View from side, showing profile of the piece.
    Japanese Ceramics: Raku Tea bowl, known as "Summer Festival Music." View from side, showing profile of the piece. by attributed to Raku Sonyu

    Raku ware tea bowl ("Chawan") named "Summer Festival Music." The bowl is attributed to Raku Sonyu (1664-1716), the fifth generation of the Kyoto Raku family of potters. A study in understatement, note the gentle undulation of the rim of the bowl and the slight convexity of the contour of the side of the bowl, almost inviting one's hand to fit it. The surface of the piece is typical of the black raku glaze, with a soft, slightly lustrous quality and a slightly pitted surface, giving it a highly tactile quality and one that almost resembles that of a river-worn rock, calling to mind the stricture that a good ceramic piece should be like an object found in nature, rather than an object deliberately made.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese Ceramics: Dish with handle, Ao-oribe ware, view 02.
    Japanese Ceramics: Dish with handle, Ao-oribe ware, view 02. by unknown

    Another view of the Oribe dish shown in image ecasia000370, showing more clearly the interior of the piece.

  • Thumbnail for Song Dynasty Teabowl
    Song Dynasty Teabowl

    Tea bowl covered in a distinctive bluish-green glaze.

  • Thumbnail for Tea bowl
    Tea bowl

    Konoha Tenmoku tea bowl. A leaf has been baked into the glaze. A popularization of the tea ceremony in the 16th century in Japan led to the covetization of finely made Chinese tea bowls.