鶴松梅文字散し蒔絵硯箱 Writing Box with Cranes, Pines, Plum Blossoms, and Characters
Edo period (1615–1868)
Lacquered wood with gold and silver takamaki-e, hiramaki-e, togidashimaki-e, and silver inlay on nashiji ground
H. 1 7/8 in. (4.8 cm); W. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm); D. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Not on view
Auspicious motifs such as cranes, pine trees, and plum blossoms, together with three silver-inlaid characters, appear on the lid of this writing box. Two of the cranes are executed in silver foil. On the inside of the lid, plovers fly over a rocky shore lined with pine trees. The landscape is lit by a silver moon, and the dry patches of the seashore are also inlaid in silver. The front of the lid might be a reference to a poem (chōka) by Yamabe no Akahito (active 8th century):
Waka no ura ni shiomichi kureba kata o nami ashibe o sashite tazu naki-wataru
At Waka Bay the tide flows in, covering the sandbars, as cranes fly toward a bed of reeds, crying.
—Trans. John T. Carpenter
On the inside is an anonymous poem from the Kokinwakashū anthology. The plover’s chirp is said to sound like “chiyo,” as contained in the phrase “eight thousand years” (ya-chiyo):
Shio no yama sashide no iso ni sumu chidori kimi ga miyo oba yachiyo to zo naku
Plovers that dwell on the beach of Sashide, nearby Mount Shio, chirp “ya-chiyo,” wishing the emperor a long reign.