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Writing Box with Cranes, Pines, Plum Blossoms, and Characters

Period:
Edo period (1615–1868)
Date:
18th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Lacquered wood with gold and silver takamaki-e, hiramaki-e, togidashimaki-e, and silver inlay on nashiji ground
Dimensions:
H. 1 7/8 in. (4.8 cm); W. 8 3/4 in. (22.2 cm); D. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm)
Classification:
Lacquer
Credit Line:
Bequest of Benjamin Altman, 1913
Accession Number:
14.40.831a–f
  • Description

    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.

    —Trans. John T. Carpenter

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
44917

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