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Temple Roof Tile
Kamakura period (1185–1333)
second half of the 13th century
Diam. 6 1/4 in. (15.9 cm)
Lent by Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection
Not on view
Decorated circular tiles like this one were used to ornament temple eaves. On this tile, the Sanskrit seed syllable Hrih, which represents the Buddha Amida (Sanskrit: Amitabha), appears within an eight double-petaled lotus flower inside a pearl border. Tiles with Sanskrit letters are rare, though another example with Hrih has been excavated from Ōjōin, a temple site in Osaka dated to the first half of the thirteenth century. The present tile is more elaborate, which suggests a later date, perhaps the second half of the thirteenth century. Based on original work by Masako Watanabe (The Written Image: Japanese Calligraphy and Painting from the Sylvan Barnet and William Burto Collection [New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2002], cat. no. 18).