Box for Square Calligraphy Paper (shikishi-bako) with an Auspicious Landscape of Young Pines and Nandina Shrubs

Period: Meiji period (1868–1912)

Date: second half of the 19th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Lacquered wood with gold, silver, red hiramaki-e, takamaki-e, cutout gold foil application on black and nashiji lacquer ground

Dimensions: H. 2 1/8 in. (5.4 cm); W. 8 in. (20.3 cm); D. 8 1/2 in. (21.6 cm)

Classification: Lacquer

Credit Line: Bequest of Stephen Whitney Phoenix, 1881

Accession Number: 81.1.152a, b


Shikishi—decorative, square-shaped poem cards—are used for calligraphy or painting. The paper is usually decorated with gold or silver flakes and has a printed or painted design that will serve as the background to the calligraphy. As they are precious calligraphy items, square-shaped lacquer boxes (shikishi-bako) were made to store them. This shikishi-box represents a landscape with young pines and nandina shrubs. The young pines symbolize the renewal of nature and longevity, while the evergreen “heavenly bamboo,” the nandina, bears red berries that ripen in late autumn and persist through the winter.