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Writing Box (suzuribako)

Location

JAPAN

Era

Edo period (1615-1868)

Title

Writing Box (suzuribako)

Materials

Maki-e lacquer on wood, silver, slate

Dimensions

24.5 x 21.2 x 4.2 cm

Credits

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Neil B. Ivory, inv. 1983.Ee.2

Collection

Archeology and World Cultures

The lid of this writing box shows a stand bearing the flowers of all the seasons and months of the year. The reverse side shows a stand with a mulberry leaf, a bobbin and skein, a bamboo branch and strips of paper. These motifs all allude to Tanabata (the star festival), which is held on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year. Tanabata celebrates the legend of two lovers, the heavenly shepherd Hikoboshi (or Kengiū) and the weaving girl Orihime. According to the legend, the two lovers were separated on either side of the Milky Way by Orihime’s father, the sun god, and were only allowed to meet once a year. The flowers on the lid allude to the passage of time between each encounter. The date of their encounter is hinted at on the inside of the box by the bush clover, scabiosa and autumn grasses, which germinate in the seventh month.

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