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Incense Ceremony Cabinet (kōdansu)




Edo period (1615-1868)


Incense Ceremony Cabinet (kōdansu)


Probably late 18th c.


Maki-e lacquer on wood, gilt metal, pewter, mother-of-pearl inlay


21 x 14.3 x 13.9 cm


Gift of F. Cleveland Morgan, inv. 1949.Ee.1


Archeology and World Cultures

This portable box was used to store different items for the incense ceremony (kō-awase), an exclusive leisure activity of the aristocracy since the Heian period (794-1192). The aim of the ceremony, with its incredibly detailed rituals, was to rank aromatic pastes made by competitors according to their scent. One side of the box slides up, showing three small drawers inside. The box exterior is decorated with plum blossoms and foliage, associated with spring, while the faces of the drawers feature maple leaves, associated with autumn. Some motifs are applied in maki-e, a technique in which gold powder is sprinkled on the lacquered surface while it is still wet.

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