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“Recycled” 19th Century Embroidered and Couched Silks: Buddhist Temple Cloth

Written on January 8, 2011

Today I am showing two silk Buddhist temple dressings which are made from recycled silk kimonos, the silk being offered to a temple by donors.Each of these pieces is constructed from 20 separate, long streamers of silk, many of which are chirimen (crepe) silk that are embroidered with silk floss and couched with gold thread.  These lavish silks were culled from formal kimono which probably date to the late 18th or early 19th century.The silk is backed with paper, which can be seen through some of the splits in the silk and on the various areas where the silk has degraded.  The expertly formed blue silk terminals of each of the 40 flaps shown here are also backed with paper; they are formed in the matsukawa bishi or pine bark motif.Ritual silk banners, or ban, hang in Japanese Buddhist temples, usually flanking the sanctum sanctorum in some symmetrical arrangement nearby the altar.  Here is one from the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and one that I sold some time ago.

The detail work is exceptionally precise and clean, as can be seen on the tips of each of the silk streamers.Notice the embroidered turtle on the photo above–what is not shown on this detail is that the tortoise is placed within the context of  embroidered plum, bamboo and pine, or the auspicious trio of traditional motives called shochikubai.Each of these pieces measures 43 1/2″ x 44″ or 110 cm x 101.5 cm.



Comments closed

  1. Comment by paula:

    stunner. more interesting than the one in the Boston MFA. thank you!

    January 9, 2011 @ 3:28 pm

  2. Comment by Karmen Sunshine:

    Such a beautiful treasure; inspirational.

    January 10, 2011 @ 12:42 pm