Proportions: 37.0 x 24.4 x 8.3 cm
Late-Heian Period (10th Century)
(Ninna-ji Temple, Kyoto)
According to the two-line inscription on the lid, this box was made as a container for the Buddhist text Sanjutcho Sasshi, which Priest Kukai wrote in Tang Dynasty China and brought back to Japan.
This box is oblong with an overhanging lid. The box was made by first covering a core with cloth and then coating it with many layers of black lacquer in the sokusei method. Gold and silver powder was sprinkled over the lacquered surface; togidashi maki'e technique was next used to depict hosoge flowers, clouds, birds, butterflies, and karyobinga (imaginary birds in paradise) symmetrically over the surface. The karyobinga are skillfully portrayed in animated positions, each playing a musical instrument such as a flute or drum.
According to the temple records, the Emperor donated this box to Ninna-ji in 919, on the occasion of his reading the Sanjutcho Sasshi.