Flower Basket


Flower Basket

lacquer work / Kamakura

Kamakura period, 13th century

Lacquered paper with paint


This flower basket was used to hold flower petals that were scattered during Buddhist ceremonies. A monk would hold the basket and scatter handfuls of flower petals as an offering to Buddhist deities. Originally, real flower petals were used, but they were eventually replaced by substitutes made of paper or cloth. With some of the oldest examples surviving from the 8th century, flower baskets and paper petals were produced throughout Japanese history and can even be seen in Buddhist rituals in the present day. Flower baskets can be made of bamboo, wood, bronze, or other materials, but baskets made of cast bronze are the most common. They are typically shaped like wide, shallow bowls, but deeper baskets and examples with handles also exist.

This flower basket is an extremely rare example made of paper. It was made by adhering paper in layers onto a wooden frame. After the frame was removed, the paper base material was covered in a thick coating of black lacquer. Its interior was then painted with a design of a lotus flower seen from above and a type of Buddhist ritual implement called a “vajra.” The result is a flower petal basket decorated with motifs deeply tied to Buddhism in a variety of vibrant colors, including green, white, red, and gold. Because it is made of paper, it is surprisingly light. Six paper flower baskets with identical designs and constructions have been handed down at Mantoku-ji Temple in Aichi Prefecture, and it is thought that this basket was originally part of the same set.

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