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Japanese Buddhist Mokugyo Temple Drum, Edo

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Directory: Antiques: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Sculpture: Pre 1900: item # 127065

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Japanese Buddhist Mokugyo Temple Drum, Edo
A Japanese mokugyo or Buddhist wooden temple bell dating to the late Edo period (1800-1868). Mokugyo are fish-shaped wooden percussion instruments for use during chanting in the sutra hall. These instruments rest on their side on a cushion and are struck by a wooden mallet that has a leather covered spherical head on its end. On its side, the front resembles the mouth of a fish with two round openings on either corner of the mouth. The 'handle' is traditionally carved in a way that two dragonheads hold a sphere in their mouth. There is often a dedication signature by the donating individual or organization (not temple name) which is found on the fringe of the mouth. The signature on this instrument reads "Kin Riu Shi". Mokugyo are carved in the shape of a fish for an interesting reason; fish keep their eyes open all the time and this imagery reminds followers of the faith to do the same and train themselves diligently. There are different patterns of drumming with some texts accompanied by one beat per character. The Mokugyo is usually played by the Densu or his/her helper. This particular instrument came from an old temple in Aichi prefecture. Construction is of a hardwood - most likely keyaki with a thin gauze covering and a final layer of lacquer. In intricate areas where the application of gauze was not possible, a white ground has been used (visible on the handle). This is a large and heavy mokugyo carved from a single piece of hardwood. Dimensions: 14" high x 12.5" across x 10" deep. Overall condition is good with loss of lacquer where instrument has been struck. A beautiful and calming resonance is produced when struck, even after more than a century!


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