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Japanese pair of Kai-awase matching shells


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Directory: Archives: Regional Art: Asian: Japanese: Pre 1920: Item # 983427

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The scenes on the inside of this pair of matching Kai-awase shells are handpainted on paper.

For many centuries, the Japan's elite played Kai-awase, a game of matching shells, Clam shells painted with images from works of Japan’s classic literature were laid face down on a playing surface. Contestants would then alternate in overturning pairs of shells to find matching images (if images did not match, the shells were again turned face down). Since many images were similar, the true test of a match was whether or not shell halves fit together.