Kobako in gold and silver lacquer taka maki-e and hira maki-e, decorated with a yanagi (weeping willow) and flowering trees adjacent to a black and gold lacquer barrier. The barrier panels are decorated with regular geometric patterns in taka maki-e gold lacquer.
In Asia, the weeping willow is a tree that is often found in mythology. The city of the Willows, the Mou-yang-chen, in China, is the very place of immortality. In Lhasa, Tibet, the main sanctuary is located in the center of a plantation of weeping willows. This tree symbolizes life and spiritual elevation. It is often referred-to as the "tree of life" or "central tree".
It is also at the heart of a Japanese legend called "The Samurai Willow".
Samurai Matsudeira has a magnificent weeping willow with silver leaves in his garden. It is said that the tree has magical properties.
One day, his wife dies of a serious illness, and his son loses the use of his leg. Matsudeira, knowing the powers of the tree, wonders if all this did not happen because of him.
He therefore decided to get rid of it; touched by the beauty of the tree, he could not cut it down and gave it to his neighbour Inabata.
Widowed and childless, the latter was surprised to find, one fine morning, a resplendent woman leaning against the trunk of the tree. He invites him to follow him to his home to offer him tea. Shortly afterwards, conquered by the beauty and gentleness of the young woman, he asked her to marry him.
The following year a little boy was born, whom they called Yanagi, the willow. For five years, the family lived happily and prosperously.
But one day, one of the pillars of the Sanjusangendo temple collapsed. The daimyo consults the priests, and they reveal that only the trunk of a large and wide willow tree can support the temple. Having heard of the existence of such a tree in one of his vassals, Inabata, he ordered it cut down and brought back to the temple.
Upon learning of this, Inabata explained the situation to his loving wife. She then said to him: "I have a confession to make to you, my dear friend. You never asked me how I came to you; I am the soul of the willow tree. Touched by your gratitude for welcoming me into your home, I took you as my husband and gave birth to a son. But I know that you cannot disobey your lord, so I must die.” It moves towards the tree and disappears into the foliage.
Then the lumberjacks arrive; without paying attention to Inabata's pleas, they shoot down the magnificent weeping willow with its silvery leaves. The tree now lies on the ground, but it is impossible to transport it; attempts are made to lift it up, without success. It resists, as if welded to the ground. Three hundred soldiers were called in as reinforcements, but the tree never moved.
It is then that little Yanagi approaches, caressing the silvery leaves and simply whispering "Come". The little boy then grabs a branch of the tree and, pulled by the child's tiny hand, gives in to his prayer and follows him to the temple courtyard.
Japan – Edo (1603-1868)
Height 1 inch – 2,5 cm
Length 2.75 inch – 7 cm
Width 3.35 inch - 8,5 cm