trapezoid shaped black lacquered box with gold overlay design of water with waves, grasses; small silver bird at lower C; contains two small boards with shell chrysanthemums

Box and assorted implements for the incense game, 17th-18th century

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Incense played a prominent role in aristocratic culture of ancient Japan. Aristocrats were expected to know how to mix aromatic imported woods with other plant products and compound them into burnable, fragrant incense. Popular ingredients included aloe, sandalwood, frankincense, pine, lily, cinnamon, and patchouli, among others. In the 1400s, this artful appreciation of incense developed further into the so-called Way of Fragrance, or kōdō, along with the Way of Tea (sadō or chadō) and the Way of Flowers (kadō, better known in the West as ikebana). In incense-based games, played with the set displayed here, participants take turns smelling, appreciating, and guessing the ingredients of a certain type of incense. In one variation of the game called “Genji Incense” or Genjikō, types of incense or combinations thereof hint at chapters of The Tale of Genji.

Details
Title
Box and assorted implements for the incense game
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2015.79.398.3a-d
Catalogue Raisonne
Murase, Art through a Lifetime, no. 766
Curator Approved

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trapezoid shaped black lacquered box with gold overlay design of water with waves, grasses; small silver bird at lower C; contains two small boards with shell chrysanthemums