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Natural motif on medieval lanterns

Published Oct 27, 2022
Updated Oct 27, 2022

📍 Metal lanterns at Kasuga-Taisha shrine at Nara

The hanging lanterns or Tsuri-doro (釣灯籠) are bronze, copper, iron or wood lanterns, usually hung from roof naves of the shrines, palaces, and temples in Japan. Tsuri-doro are generally four- or six-sided lanterns with latticed sides. 

As a regional tradition at the Kasuga-Taisha shrine in Nara, the donations took the form of metal lanterns. Dating to 9th century CE, the tradition of lighting oil lamps during the forest festival and family festivals in Nara, the brass lanterns held a place as the most valued donation. Over two thousand brass lanterns adorn the premises today, long after the tradition of donating metal lamps came to a close.

Exquisitely in their workmanship, the lamps follow a general stylistic pattern with minor differences and personalization made on the request of the donor. Floral patterns, bords and bees form the latticed sides of the lamps. Corniced edges made by double-cast technique add a sense of uniformity to the lanterns. 

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 >> History of Art in Japan - Nobuo Tsuji, New York:Columbia University Press, 2019

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