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keko, literally 'floral basket,' refers to a flat tray-like carrier for flower petals, scattered during Buddhist rituals. Originally a practical flower holder made of bamboo, ornate metal baskets, such as this, later came to be used in temples. This piece comes from a set of openwork keko (designated National Treasure), made of bronze gilt in gold and silver, from the Shingon sect Chizan school temple, Shinsho-ji, in Shiga Prefecture. Auspicious floral scrolls (J., hosoge) were carved in openwork from a bronze plate, which was then gilted entirely in gold with the flowers in silver, creating a stunning decorative effect. The sukibori carving technique was used to produce the raised effect of the arabesques and fine lines were incised to bring out further detail. Formerly decorative cords, tied in a trefoil knot (J., agemaki), hung from the three small rings attached to the bottom of the keko. The techniques and execution of motifs make this a masterpiece of metal work from the Kamakura period (1180-1333).
Keko (Buddhist Flower Basket) with
Openwork Hosoge Scrolls


Japan, 12th-14th century
D. 28.3 cm
Gilt bronze with gold and silver

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