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Bronze Komainu Vase. Edo period.

SKU: Bronze Edo period. Komainu $995.00
Komainu ( SAi S) often called lion-dogs in English are statue pairs of lion-like creatures either guarding the entrance or the inner shrine of many Japanese Shinto shrines or kept inside the inner shrine itself where they are not visible to the public. The first type born during the Edo period is called sandkomainu ( S visiting road Korean dogs) the second and much older type jinnai komainu ( ... S shrine inside komainu). They can sometimes be found also at Buddhist temples nobility residences or even private homes. The komainu is also one of the pieces of a shi (Japanese chess) board. Symbolic meaning: Meant to ward off evil spirits modern komainu statues are almost identical but one has the mouth open the other closed. This is a very common characteristic in religious statue pairs at both temples and shrines. This pattern is however Buddhist in origin (see the article about the Nihuman-form guardians of Buddhist temples) and has a symbolic meaning. The open mouth is pronouncing the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet which is pronounced ''a'' while the closed one is uttering the last letter which is pronounced ''um'' to represent the beginning and the end of all things. Together they form the sound Aum a syllable sacred in several religions like Hinduism Buddhism and Jainism. There are however exceptions to the rule in which both komainu have their mouth either open or closed. The two forms are called collectively a-un and individually as a-gy( 1/2 cents lit. ''a'' shape) and ''un-gy(1/2 1/2 cents lit. ''un'' shape). History: Komainu strongly resemble Chinese guardian lions and in fact originate from Tang dynasty China. The Chinese guardian lions are believed to have been influenced by lion pelts and lion depictions introduced through trade from either the Middle East or India countries where the lion existed and was a symbol of strength. During its transportation along the Silkroad however the symbol changed acquiring a distinctive look. The first lion statue in India appears around the 3rd century BC on top of a column erected by King Ashoka. The tradition later arrived to China where it developed into the guardian lion that was later exported to Korea Japan and Okinawa. During the Nara period (710 794) the pair always consisted as in the rest of Asia of two lions. Used only indoors until the 14th century they were made mainly of wood. During the Heian period (794 1185) for example wooden or metal pairs were employed as weights and door-stops while at the Imperial Palace they were used to support screens or folding screens. During the early Heian period (ninth century) the tradition changed and the two statues started to be different and be called differently. One had its mouth open and was called shishi (..lion) because as before it resembled that animal. The other had its mouth closed looked rather like a dog was called komainu or ''Koguryo dog'' and sometimes had a single horn on its head. Gradually the animals returned to be identical but for their mouths and ended up being called both komainu. Ubiquitous as they are now at shrines Komainu have been used outdoors only since the 14th century. In Asia the lion was popularly believed to have the power to repel evil and for this reason it was habitually used to guard gates and doors. In Japan too it ended up being installed at the entrance of shrines and temples next to the lion-dog. Being exposed to Japan's rainy weather the pair started being carved in stone. The sh s(A 1/4 A 1/4 ) the stone animals that in Okinawa guard the gates or the roofs of houses are close relatives of the shishi and the komainu objects whose origin function and symbolic meaning they share. Their name itself is just a corruption of shishi-san (.. Mr. Lion). Starting from the Edo period (1603 1868) other animals have been used instead of lions or dogs among others wild boars tigers dragons and foxes. The Japanese have far surpassed their Chinese benefactors in the creation of exquisite Bronze work. They literally set the gold standard over 150 years ago which is hard to match even with today trades high technology. The Meiji period was the golden era of bronze work in Japan and remains unequaled for quality and detail. Bronze was introduced into Japan from China via Korea and the Japanese still call it ''the Chinese metal'' (Kara kane). But it is the metal in which Japanese art was already winning its brightest laurels over a thousand years ago. The chief forms are the mirror the temple bell the gong the vase (originally intended for the adornment of Buddhist altars) the lantern and the colossal representation of divine personages. The temple bells at saka Ky to and Nara count among the largest in the world: but the grandest example of Japanese bronze-casting is the Dai-butsu (literally''great Buddha'') at Kamakura which dates from the thirteenth century. Armour is another use to which metal (iron and steel) was employed from the very earliest ages. The best examples of iron and steel armour date from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The best swords date from the same time. The ornamental swordhilts guards (tsuba) Fuchi Kashira and Kozuka date only from the sixteenth century onwards. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were the most fruitful epoch for the production of small bronze objects whose chief raison d'Atre is ornamentation such as: clasps paper-weights small figures of animals mouthpieces for pipes and vases intended for private residences and not for Buddhist altars as in earlier days. Damascening or inlaying on metal has achieved great perfection most notably in the 18th and 19th centuries when techniques using various metals and alloys of bronze or iron have been created to allow reproduction of whole landscapes with the minuteness of a painting. In bronze and other metals the Japanese have no parallel in the quality of their workmanship. In artistic treatment of metals depicting small groups and natural objects such as the subjects of their woodcuts they have attained extraordinary excellence: and in nearly every discipline in casting engraving chasing inlaying and damascening they have no equal. In bronze casting and moulding they are masters. They are equally capable of colossal and minute work. Their marvellous delicacy of touch and execution is more remarkable because in the fashion of their tools as in their smelting and refining processes everything is of the most traditional kind. Their ovens furnaces etc. are simple: yet judging by the work they have a perfect command of their materials from the ironstone to the steel of their sword-blades. The Japanese simply produce the best Bronze work in the world.