Signed Koshuku 虎粛 with kakihan
Japan, Tsu, late 18th to early 19th century, Edo period (1615-1868)
Boldly carved, depicting Kiyohime as a monstrous, fire-breathing serpent, wrapped around the bell of the Dojoji Temple. The ghostly figure dressed in a voluminous robe, her long hair falling down her back, with two horns on the top of her head. Her face in agony as she mourns the loss of her infatuation, now lost to her rage, the mouth agape with the jaw appearing unhinged, all below sorrowful eyes inlaid in metal. Through the hole, one can peer at the skeleton of Anchin, minutely carved in stained bone, his flesh burnt away. The lid removable allowing a full view of the skull. Good, asymmetrical himotoshi underneath and signed KOSHUKU with kakihan.
HEIGHT 4 cm
Condition: Very good condition with minor wear.
The tale of Anchin and Kiyohime forms the basis of a collection of plays termed Dojoji mono (Dojo-ji Temple plays), depicting an event some years after the temple bell was destroyed. These plays include the Noh play Dojoji and the Kabuki dance drama Musume Dojoji. The legend, connected with the founding of the Dojo-ji temple in Kii Province (modern-day Wakayama Prefecture), relates how a priest named Anchin from Shirakawa in Oshu province made a pilgrimage to the Kumano Shrine lodged at the home of a shoji (steward of a shoen manor) of Manago/Masago, where the manor official’s daughter Kiyohime fell in love with the young monk. In order to avoid her, he deceived her with a false promise to return and continued his journey. Kiyohime became furious by his rejection and pursued him in rage. At the edge of the Hidaka River, Anchin asked a ferryman to help him to cross the river, but told him not to let her cross with his boat. When Kiyohime saw that Anchin was escaping her, she jumped into the river and started to swim after him. While swimming in the torrent of the Hidaka river, she transformed into a serpent or dragon because of her rage. When Anchin saw her coming after him in her monstrous new form, he ran into the temple called Dojo-ji. He asked the priests for help and they hid him under the bonsho bell of the temple. However, the serpent smelled him hiding inside the bell and started to coil around it. She banged the bell loudly several times with her tail, then gave a great belch of fire so powerful that it melted the bell and killed Anchin.
Compare a closely related ebony netsuke of Kiyohime wrapped around the Dojoji temple bell by Minko at Zacke, Fine Netsuke, Sagemono & Okimono, 24 November 2018, Vienna, lot 70 (sold for EUR 8,670).
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