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Japan's Kitora tomb mural paintings recommended as national treasure


The Council for Cultural Affairs on Monday recommended that three sets of cultural assets be designated national treasures, including ancient mural paintings at the Kitora tumulus in Asuka, Nara Prefecture.

Japan's Kitora tomb mural paintings recommended as national treasure
An ancient mural painting at the Kitora tumulus in Asuka, Nara Prefecture, depicts a divine animal
known as a Genbu black snake-tortoise [Credit: Cultural Affairs Agency]
The recommendations made to culture minister Masahiko Shibayama also covered a set of wooden sculptures, including one of the Healing Buddha, at the Toshodaiji temple in the same prefecture.


The council, chaired by Makoto Sato, an executive at the National Institutes for the Humanities, also recommended the designations of 41 sets of assets as important cultural properties, including 67 documents related mainly to warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the country’s warring period more than 400 years ago.

Japan's Kitora tomb mural paintings recommended as national treasure
A divine animal known as a Byakko white tiger is seen in an ancient mural painting at the Kitora tumulus
in Asuka, Nara Prefecture [Credit: Cultural Affairs Agency]
New registrations of tangible cultural properties were sought for 153 buildings, including the Kudan Kaikan hall in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward, a historic building in the Imperial Crown style, characterized by Japanese-style roofing on a Western structure.


After the designations and registrations, expected to be announced soon in line with the council’s recommendations, Japan will have 10,772 artworks designated as important cultural properties, including 893 national treasures, and 12,281 buildings registered as tangible cultural properties.

Japan's Kitora tomb mural paintings recommended as national treasure
A mural of “Suzaku,” or the Red Bird of the South, on the south wall of Kitora Tomb's chamber in Asuka
 is shown four times a year at the "Kitora-Kofun Hekiga Taikenkan-Shijin no Yakata"
in Asuka, Nara Prefecture [Credit: Cultural Affairs Agency]
Mural paintings at the Kitora tomb depict four divine animals from Chinese mythology representing the four cardinal directions. The painting of Red Phoenix on the southern wall, one of the four animals, and a celestial map on the ceiling, among the oldest found so far in East Asia, are considered especially important.


The sculptures at Toshodaiji are very likely to have been produced with the involvement of Chinese craftsmen who accompanied high-ranking Chinese Buddhist monk Jianzhen, or Ganjin, to Japan in the eighth century. The works are considered the starting point for Japanese wooden sculptures.

Japan's Kitora tomb mural paintings recommended as national treasure
A mural of "Seiryu," dubbed the Azure Dragon of the East, found at Kitora Tomb in Asuka,
Nara Prefecture [Credit: Cultural Affairs Agency]
The Toyotomi-related documents include one to name Hideyoshi as “kanpaku,” or chief adviser to the emperor.

Source: The Japan Times [March 20, 2019]

TANN

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