Kesa, Buddhist priest's mantle

1840-1890 (made)


Length: 115 cm, Width: 200 cm approx.

928-1897 EAS

Buddhist robe (kesa) patterned with scrolling floral stems on a green ground

This is a kesa, the rectangular garment worn by Japanese Buddhist priests. Kesa are made of a sewn patchwork of cloth, the arrangement of the sections of fabric into columns surrounded by a border serving as a mandala, a symbolic rendering of the universe. The central column represents the Buddha, the two columns either side his attendants, and the four patches at the corners the cardinal directions. The act of sewing the garment is in itself a devotional pursuit.

Location: Japan, room 45, case 9

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