Buddhist Surplice (Kesa)

Buddhist Surplice (Kesa)

early 1900s

Silk with supplementary weft, brocaded; metal thread

Average: 114.3 x 205.7 cm (45 x 81 in.)

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade 1916.1345

Description

The kesa is a Buddhist monk’s vestment worn folded and draped over one shoulder, and fastened over the chest. In keeping with the austere conditions of monastic life, kesa were traditionally fashioned from remainders of donated garments sewn together into a series of columns. The wider, central column symbolizes the Buddha. The orange squares with a phoenix and flower pattern in each corner represent the deities who guard the four directions, while the two at the top on either side of the central column symbolize attendant bodhisattvas, or the Nio, guardians who protect the Buddhist Law. This kesa is sewn from a textile with bold roundels with dragon and phoenix motifs.

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