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Mural Paintings of the Kitora Tumulus

Mural Paintings of the Kitora Tumulus
Honkan Room T5   April 22, 2014 (Tue) - May 18, 2014 (Sun)

  
White Tiger, of the Four Divine Animals,Mural Paintings from Kitora Tumulus: West Wall,Asuka period, 7th-8th century (Lent by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

Richly colored mural paintings from the Kitora tumulus (Asuka village, Nara prefecture; end of 7th-beginning of 8th century) will be specially exhibited at the Tokyo National Museum. The tumulus is designated as a special historic site. Out of the Four Gods ruling over the four directions, painted images of three of them―the white tiger, the black tortoise, and the vermilion bird―will be on exhibit. Also on display are painted images of two human figures with the heads of animals―the Rat and the Ox―from the twelve animals of the zodiac. This is a precious opportunity to view these paintings, which are being shown outside the village for the first time since their discovery in 1983.

Special exhibition "Mural Paintings of the Kitora Tumulus", Japanese Gallery (Honkan) and Hyokeikan will be opened until 20:00 on May 15, May 17, and May 18.(Last admission 30 minutes before closing)

Highlights of the Exhibition

General Information

Highlights of the Exhibition

 

Brief Description of Kitora Tumulus
キトラ古墳外観
Kitora Tumulus (in 2002)
Kitora Tumulus is a circular tomb located about 1.2km south of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus. The tomb mound, which has two tiers, is carefully built in the rammed earth method on a hill slope leveled by cutting out the soil. The diameter of the lower tier is estimated to be 13.8m, the higher tier 9.4m. In 1983, a research of the inside of the stone chamber was conducted using a fiberscope inserted through a hole in the stone chamber made from past looting. The black snake-tortoise painted on the north wall was discovered at this time. This was the second tomb with polychrome mural paintings in a style from continental Asia to be found, following akamatsuzuka Tumulus, whose mural paintings were discovered in 1972. There was a chamber constructed with hewn tuff stone, about a meter wide, 2.4m long and 1.2m high, inside the mound. As the survey continued, the blue dragon, red phoenix, and white tiger, of the four divine animals, as well as the celestial map on the ceiling, were found. On the lower part of the walls, figures of rat, ox, tiger, horse, dog, and wild boar of the Chinese zodiac, with animal heads and human bodies, have been discovered. The tumulus is thought to have been constructed in the end of the 7th century to the early 8th century, a little earlier than Takamatsuzuka Tumulus.

 

The mural paintings of Kitora

The mural paintings of Kitora Tumulus are thought to have been produced to create a universe surrounding the coffin of the deceased, within the stone chamber. It was based on ancient Chinese thoughts: yin and yang and the Five Elements. The celestial map on the ceiling of the chamber is assumed to represent the sky. On the walls, the four divine animals, and the zodiac animals with human bodies, all of which face to the right, symbolize time and space. Showing a more fundamental depiction of Chinese philosophy than mural paintings extant in China, the paintings are unique works of which the likes have previously not been found in China.
The mural paintings of Takamatsuzuka, like those of Kitora Tumulus, show the celestial map on the ceiling with each of the four divine animals in the center of each of the four walls, representing a universe surrounding the coffin. Unlike Kitora, however, the blue dragon and white tiger of the four divine animals
face southward to the entrance of the tomb, and groups of male and female attendants are portrayed instead of the zodiac animals. Furthermore, the celestial map is more simplified and stylized, showing advancement in style. Similar compositions of paintings are often seen in tomb mural paintings of Tang China, indicating that the two mural paintings in Japan were directly influenced by mural paintings in China.

 

キトラ古墳壁画 朱雀
Red Phoenix, of the Four Divine Animals
Mural Paintings from Kitora Tumulus: South Wall
Asuka period, 7th–8th century
Lent by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technolog

 

キトラ古墳壁画 白虎  
White Tiger, of the Four Divine Animals
Mural Paintings from Kitora Tumulus: West Wall
Asuka period, 7th–8th century
Lent by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

 

キトラ古墳壁画 玄武  
Black Snake-tortoise, of the Four Divine Animals
Mural Paintings from Kitora Tumulus: North Wall
Asuka period, 7th–8th century
Lent by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

 

 十二支 子    十二支 丑
Rat, of the Chinese Zodiac
Mural Paintings from Kitora Tumulus: North Wall
Asuka period, 7th–8th century
Lent by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
  Ox, of the Chinese Zodiac
Mural Paintings from Kitora Tumulus: North Wall
Asuka period, 7th–8th century
Lent by Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

 

 The Future of Kitora Tumulus

It was decided in 2009 by the Review Committee for Preservation and Utilization of Mural Paintings of Tumuli, of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, that the mural paintings removed from Kitora Tumulus should be preserved and open to the public for some time at an appropriate facility outside the stone chamber, after the completion of restoration work. Based on this decision, preparations are presently being carried out for the preservation and display of the paintings at the Kitora Experiential Learning Museum (working name), which is scheduled to open in 2016 in the area adjunct to Kitora Tumulus in Asuka Historical National Government Park. At the preservation facility on the ground floor of the Kitora Experiential Learning Museum, after the completion of restoration work, the detached mural paintings will be attached to the respective walls of east, west, south, and north, as well as the ceiling of the stone chamber. They will be shown to the visitors in their entirety, while the preservation of the paintings is given priority.
At the same time, while taking into consideration the facts obtained from the excavation of the tomb, the conservation work at Kitora Tumulus will be conducted under the policy of resuming it to the original condition when it was found, rather than restoring it to the original state when the tomb was built. Specifically, the tomb mound will be maintained to show its features having two tiers, along with its construction method of cutting out the soil of the north side of the hill. The site will be opened to the public, simultaneously with the public display of mural paintings.

 

 石室作業1    石室作業2
As first-aid measures for the conservation of the Kitora Tumulus mural paintings, the paintings were detached from the chamber between 2004 and 2010.

 

General Information

Period Tuesday, April 22 - Sunday, May 18, 2014
Venue Honkan Room T5, Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)
Hours 9:30 - 17:00
Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays until 18:00
Fridays until 20:00
Special exhibition "Mural Paintings of the Kitora Tumulus", Japanese Gallery (Honkan) and Hyokeikan will be opened until 20:00 on May 15, May 17, and May 18.
(Last entry 30 minutes before closing)
 
Closed Mondays, Wednesday, May 7
(Except for Monday, April 28 and Monday, May 5)
Admission Adults: 900 (800) yen
University students: 700 (600) yen
High school students: 400 (300) yen
Junior high school students and under: Free
* Prices shown in ( ) indicate advance and group (more than 20 persons) discount tickets.
* Persons with disabilities are admitted free with one accompanying person each.
* Advance tickets will be sale at the Museum ticket office (during museum hours, 30 minutes before closing hour), e-Ticket Pia (P-code:766-052), Lawson Ticket (L-code:34444), E-Plus and other major ticketing agencies from Monday , February 10,  to Monday, April 21, 2014.
* Special exhibition "Roots of Zen: Yosai and the Treasures of Kenninji" (Tuesday, March 25 - Sunday, May 18, 2014, Heiseikan) requires a separate admission fee.
Access 10 minutes' walk from JR Ueno Station (Park exit) and Uguisudani Station
15 minutes' walk from Keisei Ueno Station, Tokyo Metro Ueno Station and Tokyo Metro Nezu Station
Organizer Agency of Cultural Affairs, Tokyo National Museum, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, Kinki Regional Development Bureau, Nara Prefectural Board of Education, Asuka mura
 Co-organizer  The Asahi Shimbun
With the Sponsorship of   Okamura Printing Industries Co., Ltd.
With the special assistance of  National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, Otsuka Ohmi Ceramics Co., Ltd., Nippon Express Co., Ltd.
General Inquiries 03-5405-8686 (Hello Dial)
Exhibition Website http://kitora2014.jp (In Japanese)
The website has closed with the end of the exhibition.