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New Year's Celebration at the Tokyo National Museum: Sheep and Auspicious Imagery

New Year's Celebration at the Tokyo National Museum: Sheep and Auspicious Imagery / Honkan Room T1   January 2, 2015 (Fri) - January 12, 2015 (Mon)

  
Paperweight in Shape of Sheep, White jade, China, Qing dynasty, 19th century (Gift of Mr. Kamiya Denbei)

2015 is the Year of the Sheep. The sheep has had a close connection with humans since ancient times and was considered an ideal offering to the gods in both the East and the West. It became a symbol of good fortune and patterns with sheep motifs were used on ritual bronze vessels in ancient China. Additionally, the Chinese character for "sheep" forms part of the characters for "beautiful," "virtuous," and "auspicious," respectively. The auspicious image associated with sheep spread throughout the whole of Asia, and even in Japan sheep were noted as offerings from foreign countries in historical texts such as the Nihon shoki and Hyakurensho. Moreover, a textile of white silk twill with a sheep pattern and a wax-resist-dyed folding screen depicting a sheep are among the treasures of the Shosoin Repository in Nara. However, sheep did not inhabit Japan and their use in auspicious imagery does not seem to have become ingrained in Japanese culture. Rather, they were considered foreign animals and associated with the Chinese zodiac. Until many sheep were brought to Japan in the Meiji era (1868-1912), they were expressed somewhat as imaginary creatures.

We welcome visitors to explore the connection between sheep and humans through artworks and artifacts from a number of regions, ranging from the Mediterranean to East Asia, in this four-part exhibition - "Part One: Sheep in Asia," "Part Two: The Chinese Zodiac," "Part Three: The Japanese and Sheep," and "Part Four: Auspicious Patterns."

 Major works in this exhibition
* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
 Major works in this exhibition
* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Sheep Head Pendant, Eastern Mediterranean region or Carthage, 7th - 6th century BC (Private collection)
Brush Cleaner, Blue Stone, China, Qing dynasty, 19th century (Gift of Mr. Kamiya Denbei)
Sheep, From the Chinese painting album Hikkoen, By Zhao Fu, China, Ming dynasty, 16th century (Important Cultural Property)
Standing Juni Shinsho (Twelve Heavenly Generals): Bishin (Who protects the direction of the sheep), Formerly owned by Joruriji temple, Kyoto, Kamakura period, 13th century (Important Cultural Property)
Sheep, By Mori Sosen, Edo period, 19th century
Shouxing (God of longevity), China, Yuan dynasty, 14th century (Important Art Object)
Shoulao (God of longevity) under Plum Tree, Attributed to Sesshu Toyo, Muromachi period, 15th century (Important Art Object)
Falcons and Pines, By Sesson Shukei, Muromachi period, 16th century (Important Cultural Property)

Related Events

January 2, 2015 (Fri) - January 12, 2015 (Mon)