Incense burner with handle in shape of magpie's tail

Asuka period, 7th century

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo, Japan

A long-handled censer is a Buddhist implement that monks hold to offer incense during services. This elegant gilt bronze example was given its name because of the way the end of its handle splits into three parts like a magpie's tail. The deep incense burner rests on a central stem in the shape of an abacus bead over a double-tiered, flower-shaped pedestal with twelve petals. The handle extends from the rim of the burner and is nailed in two places: at the base of the pedestal axis and on the outer rim of the burner. Two hemispherical metal domes ornament the handle near the rim. The overall size and simplicity of design indicate that among long-handled magpie-tail censers, this is of an older style.On the back of the burner rim is carved in fine needle-point inscription (J. harigakimei) the characters for "Jôgû," the name of the Eastern Hall at Hôryû-ji Temple, suggesting that the censer was in some way associated with this temple building. On the underside of the handle, "Eji," the name of Prince Shôtoku's Buddhist master, is inscribed in vermilion. This censer was traditionally believed to have been used by Dharma Master Eji himself.


  • Title: Incense burner with handle in shape of magpie's tail
  • Date Created: Asuka period, 7th century
  • Physical Dimensions: h102 mm
  • Object Title: 鵲尾形柄香炉
  • Object Notes(Japanese): 柄香炉は、法会の際に僧侶が手に持って香を献じるための仏具である。柄の末端が三つに分かれて鵲(かささぎ)の尾に似ているため、この名称がある。真鍮(しんちゅう)製の打ち出しで、金メッキを全面にほどこす。底の深い火炉(かろ 香をたく部分)はそろばん玉形の台軸と12弁2段の花形をした台座で構成され、火炉の底から伸びる柄が、台軸の付根と火炉の外縁の2か所で鋲留めされている。柄の火炉に近い部分には2個の半球形の飾り金具が付いている。全体に大ぶりで簡素な造形は、鵲尾形柄香炉の中でも古い様式を示している。 火炉の縁裏に「上宮(じょうぐう)」の針書銘(はりがきめい)、柄の裏には「慧慈(えじ)」の朱書銘がある。前者から法隆寺の上宮王院(東院)との関係がうかがえる。また法隆寺では、この香炉が聖徳太子の仏教の師とされる慧慈法師の用いたものと伝えている。
  • Object Date: 飛鳥時代・7世紀
  • Type: Metalwork
  • External Link: http://www.emuseum.jp/detail/100215

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