Lacquered sutra box


British Museum

British Museum

Lacquerware has been produced in the Korean peninsula since the Three Kingdoms period (about AD 300-668). The production of lacquerware with inlaid mother-of-pearl decoration reached a high point during the Koryo period (AD 918-1392). Buddhism was the royal religion of the Koryo dynasty, and most of the surviving lacquerware are boxes used to store sutras, copied with great skill and care by Buddhist monks. The court and aristocracy promoted such activities as they were considered virtuous and would ensure happiness and prosperity.

The use of incised iridescent haliotis shells for the inlay and the design of peony scrolls around the borders are similar to Chinese inlaid lacquer of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). The stylized chrysanthemums are typical Koryo-period in style, and recall the sanggam inlay technique of Koryo celadon ware.

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  • Title: Lacquered sutra box
  • Date Created: 1200/1299
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 25.80cm; Length: 48.50cm; Depth: 26.50cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: inlaid; lacquered
  • Registration number: 1966,1221.1
  • Production place: Made in Korea
  • Place: Found/Acquired Korea
  • Period/culture: Koryo Dynasty
  • Material: lacquer; silver; mother-of-pearl; haliotis shell
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Purchased from Fujendo & Co. Funded by Brooke Sewell Permanent Fund