About Kirikane
Kirikane is also known as Cut-Gold Leaf, or Hosokane in some periods. It is a decorative technique used on Buddhist artworks in which several sheets of gold leaves, or in some cases platinum leaves, are stuck together on top of each other by heating them and made into a thicker sheet. Then it is cut, on top of a piece of buckskin, into fine strips, or into round, triangular, or square pieces using a knife made of bamboo. These pieces are then glued on the surface of the artwork with the tip of a brush. This technique was introduced to Japan from the Asian continent in the 6th century A.D.,together with Buddhism. The oldest Kirikane decorations are found on statues of the four celestial kings of the Main Hall, Horyuji Temple, and the four celestial kings of the Ordination Hall, Todaiji Temple. Also, it can be found on the 6th century Silla Koto, a musical instrunment, of treasures in the Shosoin repository. Often used in the Jodo and Hokke sects of Buddhism, Kirikane flourished in the 11th century as an elegant and magnificent Buddhist art unique to Japan. It came to its height as well as other Buddhist arts in the 13th century with the addition of varied designs using curved lines, such as arabesque patterns and other geometrical patterns. Meanwhile, other techniques were introduced, such as the powdered-gold technique, and Kirikane, as did other Buddhist arts, started to decline in popularity to the point even its name was almost forgotten. In more modern times, the technique of using Kirikane was protected from being entirely lost by the East and West Honganji Buddhist Temples, where a few craftsmen kept and transmitted their knowledge to the next generation of artists.
Since I am trying to revive the splendor of Kirikane to the people of the current era, though I am usually busy decorating Buddhist statues with Kirikane, they are often placed in seclusion in the back at the holy area in the Buddha Hall and not many people can take a look at them. In order to let people know what Kirikane is, I tried using it on daily craft items like tea ceremony utensils, or on household items such as small boxes, folding stands, screens, framed decorations, and also larger subjects used as wall decorations. However, I always keep in mind the original philosophy that our ancestors invented this technique to decorate religious items with a spiritual devotion. For the future, I am looking for some new development in the hope of expressing this age.
Sayoko Eri
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