Buddhist altar pendant (keman)


Historical period(s)
Kamakura period, 1185-1333
Copper with gold and silver
H x W x D: 44.8 x 31.5 x 2.2 cm (17 5/8 x 12 3/8 x 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 07: The Power of Words in an Age of Crisis
Jewelry and Ornament, Metalwork

Altar pendant (keman)

altar, Buddhism, chasing, flower, gilding, Japan, Kamakura period (1185 - 1333), lotus, piercing, repousse, WWII-era provenance
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Hosomi Minoru 1922 - 2006


Pendants, known as keman, made of bronze, leather, or wood are hung from beams above the altars of Japanese Buddhist temples. They are decorated with floral designs inspired by the garlands of fresh flowers that were offered to Indian deities. In disks surmounting lotuses are characters representing syllables of the Indian language Sanskrit. Each character surmounts a lotus and represents the first syllable of the name of a deity. On the face, the character bhai signifies the name of the Buddha of Healing, Bhaisajya-guru, known in Japanese as Yakushi Nyorai. Although Japanese Buddhist texts are often written predominantly in Chinese, Sanskrit orthography is used for mystical incantations and in Esoteric Buddhist art.

Published References
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 81.
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 21, p. 70-71.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 41, pp. 53-54, cover.
  • Edwards Park. Treasures from the Smithsonian Institution., 1st ed. Washington and New York. pp. 358-59.
  • pp. 165 and 286.
  • pp. 126-127.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum