Skip to content

Update from the Gallery regarding COVID-19

The Art Gallery of New South Wales is open. We are observing strict physical distancing and hygiene measures to protect the health of visitors and staff and minimise the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Read the latest visit information




Asian art

View More:


Writing box (suzuribako)

mid 19th century


Unknown Artist


This box is decorated with a design of lotus plants and the text of the Buddhist Heart Sutra in gold characters. The Heart Sutra is considered one of the most important of all Buddhist sutras and is particularly popular in Japan.

The design is executed in a virtuoso display of lacquer techniques. These include 'togidashi' (where the design is sprinkled on, then covered and the hardened surface polished until the design reappears flush with the surface); 'mura-nashiji' (cloud-like areas where fine gold flakes are sunk into the wet lacquer surface to create a background resembling 'pear skin'); and silver and gold 'kirigane' (applied metallic foil). The sides of the box are inlaid in 'aogai' (shell) with a repeat pattern in the style known as Somada style. The bevelled edges of the box are inlaid in gold 'gyobu nashiji' (a mosiac effect of individually-placed irregular gold flakes). The underside of the cover and the undulating internal tray are decorated in similar techniques to the top, with the windblown petals of the lotus flowers. The gilt metal water dropper is in the shape of a cloud.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, December 2005.


Place where the work was made



mid 19th century

Media category


Materials used

box: lacquer with gold, silver, shell; water dropper: gilt metal


3.7 x 22.2 x 19.5 cm :

a - box base, 3.1 x 21.2 x 18.8 cm

b - box lid, 3 x 22.2 x 19.5 cm

c - base in box, 20.4 x 18 cm

d - cloud shaped water dropper, 1 x 2.5 x 5.7 cm

e - ink stone, 0.8 x 10 x 6.3 cm

Signature & date

Box unsigned; water dropper signed 'Zoroku zo'


Purchased 2005


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history