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Antique Japanese Carved Netsuke
Two Dragons Motif

Netsuke Signature: unsigned, early 19th Century

H 1.5 in.(4cm.), W 1.5 in.(4cm), D 1 in.(2.5cm)

Condition: hairlines, age crack

This netsuke rendition of the instrument is carved in the traditional image of the mokugyo: two fish heads meeting to form the hand hold, while a bulbous cavity comprises the sounding block. Though the ivory is not carved out to create a cavity, the illusion of one exists; a thin line stretches around the base of the piece, anchored by two holes, one on each end of the line. The 19th century ivory is aged attractively and colorfully, in addition to the piece having a nice aji when held in one’s hand. The are a few age cracks but otherwise the piece is in excellent condition.

Sold To Private Collection

Mokugyo Netsuke

A Mokugyo (wooden fish) is a musical instrument of Chinese origins, and when struck with a wooden mallet it emits a sharp percussive sound, much like the call of an intensely focused cricket. It is used in meditation rituals, particularly those in the tradition of Mayhayana and Zen Buddhism; used to help chant the name of Amitabha Buddha in the former, and to signal the beginning and end of meditation sessions in the latter. In western orchestras and jazz bands, it is has been adopted as the ‘temple block’.

The origins of the mokugyo are as follows: A Chinese monk traveled to India to obtain sutras, and there he befriended a fish who asked the monk to ask the Buddha, if the fish could become a bodhisattva. After agreeing to the task, the monk continued his travels for many years, eventually obtaining an armful of holy scrolls. He again met the fish on his way back to China. “Have you spoken with the Buddha?”, the fish asked, but the monk had completely forgotten. The fish splashed violently in the water, soaking and scattering the sutras. Furious, the monk returned to China empty handed. There he crafted a wooden likeness of the fish and beat it with a wooden mallet. To his surprise, when hit, the fish would emit a single character from its mouth. This made the monk happy, and he hit the block as much as possible for years on end, eventually gaining back what he had lost in the water.

Fish Gong NetsukeMokugyo Netsuke
Last BuddhaFuture Buddha

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