|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
Lacquer Door Panels of Wat Rajpradit - mother-of-pearl with underpainting is seen in both the upper and lower parts, and cedar material decorated with colored lacquer maki-e is found in the middle portions.
Front Cover of the Report
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting a joint study to preserve the cultural heritage of Thailand in collaboration with the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand (FAD), since 1992. As a part of this joint study, we have been providing technical support through related parties in Thailand, including the Temple and FAD, for the restoration project related to the lacquer door panels at Wat Rajpradit, the first-grade royal Buddhism temple built in 1864.
Restoration of cultural heritage requires devising a plan based on detailed research on materials, techniques, surrounding environment, and deterioration status of each cultural heritage, and the restoration work needs to proceed according to the plan. Hence, relevant scientific investigation on the cultural heritage in question is crucial. Lacquer door panels at Wat Rajpradit were believed to be made in Japan because they have designs of flowers and birds, landscapes, and figures wearing Japanese kimonos, and they feature work in mother-of-pearl with underpaint techniques, which were often used in lacquerware exported from Japan in the mid-19th century. However, there was neither concrete evidence nor clues regarding their producers and their positioning in the history of such techniques. Therefore, numerous experts in various fields from TOBUNKEN and other organizations conducted scientific investigations and research studies on the designs expressed in mother-of-pearl with underpainting and colored lacquer maki-e. According to these studies, the material ingredients, techniques, and design elements found in the lacquer door panels strongly suggest that they were made in Japan.
The report “Study of the Japan-made Lacquerwork found in Thailand – Lacquer Door Panels of Wat Rajpradit,” published in Japanese in March 2021 assists in understanding these research outcomes and provides an overview of the interdisciplinary research on cultural heritage. This report is accessible in the TOBUNKEN Library, public libraries in Japan, and some libraries in overseas museums that have collections of Japanese artworks. We hope that you will read it.
Damaged “Hanshan and Shide”
Myōhōji Temple, located in Marugame city, Kagawa prefecture, is known for the fact that Yosa Buson (1716-1783), a painter and haiku poet of the Edo era, visited it in 1768 and left many of his paintings there. His painting “Hanshan and Shide,” an Important Cultural Property, is damaged and Hanshan’s face is partially lost. Fortunately, the previous image including Hanshan’s face undamaged was retrieved from the monochrome films that were shot in the Myōhōji Temple by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) in 1959. It was recently found that the films showed the painting in its undamaged form.
TOBUNKEN conducted an investigation, photography project, and research study to reproduce this damaged painting placed on sliding doors (fusuma-e) as digital images based on the existing monochrome films and new images produced through this project.
Four researchers from the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems—SHIRONO Seiji, EMURA Tomoko, YASUNAGA Takuyo, and MAIZAWA Rei—visited the Myōhōji Temple from August 24th to 28th, 2021 for this research investigation and photography with sufficient infection control measures against COVID-19. The investigation targets were “Hanshan and Shide,” “Cycad,” “Landscapes,” “Bamboo,” and “Jurō (God of longevity),” all works of Yosa Buson. All paintings were shot in color, while “Hanshan and Shide,” “Cycad,” and “Landscapes” were also shot using infrared (IR) imaging. Furthermore, experts of sliding door making and cultural property conservation measured “Hanshan and Shide” sliding doors because the reproduced image of “Hanshan and Shide” will be mounted on sliding doors and placed in the main hall of Myōhōji Temple.
There are still challenges such as finding a way to convert the monochrome image into a color image. We would like to explore new ways to utilize the image materials accumulated by TOBUNKEN through this reproduction experience.
Investigation using X-ray fluorescent analyses
The Protection of Tumuli and Wall Paintings Project Team consisting mainly of researchers from Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties（TOBUNKEN）and the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been working on research studies to preserve and restore the wall paintings of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus and Kitora Tumulus. Compared with the wall paintings of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus, the wall paintings of Kitora Tumulus are characterized by the twelve signs of the zodiac, depicted as animal heads on human bodies, three of which are featured on each wall along with the Four Divine Creatures and Star Atlas and others.
While six figures out of twelve—the Rat, Ox, Tiger, Horse, Dog, and Boar—have been identified, the Rabbit, Sheep, and Rooster are completely lost since the plaster where the paintings should be is missing. The rest, that is, the Dragon, Snake, and Monkey, are not yet identified because the surface of the walls is covered with mud. These three pieces of walls that could contain those paintings are currently not reassembled, but are preserved in the facility for conservation and restoration of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus wall paintings.
The material investigation group and restoration group of this project team worked together on an investigation using X-ray radiography in 2018 and found some radiographic images that seemed to show something drawn in the space where the Dragon was expected to be, but many questions remained. Then, in December 2020, X-ray fluorescent analyses were performed on the parts of the walls where the wall paintings of the Dragon and Monkey could possibly exist. Some mercury was detected, indicating that the figures might be present.
Following this outcome, on August 11th, 2021, further X-ray fluorescent analyses were conducted on the part of the wall where the Snake artwork was suspected to be. Three members of the Center for Conservation Science, TOBUNKEN—INUZUKA Masahide, HAYAKAWA Noriko, and CHI Chih lien—participated in this investigation. X-ray fluorescent analyses were conducted at spots distanced 2 cm apart where the Snake painting was expected to be. The detection of mercury indicated that the painting was indeed present.
These results were reported in the “29th Committee on Preservation and Utilization of Tumulus Wall Paintings” held on August 31st, 2021 by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
X-ray image of the piece of the wall where the Snake painting could be present (left) and distribution of mercury signal strength (right)
The Urgent Statement on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan
Due to the dramatic change in the political situation of Afghanistan, JCIC-Heritage (Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage), which our research institute has been commissioned to manage by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, released the Urgent Statement on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan on 18th of August, 2021. The whole sentences are as below. JCIC-Heritage will continuously collaborate with the related organizations and make every effort for the protection of cultural heritage in Afghanistan.
“Urgent Statement on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in Afghanistan”
Due to the rapid change in the political situation of Afghanistan, there is strong concern about the likelihood of looting and destruction targeting the country’s historical cultural heritage, especially archaeological sites, and museums.
The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage) is extremely concerned that the irreplaceable cultural heritage of Afghanistan is in great danger.
The consortium was established to promote collaboration among related organizations and experts in Japan and facilitate a greater Japanese role in international cooperation in the field of cultural heritage protection. Since 2001, activities in Afghanistan have been a critical pillar in the history of Japan’s international cooperation in cultural heritage, which have achieved significant results by cooperating with Afghanistan, other countries, and international organizations.
It is widely recognized that cultural heritage is a common treasure that tells the history of humanity. Cultural heritage also plays an important role as a source of national unity and identity, as well as facilitating regional and national development. Wishing to prevent any attacks on cultural heritage and mitigate its illicit transfer, we urge all parties and individuals concerned to act in a calm and considered manner. We also would like to share our concerns with the international community.
JCIC-Heritage hereby express our strong resolution to continue offering support for the protection of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage. We hope that the people of Afghanistan will be able to live in safety and security, and that the current situation will be stabilized as soon as possible.
18th August, 2021
Chair Person of JCIC-Heritage
The 29th Seminar: "Preservation and Transmission of Information on Cultural Heritage”
The 29th Seminar in session
Today, the progress of recording technology, including digital archives, has enabled storing the information on cultural heritage in databases and interactive efforts have been initiated to consistently collect (specific) information unique to different regions around the world.
In order to discuss appropriate ways of retaining and passing down information related to cultural heritage and possibilities of future international cooperation in this field, JCIC-Heritage (Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage, which our research institute has been commissioned to manage by the Agency for Cultural Affairs), held a webinar on August 9, 2021, titled “Retention and Succession of the Information associated with Cultural Heritage～For Whom and What Purpose～”.
SAITO Reiko (National Museum of Ethnology) gave a lecture titled, “Info-Forum museum and Utilization of Ainu Ethnic Materials.” KUBOTA Hiromichi, Head of the Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Section, presented a lecture titled “Recording and Utilization of Information Related to Intangible Cultural Heritage.” HAYASHI Kengo (University of Tokyo) delivered a lecture titled “40 Years of the Asian Modern Architectural Heritage Database: Its Development, Transformation, and Challenges.” In the following panel discussion, the possibility of international cooperation through the creation of databases on cultural heritage and the type of information to be recorded in them was discussed between the panelists with KONDO Yasuhisa (Research Institute for Humanity and Nature) as the moderator.
Nowadays, more people with various backgrounds have concern regarding how to retain information related to cultural heritage and to whom it should be inherited. In addition, the methods and objectives for those matters have been diversified. JCIC-Heritage will continue to collect and disseminate relevant information.
See the following JCIC-Heritage web page for details about this seminar.