X89.821 Votive plaque (ema)

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Votive plaque (ema)
Tokyo, Japan
Late 19th-early 20th century
Wood and paint
H: 15.5 cm, W: 25.4 cm, D: 1.8 cm (H: 6.1 in, W: 10 in, D: .71 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Dr. Daniel C. Holtom. X89.821

Category:
Description

In Japan, people who seek divine assistance in overcoming difficulties may place a votive offering known as an ema in a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine. The illustrations on the ema reflect the petitioner’s problem. Petitioners may paint their own illustration, but as far back as the Edo period (1600-1868), ema were also painted in commercial studios and offered for sale to clients. The petitioner typically added an inscription to the purchased ema, often including a personal name and date. An ema is also sometimes presented simply as an expression of thanks to the deities.

In this ema, the inscription beside the man reads ”thirty-seven years old,” while that beside the woman reads ”nuisance, twenty-eight years old.” The tree depicted is the enkiri enoki, literally, ”the Chinese nettle tree that severs connections between people.”

Ema were frequently offered at this tree by people seeking a divorce, but they were sometimes also presented by other parties. In the case of this ema, it may have been offered by a parent, wife, or lover of the man who sought to break up his relationship with the ”nuisance.”

Source: Exhibition Wall Text: Intersections: World Arts, Local Lives, 2006

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