X89.863 Votive plaque (ema)

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Votive plaque (ema)
Wood and paint
H: 24.6 cm, W: 31.6 cm, D: 2.0 cm (H: 9.7 in, W: 12.4 in, D: .79 in)
Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Dr. Daniel C. Holtom. X89.863


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.

The inscriptions on this ema indicate that it was presented on September 19, 1895, by Ono Eiji. This style of ema is offered by newlyweds as an expression of their hope for a long life together. Three auspicious symbols of longevity are included in the painting: a pine tree, plum blossoms, and bamboo leaves.

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