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MAO - Museo d’Arte Orientale verified

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closed The robe of the Buddha

The show

The origins of kesa (Japanese term which translates from Sanskrit kasaya or "ocher"), the garment worn by Buddhist monks, are very ancient and legendary.According to tradition, it was in fact the Buddha himself who asked his disciple Ananda to make a dress that all his followers could wear and that was similar to the geometries of the rice fields in which he loved to walk. The man satisfied him and sewed a robe simply by assembling salvaged fabrics. Since then the monks made the kasayas (which will take the name of kesa when Buddhism enters Japan) by combining old strips of cloth, remnants often torn and damaged and dyed with humble earths (ocher, hence the name), which go to compose a unique garment, "the most precious of clothes", a symbol of simplicity and purity.


From 28 March, on the occasion of one of the periodic rotations for conservation purposes involving the gallery dedicated to Japan, one of the treasures of the MAO collections, a kesa from the Edo period (1603-1967 century) in satin is exceptionally exposed to the public. green silk brocade, decorated with groups of clouds and a series of scattered circular motifs, each of which resembles a stylized floral corolla.The choice and combination of colors, in addition to the iconography itself, refer to similar fabrics made in China already during the Tang era and are the result of mixtures and mutual influences between China and the Middle East which, over the centuries, have made travel on the ancient trade routes not only precious goods, but languages, styles, knowledge.


The second kesa on display also traveled on these same routes, a rare example created from the so-called "Ezo brocade", a type of fabric that came to Japan from China through the Ezo area, present-day Hokkaido, land of the Ainu. The striped silk and silver fabric has a very rich floral decoration: large shoots of peony and other flowers are interwoven on a bright red-orange background, combined with auspicious symbols, among which the recurring motif of the coin stands out, stylized according to the Chinese use in the anagram of the "Eight Treasures".

Works on display

Timetable and tickets

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Via San Domenico, 9-11
10100 Torino

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