kyokuroku 曲ろく
KEY WORD : art history / sculptures
Also written 曲禄. Also less commonly called kyoku 曲 or kyokugi 曲木. Lit. curved wood. A chair made of curved pieces of wood, used mainly for priests of high status. It is favored by the Zen 禅 sect, but it is also used by other Buddhist sects. There are two styles of kyokuroku:

1 A sturdy type with four legs. In some cases, the legs have braces at ground level. This style was imported from Southern Song China and has been used in Japan since the Kamakura period. Myoushinji 妙心寺 in Kyoto owns a beautiful Momoyama period example decorated with carved openwork *sukashibori 透彫.

2 A folding type that seems to have developed more recently but was widely used in the Momoyama period. The folding type may have originated from the *koshou 胡床, portable chairs used by the nobility when travelling or attending certain ceremonies in the Heian period. The folding kyokuroku differs from koshou in that it is specifically used by priests. An example with an unusual design of figures of foreigners, nanbanjin 南蛮人 depicted on the back-rest in *makie 蒔絵 (lacquer decoration with gold) is preserved at Zuikouji 瑞光寺 in Kyoto. Priests may sit on both styles of kyokuroku in a cross-legged fashion, a position appropriate for meditation. Both styles of chair often appear in portraits of Zen masters *chinsou 頂相, with a cloth, happi 法被, draped over the back of the chair. The portrait of Musou Kokushi 夢窓国師 (1276-1351) from Rokuouin 鹿王院 in Kyoto is a 14c example that depicts the master seated in the four-legged type of kyokuroku with a happi.


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