A Rustic Hemp Priest's Coat: Beautiful Details
ca. late nineteenth century
25" x 48", 63.5 cm x 122 cm
What a lovely, lovely garment this is: wonderful cloth, wonderful details and wonderful design.
This jacket, with its split back and full sleeves, was a Buddhist priest's coat. It is made of beautifully woven hemp fiber which may or may not have been dyed with kaki shibu or green persimmon tannin. It seems to have been dyed with something as the proper, left sleeve has some variation in its color which indicates light fading.
The construction of this old vestment is interesting: the two back panels are not sewn shut. Instead, they are closed by a tab to each of the panels, the tabs bearing really lovely stitching and are meant to be tied together. Please see the accompanying photographs for a closer look. The same type of closure is affixed to the front of the jacket.
The hemp cloth is crinkly and well used and on the proper back, left you will see an area of loss; this area was eaten by an insect. The loss also is shown on the inner, white cotton lining fabric.
The jacket could also have belonged to a practitioner of Shugendo, a mystical and syncretic aspect of Japanese Buddhism that is concerned with highly disciplined asceticism, magic and the power drawn from the spirit of nature.
A rustic and simply beautiful garment.