Asian Tribal Art - Gunbai, Japan

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Keyaki (elm) wood, remnants of paint
17" (43.1 cm) high, 9" (22.8 cm) wide
Meiji Period 1868-1912

Usually made of wood, the gunbai is traditional equipment for military leaders, who used it to direct movements on the battlefield. It was then elaborated into an elegant item for samurai, sometimes beautifully lacquered and decorated. By the late 18th-century the gunbai had made its way into the sumo ring; the referee uses the fan to indicate the winning wrestler. This simple and elegant gunbai was likely used in the sumo ring during the Meiji Period. The handle was originally painted black.


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