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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    19th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Carved and stained ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Salting Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery, case 8

The netsuke is a toggle. Japanese men used netsuke to suspend various pouches and containers from their sashes by a silk cord. Netsuke were made in a variety of forms, the most widely appreciated is the katabori (shape carving), a three-dimensional carving, such as this one in the form of Môsô in a bamboo grove. Netsuke were first and foremost functional and had to comply with certain basic requirements that also imposed practical limitations on them. They had to be small and not too heavy, yet bulky enough to do the job, while also being strong and hardwearing. Above all they had to have the means of attaching to a cord. Netsuke also needed to be reasonably compact, with no sharp protrusions that might snag on the fabric of the clothing, this being a perfect example.

This netsuke depicts Moso (Chinese: Meng Zong), one of the 24 examplars of Chinese filial piety. According to legend, in the middle of winter when there was a thick covering of snow, Moso’s mother had a yearning for bamboo shoots. Moso dutifully set off to search for the unseasonal delicacy. Against all odds he found some and on the netsuke, is shown cutting the bamboo shoots. The depiction of such complex subjects was popular during the 19th century when this netsuke was carved. Through careful planning, the artist has skilfully managed to depict all the elements, and has yet managed to retain the compactness essential of netsuke.

Physical description

This carved and stained ivory netsuke is in the form of Môsô digging up a bamboo shoot under snow-laden bamboos.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


19th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Carved and stained ivory


Height: 3.8 cm

Descriptive line

Netsuke, figure of Moso cutting a bamboo shoot, carved and stained ivory, Japan, 19th century.




Carving; Staining

Subjects depicted

Bamboo; Man




East Asia Collection

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