Project Restores Ryukyu Kingdom-Era Art and Techniques using Modern Science

April 20, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo

Okinawa prefecture is making progress in revitalizing the techniques for making exquisite Ryukyu Kingdom-era arts and crafts with the Ryukyu Kingdom cultural heritage collection and restoration project. Making use of modern science and techniques, the project began in 2015 and will run through 2019. It aims to revitalize lost techniques and use them to create 65 works from eight different artistic fields including painting, wood-carving, stone carving, lacquer art, dyeing and weaving, ceramics, metal working, and sanshin. From 2019-2021, the reborn works will be displayed both in Okinawa and outside of the prefecture including locations abroad, presenting to the world the Dynastic brand with aspirations of creating a new hub of cultural tourism.

The seven works produced in 2016 include three types of crowns and a golden hairpin worn by the high priestess at court, and they will be on display at the Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum. An information session about the project’s 2016 accomplishments will be held at the same museum on April 30.
The project makes full use of its funding, the total cost of which in 2016 was 150 million yen. The Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum is in charge of the project, and in 2016 the Okinawa Churashima Foundation received the pieces on consignment. Around 60 workshops and artists from both Okinawa and elsewhere worked on the production of the works. The budget for 2017 is expected to be similar to the previous year.

While there were many cultural assets from the Ryukyu Kingdom era, many were lost in the Battle of Okinawa, and existing materials are scarce. In the project, prototypes are re-created based on existing artifacts and literature, and scientific analysis is performed with high-powered microscopes and x-rays in a continued search of the appearance and manufacturing methods of the lost items.

Researchers and creators in each of the fields hold periodic supervisory meetings in their respective fields, sharing progress and challenges, and making sure everything is academically corroborated.

Okinawa Prefectural Museum & Art Museum Curator Ken Sonohara, who is in charge of the project, said, “these works are what remain of the people who made them. I want to revitalize the beauty collected in these things, and share them with others.”

Okinawa Prefecture school superintendent Shojin Heshiki commented, “I feel that restoring the cultural assets lost in things like the fires from the Battle of Okinawa, and handing them down to Okinawans in generations to come has a lot of meaning.”

(Translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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