Round Roof Tile with Pagota Motifs

  • Heian period
  • 12c
  • H-12.9 D-12
Catalogue Entry

This is a fragment of a round roof tile with images of a jewel pagoda and a Buddha. This pagoda is topped with a jewel shape, nine rings, floral design and its roofs would be tiled with wind bells set at each eaves point. The area beneath the roof is circular and set on a square base. The pagoda is surrounded by a double circle and linked jewel patterns decorate the space between these circles.

While many of the Asuka and Hakuho period round roof tiles were decorated with lotus patterns, with the beginning of the Heian period, these patterns diversified to include tomoe jewel patterns, five‐story pagodas, round jewels, and lettering. Excavated examples of tiles with jewel pagoda designs were found at the Hoshoji ruins, Toba palace ruins, and in Osaka, and yet, each of these examples different from the Miho tile. Here, instead of showing the open doors of the pagoda, a Buddha image is displayed in full repose.

The Lotus Sutra tells the tale of a jewel pagoda and Buddha rising from the earth and since great merit was earned for copying out the Lotus Sutra, the Heian period witnessed the creation of many beautifully decorated sutra copies. The sutra's motifs extended to use even on roof tiles.
This work seems to emanate a sense of these people devoutly setting out on the path of Buddhism during the Heian period.