Museum no. A.813-1910
This netsuke (Japanese toggle) depicts a dragon coiled round a temple bell. From the mid 18th century onwards, customers increasingly demanded imaginative and innovative netsuke. Some of these netsuke had hidden or surprise elements, as in this example. A trick mechanism allows the bell to open, revealing a young woman dancing inside. This combination of motifs clearly alludes to the story of the Dojoji Temple bell. According to this tale of vengeful female jealousy, Kiyohime, the beautiful young daughter of an innkeeper, fell in love with a priest, Anchin, who scorned her persistent advances. The furious Kiyohime first transformed herself into a witch, then a dragon. When Anchin took refuge under the great bronze bell of the temple, she used her magical powers to force the bell to crash to the ground, trapping Anchin inside. At this, she coiled herself round the bell, creating such an intense heat that Anchin was burned to death.