Full Set of Armor (Gusoku)

Japan, Edo period (1603-1868), ca. mid-18th century

Gold, silk, copper, iron, soft metals, feathers, doe skin, and lacquer

Seated display dimensions: 74¼ × 40 × 29 in. (188.6 × 101.6 × 73.7 cm)

Crow Museum of Asian Art of The University of Texas at Dallas, 2014.166.1


Object Description:

This exquisitely crafted and perfectly preserved suit of armor would have been worn by Abe Masayoshi during his time at the capital, where formal ceremonial attire was often required. The exceptional quality and attention to detail applied to every aspect of the armor’s creation made this suit stand out as a garment of sophisticated refinement, and distinguished its wearer as a man of fine taste, setting him apart from other provincial daimyo. Like other daimyo families during the Edo period (1603–1868), the Abe clan had two residences; all daimyo were required to participate in sankin kōtai, or the “alternate attendance” system, residing in their home domains and at the shogun’s court in Edo (present-day Tokyo) in alternating years. The Abe family’s administrative center was therefore located at Fukuyama Castle in Bingo Province (Hiroshima district today), and Abe traveled between the home domain and Edo. All the while, the wives and heirs remained in Edo, essentially as hostages.

Following centuries of political turmoil and years of warfare, the Edo period was a time of peace. Daimyo such as Abe Masayoshi were vassals of the Tokugawa shogunate. Representing the higher echelons of society, the shogunate and daimyo espoused the dual samurai virtues of bu (military arts) and bun (literary arts). During the Pax Tokugawa years, however, with essentially no wars to be fought, the culture of bun became more prominent as samurai functioned as bureaucrats, engaging in scholarly and cultural pursuits to maintain their status as the cultural elite. In this changing political environment, the suit of armor became a powerful and important symbol, embodying samurai existence of centuries past while continuing to emphasize their significance.


UTD Location Information: The Plinth is a place that brings UTD students together for performances, activities, and exposure to the many cultures of UTD. Located in the heart of campus, it’s prime location next to the McDermott Library and Student Union make it a great place to study, hang out, and have fun. While passing by, keep an eye on the log in the pool of water, you might catch it steaming!

Letter: N

McDermott, Erik Jonsson, and Green… Find the building named in their honor!