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Knotted Shifu Ceremonial Horse Trapping

Country Of Origin



Circa 1900


56 x 55&62 x 7 cms (22 x 21¾ x 3 ins) Measurements without fringe


Indigo dyed shifu paper yarn




Excellent condition

This horse trapping consists of two pieces. The first, larger and almost semi-circular piece fits behind the saddle with the fringe hanging down on the rump of the horse and narrow rectangular fringed piece encircles the underside of the its neck. These trappings would have been used for festive and ceremonial occasions.

The pieces are made of a knotted paper string-like yarn called shifu which is made from washi paper that has been folded, cut into strips and twisted into a yarn. It is then dyed with indigo by a technique that dyes the surface of the yarn but does not permeate it. There are areas where the dye has rubbed off slightly from use..

While woven shifu garments from the 16th century are known, knotted shifu items seem much rarer. There are various references to shifu having first been made in the countryside by poor peasants who tore up used paper and made it into yarn to be woven into garments. The technique was subsequently used by samurai families who appreciated its humble qualities. There are references to samurai undergarments made of knotted shifu and the additional image (found on shows a similar but coral coloured example to ours.



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