A carved wooden Buddhist stand in the shape of a lotus blossom over a cupped leaf. This exemplifies the aesthetic of wabi-sabi, not only in that the lotus leaf itself is such a symbol as it begins to degrade even as the flower comes into bloom, but also that this piece is entirely about texture and patina, the wood much worn from its great age. Three holes in the top once held something, likely a tri-legged bronze koro, which is no longer present. Carved from hardwood, it was likely once gilded, and insects got into the wood between the gilding and the surface, eating runes into the shape to spectacular effect, likely finding the wood itself to hard to penetrate deeply. It is 14 x 18 x 14 cm (5-1/2 x 7 x 5-1/2 inches).
The patina is absolutely fabulous, and it exudes a fantastic sense of age.
And it would still make a great stand for an incense burner, if you can imagine a tri-legged celadon standing upon the flower, a single stick of incense burning.
This was likely once covered in tonoko (powdered whetstone) as a surface preparation and then likely paper which was gilded in gold. That would be typical of Buddhist works. It appears insects entered the area between the gold (which they cannot eat) and the wood , which looks to be chestnut, famous in Japan for anti-insect properties, and ate the paper layer. As they ate the paper they carved runes along the surface of the wood, but were unable to penetrate the wood. Indeed, the insects are long gone.
Dating Buddhist objects is very difficult, as they often produced the same basic shapes and styles for hundreds of years. Oddly Buddhist figures, with their unique expressions and clothing styles and coloring, are much easier to date than implements such as this.
Conservatively I date this piece to early Edo, but being carved from hardwood it is likely to be from the Muromachi (15th-16th centuries).