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250-Year-Old Japanese Paintings To Be Shown In D.C.

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The Washington Monument is seen through cherry blossoms on March 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. Americans celebrating the beauty of Washington's landmark pink cherry blossoms this spring have at heart the tragedies jolting Japan, which gave the trees to the United States. More than 27,000 people are dead or missing, and two weeks after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled the aging nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, rescue work is still under way to avoid a major nuclear disaster. As many as one million people are expected to stream through the Mall esplanade area during the Cherry Blossom Festival from March 26 through April 10. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

The Washington Monument is seen through cherry blossoms on March 29, 2011 in Washington, DC. Americans celebrating the beauty of Washington’s landmark pink cherry blossoms this spring have at heart the tragedies jolting Japan, which gave the trees to the United States. More than 27,000 people are dead or missing, and two weeks after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled the aging nuclear plant in northeastern Japan, rescue work is still under way to avoid a major nuclear disaster. As many as one million people are expected to stream through the Mall esplanade area during the Cherry Blossom Festival from March 26 through April 10. (Photo by JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (AP) — One of Japan’s cultural treasures, a 30-scroll set of paintings from the 1700s, is being shown together outside of Japan for the first time in a rare display in Washington.

The paintings of birds and flowers on silk, created more than 250 years ago by artist Ito Jakuchu, will go on view Friday at the National Gallery of Art. The four-week exhibition marks the centennial of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the U.S. as a symbol of friendship.

The paintings, entitled “Colorful Realm of Living Beings,” were donated to Japan’s Imperial Household in 1889 and have been held by the world’s oldest monarchy since. They are rarely exhibited, even in Japan.

The nature scrolls are paired with paintings that evoke their religious context as Buddhist objects of worship.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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