Important Cultural PropertyShrine for the “Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra” and the Enshrined Sutra

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  • 黒漆大般若経厨子
  • 1 piece, 166 scrolls
  • Shrine: wood with black lacquered and painted decoration Bronze clasp Sutra: ink on paper
  • H 165.0, D 62.5
  • Heian period/12th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 1115(工232 H)

 These are two cylindrical shrines (zushi) with black lacquer that altogether held 600 volumes of the “Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.” They were originally handed down to Jinko-in Temple in Kyoto Prefecture after belonging to the Sutra Chanting Room of Kamigamo Jinja Shrine and are currently held separately by this museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art. They are in the same style of a round sixteen-petaled lotus seat on double octagonal lotus seat and the cylindrical body is placed on them. The body has double doors on the front part and another sixteen-petaled lotus seat is placed inside. The roof shapes octagonal and the eight-petaled lotus flower motif with three-pronged vajra pestles (sanko sho) placed between leaves like the Center Eight Petal Hall (Chudai hachiyo-in) is engraved on the edge of the roof. Moreover, a sacred jewel (giboshi) places on the top. The four heavenly deities are drawn on each door and total sixteen deities, in short, the Sixteen Heavenly Guardians from the “Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra” on four doors of two shrines. They are drawn in bright colors and decorated with plenty of cut gold leaves (kirikane). Although it has some common features with those from the Heian period (794–1185), the style of the image is different from the iconography of the Sixteen Heavenly Guardians of the same period. As it also has exotic features, there is a possibility that it is based on the icon from Tand dynasty of China. The Sanskrit seed syllables (shuji) of Amida (Skt. Amitābha) and Shakamuni (Skt. Śākyamuni) are presented on the back wall of the body and the ceiling is decorated with a Buddha canopy (tengai). According to the evidence remaining on the back wall, it is estimated that each shrine has 300 volumes of the sutras placed in three tiers (100 volumes per tier). It is interesting that the features represented by the cylindrical body and roof with a sacred jewel on the top are very similar to sutra containers in the Heian period and show the decorative method for the sutra of the Heian period. This shrine held by this museum comes with 166 volumes of the “Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra.”