National TreasureBanner for the Kanjo (Buddhist initiation ceremony)

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  • 金銅灌頂幡
  • 1 piece
  • Gold-plated bronze, openwork
  • Total L510.0, Canopy 65.0x65.0, Body of banner L74.5-82.6xW32.7~33.5
  • Asuka period/7th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • N-58

Banners are among the various ornaments used to decorate the inside and outside of Buddhist temple halls. Although most early banners were made of cloth, this ordination banner (J. kanjôban) is a representative masterwork from among the Treasures of Hôryû-ji Temple. It comprises adjoining sheets of gilt bronze openwork cut in the shapes of a Buddha, heavenly beings, clouds, and arabesques. A canopy, composed of four sheets of gold-plated bronze fitted together in the shape of a parasol, covers the uppermost part of the banner. On the periphery of the canopy are metal fittings called "snake tongues" from which hang a shower of circular ornaments. From the center of the canopy is suspended a long banner tail, composed of six sheets connected by "butterfly" joints. It is thought that originally a cloth banner hung from the lower end of the metal banner, measuring up to ten meters in length.

Heavenly beings, seated on clouds, playing instruments and offering flowers and incense, appear on the canopy and the long banner tail, which is bordered by an openwork belt with honeysuckle and arabesque patterns. In the uppermost banner plate is carved a Buddha Triad, with a Buddha flanked by attendant bodhisattvas.

The kanjô ordination refers to a ritual that entails the sprinkling of water on the head of the Buddha's disciple to testify that the individual has advanced to a certain level of attainment. It is thought that the ordination banner is as meritorious as the very act of receiving ordination.