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Treasures from Ninnaji Temple and Omuro

Treasures from Ninnaji Temple and Omuro / Heiseikan Special Exhibition Galleries   January 16, 2018 (Tue) - March 11, 2018 (Sun)

  

Ninnaji, the head temple of the Omuro branch of the Shingon sect, was founded by the devotion of Emperor Koko in 886 (Ninna 2), and was completed under the following Emperor Uda in 888 (Ninna 4). Following generations of emperors became followers of the temple. Today, the temple is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as one of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.” This exhibition features treasures of Ninnaji, together with Buddhist sculptures and other precious artifacts preserved at temples of the Omuro branch.

Special exhibition "Treasures from Ninnaji Temple and Omuro", open until 21:00 on Sunday March 4, Tuesday, March 6 and Wednesday, March 7, 2018 (last entry 20:30)

 

Highlights of the Exhibition

General Information

Highlights of the Exhibition

 

Seated Amida Nyorai (Amitabha) with Standing Attendants, National Treasure

Seated Amida Nyorai (Amitabha)
Heian period, dated 888,
Ninnaji, Kyoto
National Treasure

 
Seated Thousand-armed Kannon Bosatsu (Sahasrabhuja), National Treasure

Seated Thousand-armed Kannon Bosatsu (Sahasrabhuja)
Nara period, 8th century,
Fujiidera, Osaka
National Treasure
[On exhibit from February 14 to March 11, 2018]

 

Emperor Koko initiated construction of Ninnaji, head temple of the Shingon Sect Omuro School, in 886 (Ninna 2). Upon his death, Emperor Uda carried out his predecessor′s will, completing the project in 888 (Ninna 4). Having maintained its deep ties with the successive generations of emperors since that time, Ninnaji has been endowed with an exceptional collection of temple treasures.

The National Treasure Seated Amida Nyorai with Standing Flanking Attendants is believed to have served as the principal deity of Ninnaji at the time of its founding. The sculptures are by the most accomplished atelier of the day, and the National Treasure Letter in the hand of Emperor Takakura conveys the temple′s deep connections to the imperial court. In addition to such masterpieces, the approximately 790 Shingon Sect Omuro School temples throughout Japan under the headship of Ninnaji house numerous hidden Buddhas that are not normally accessible by the public.

This exhibition presents an unprecedented once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the famed treasures of Ninnaji, including the recently restored National Treasure Sanjujo sasshi (Thirty Volumes of Esoteric Scripture) along with various Omuro School temple treasures presented all together under one roof.

In closing, we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to each of the lenders that have offered their precious treasures for view, as well as the individuals and institutions that have contributed so generously to this exhibition.

Emperor Koko initiated construction of Ninnaji, head temple of the Shingon Sect Omuro School, in 886 (Ninna 2). Upon his death, Emperor Uda carried out his predecessor′s will, completing the project in 888 (Ninna 4). Having maintained its deep ties with the successive generations of emperors since that time, Ninnaji has been endowed with an exceptional collection of temple treasures.

The National Treasure Seated Amida Nyorai with Standing Flanking Attendants is believed to have served as the principal deity of Ninnaji at the time of its founding. The sculptures are by the most accomplished atelier of the day, and the National Treasure Letter in the hand of Emperor Takakura conveys the temple′s deep connections to the imperial court. In addition to such masterpieces, the approximately 790 Shingon Sect Omuro School temples throughout Japan under the headship of Ninnaji house numerous hidden Buddhas that are not normally accessible by the public.

This exhibition presents an unprecedented once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the famed treasures of Ninnaji, including the recently restored National Treasure Sanjujo sasshi (Thirty Volumes of Esoteric Scripture) along with various Omuro School temple treasures presented all together under one roof.

In closing, we wish to extend our heartfelt thanks to each of the lenders that have offered their precious treasures for view, as well as the individuals and institutions that have contributed so generously to this exhibition.

 

Part 1: History of the Ninnaji Omuro
Part 2: The World of Esoteric Ritual
Part 3: The Omuro Treasure House
Part 4: The Edo-Period Revival of Ninnaji and the Kannon Hall
Part 5: Sacred Buddhas of the Omuro Tradition

 

 

 

Part 1: History of the Ninnaji Omuro

Construction of Ninnaji was first initiated by Emperor Koko (830–887), then completed in 888 (Ninna 4) by Emperor Uda (867–931). After abdicating as emperor, Emperor Uda took the tonsure, and in 904 (Engi 4) built the monk’s quarters known as the Omuro (“the venerable room”) for his retirement. Following in his Dharma lineage, imperial princes and cloistered princes have succeeded to the head priestship of Ninnaji, and the temple has been revered by successive generations of emperors as a private temple of the Imperial Household. The history of Ninnaji, which has come to be known as the Omuro, is faithfully documented by the numerous calligraphies in the hands of past emperors that have been passed down by the temple, such as the Imperial Letter in the Hand of Emperor Takakura. This exhibition unravels the history of Ninnaji through these calligraphies as well as historical portraits, craft objects, and old manuscripts.

Construction of Ninnaji was first initiated by Emperor Koko (830–887), then completed in 888 (Ninna 4) by Emperor Uda (867–931). After abdicating as emperor, Emperor Uda took the tonsure, and in 904 (Engi 4) built the monk’s quarters known as the Omuro (“the venerable room”) for his retirement. Following in his Dharma lineage, imperial princes and cloistered princes have succeeded to the head priestship of Ninnaji, and the temple has been revered by successive generations of emperors as a private temple of the Imperial Household. The history of Ninnaji, which has come to be known as the Omuro, is faithfully documented by the numerous calligraphies in the hands of past emperors that have been passed down by the temple, such as the Imperial Letter in the Hand of Emperor Takakura. This exhibition unravels the history of Ninnaji through these calligraphies as well as historical portraits, craft objects, and old manuscripts.

 

Portrait of Cloistered Emperor Uda
 
Portrait of Cloistered Emperor Uda
Muromachi period, 15th century
Ninnaji, Kyoto
[On exhibit from February 14 to March 11, 2018]
 
Seated Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru), National Treasure
 
Hidden Buddha Principal image of worship
Seated Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru)
By Ensei and Choen
Heian period, dated 1103
Ninnaji, Kyoto
National Treasure
[On exhibit from February 14 to March 11, 2018]
 
Letter, National Treasure
Letter
By Emperor Takakura
Heian period, dated 1178
Ninnaji, Kyoto
National Treasure
[On exhibit through February 12, 2018]
 
Scripture Box, With hosoge flowers and karyobinga mystical birds design in maki-e lacquer, National Treasure<
Scripture Box, With hosoge flowers and karyobinga mystical birds design in maki-e lacquer
Heian period, 10th century
Ninnaji, Kyoto
National Treasure
[On exhibit from February 14 to March 11, 2018]
 
Sanjujo sasshi (Thirty Volumes of Esoteric Scripture), National Trasure
Sanjujo sasshi (Thirty Volumes of Esoteric Scripture)
By Kukai and others, Heian period, 9th century, Ninnaji, Kyoto, National Trasure
[On exhibit from January 16 to January 28, 2018: entire work,
On exhibit from January 30 to March 11, 2018: partly on view work]
 

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Part 2: The World of Esoteric Ritual

In Esoteric Buddhism, teachings are given tangible form in the rites of shuho, which draw upon the powers of the Buddhist deities to impact the real world in various ways. In Japan, the power of these esoteric rituals was particularly relied upon to avert calamities such as natural disasters and to bring happiness, and in the Heian period they were conducted on behalf of the nation as a whole. Given that Ninnaji was dedicated to the teachings of Kukai (Kobo Daishi) and also that it had deep connections to the imperial court since its founding, it has preserved many treasures related to Esoteric ritual. This section presents various paintings and implements used in the ritual space, including several Kujaku Myo’o paintings that served as the principal icon of the Kujaku Kyoho ritual, which was conducted to pray for the recovery of the emperor from illness, or the safe birth of imperial princes. The Bronze Reliquary in the Shape of a Flaming Jewel was a vessel made to contain relics of the Buddha.

In Esoteric Buddhism, teachings are given tangible form in the rites of shuho, which draw upon the powers of the Buddhist deities to impact the real world in various ways. In Japan, the power of these esoteric rituals was particularly relied upon to avert calamities such as natural disasters and to bring happiness, and in the Heian period they were conducted on behalf of the nation as a whole. Given that Ninnaji was dedicated to the teachings of Kukai (Kobo Daishi) and also that it had deep connections to the imperial court since its founding, it has preserved many treasures related to Esoteric ritual. This section presents various paintings and implements used in the ritual space, including several Kujaku Myo’o paintings that served as the principal icon of the Kujaku Kyoho ritual, which was conducted to pray for the recovery of the emperor from illness, or the safe birth of imperial princes. The Bronze Reliquary in the Shape of a Flaming Jewel was a vessel made to contain relics of the Buddha.

 

Kujaku Myo′o (Mahamayuri Vidyaraja), National Treasure
Kujaku Myo′o (Mahamayuri Vidyaraja)
Ninnaji, Kyoto
China, Northern Song dynasty, 10th to 11th century
National Treasure
[On exhibit through February 12, 2018]
 
Reliquary in Shape of Flaming Jewel, Important Cultural Property
Reliquary in Shape of Flaming Jewel
Kamakura period, 13th century
Ninnaji, Kyoto
Important Cultural Property
 

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Part 3: The Omuro Treasure House

On the occasion of the passing of Emperor Uda at the Ninnaji Omuro in 931 (Shohei 1), a great number of imperial items were transferred to the care of Ninnaji, prompting the establishment of the Ninnaji Treasury. From that point on, the Ninnaji Treasury became strictly controlled as a storehouse for the private temple of the imperial household that safeguarded its treasures even in the face of fires and wartime destruction. Its holdings include important records related to the history of medicine in China and Japan, such as the National Treasure medical treatise Ishinpo.

The temples connected with the Omuro branch of Shingon Buddhism under the head temple of Ninnaji have also preserved numerous treasures. This section presents an unprecedented opportunity to enjoy the full range of paintings, calligraphies, and decorative art treasures that have been passed down through Ninnaji and the Omuro branch temples.

On the occasion of the passing of Emperor Uda at the Ninnaji Omuro in 931 (Shohei 1), a great number of imperial items were transferred to the care of Ninnaji, prompting the establishment of the Ninnaji Treasury. From that point on, the Ninnaji Treasury became strictly controlled as a storehouse for the private temple of the imperial household that safeguarded its treasures even in the face of fires and wartime destruction. Its holdings include important records related to the history of medicine in China and Japan, such as the National Treasure medical treatise Ishinpo.

The temples connected with the Omuro branch of Shingon Buddhism under the head temple of Ninnaji have also preserved numerous treasures. This section presents an unprecedented opportunity to enjoy the full range of paintings, calligraphies, and decorative art treasures that have been passed down through Ninnaji and the Omuro branch temples.

 

Manifestation of the Deity Hachiman as a Monk, Important Cultural Property
 
Manifestation of the Deity Hachiman as a Monk
Kamakura period, 13th century
Ninnaji, Kyoto
Important Cultural Property
[On exhibit through February 12, 2018]
 
Illustrated Scroll of Hikohohodemi no Mikoto, Scrolls 3 and 6
Scroll 6(detail) Photo: Shigeki Muto
Illustrated Scroll of Hikohohodemi no Mikoto, Scrolls 3 and 6
By Kano Taneyasu, Edo period, 17th century, Myotsuji, Fukui
[On exhibit from January 16 to February 12, 2018: Scroll 3,
On exhibit from February 14 to March 11, 2018: Scroll 6]

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Part 4: The Edo-Period Revival of Ninnaji and the Kannon Hall

After its establishment, the temple grounds of Ninnaji boasted numerous buildings, which were completely burned to the ground in 1468 (Onin 2) at the height of the Onin War, which took Kyoto as its battleground. Following this devastation, the thread of the temple’s teaching was preserved at Shinkoin to the south of Ninnaji in Narabigaoka until the early Edo period (early 17th century), when the temple buildings were reconstructed around the time of Imperial Prince Kakujin (1588–1648). In 1634 (Kan′ei 11), Retired Prince Kakujin appealed to the Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, and succeeded in receiving support for the revival of Ninnaji. In addition, the Shishinden, Seiryoden, and Tsunegoten halls from the Imperial Palace were moved to Ninnaji and refashioned as temple buildings. Such special arrangements were unique to Ninnaji due to its connection with the imperial household.

After its establishment, the temple grounds of Ninnaji boasted numerous buildings, which were completely burned to the ground in 1468 (Onin 2) at the height of the Onin War, which took Kyoto as its battleground. Following this devastation, the thread of the temple’s teaching was preserved at Shinkoin to the south of Ninnaji in Narabigaoka until the early Edo period (early 17th century), when the temple buildings were reconstructed around the time of Imperial Prince Kakujin (1588–1648). In 1634 (Kan′ei 11), Retired Prince Kakujin appealed to the Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, and succeeded in receiving support for the revival of Ninnaji. In addition, the Shishinden, Seiryoden, and Tsunegoten halls from the Imperial Palace were moved to Ninnaji and refashioned as temple buildings. Such special arrangements were unique to Ninnaji due to its connection with the imperial household.

kannon-do
Photo: Kenzo Yokoyama

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Part 5: Sacred Buddhas of the Omuro Tradition

Ninnaji was founded in the Heian period, more than 1100 years ago, but during its long history Ninnaji and the various temples of the Omuro tradition have been bound by various different connections. Currently, the Omuro branch is comprised of approximately 790 temples, whose connections are firmly rooted in a history that has been almost forgotten. This section brings together hidden Buddhas that are not normally on view to the public as well as numerous precious Buddha figures from Omuro branch temples in the various regions throughout Japan. It is a veritable feast of masterpieces that has been realized as a result of the spread of the tradition of esoteric Omuro Shingon Buddhism.

Ninnaji was founded in the Heian period, more than 1100 years ago, but during its long history Ninnaji and the various temples of the Omuro tradition have been bound by various different connections. Currently, the Omuro branch is comprised of approximately 790 temples, whose connections are firmly rooted in a history that has been almost forgotten. This section brings together hidden Buddhas that are not normally on view to the public as well as numerous precious Buddha figures from Omuro branch temples in the various regions throughout Japan. It is a veritable feast of masterpieces that has been realized as a result of the spread of the tradition of esoteric Omuro Shingon Buddhism.

 

Standing Gozanze Myo′o (Trailokyavijaya), Important Cultural Property
Standing Gozanze Myo′o (Trailokyavijaya)
Heian period, 11th century
Myotsuji, Fukui
Important Cultural Property
 
Seated Horse-headed Kannon Bosatsu (Hayagriva), Important Cultural Property
Hidden Buddha Principal image of worship
Seated Horse-headed Kannon Bosatsu (Hayagriva)
Kamakura period, 13th century
Nakayamadera, Fukui
Important Cultural Property
 
Seated Five Wisdom Nyorai (Pancajnanani Tathagata), Important Cultural Property
Photo: Agency for Cultural Affairs
Seated Five Wisdom Nyorai (Pancajnanani Tathagata)
Heian period, 12th century
Kongoji, Osaka
Important Cultural Property
 
Standing Eleven-headed Kannon Bosatsu (Ekadasamukha), National Treasure
Hidden Buddha Principal image of worship
Standing Eleven-headed Kannon Bosatsu (Ekadasamukha)
Heian period, 8th–9th century
Domyoji, Osaka
National Treasure
 
Seated Nyoirin Kannon Bosatsu (Cintamanicakra), Important Cultural Property
Hidden Buddha Principal image of worship
Seated Nyoirin Kannon Bosatsu (Cintamanicakra)
Heian period, 10th century
Kannoji, Hyogo
Important Cultural Property
 
Seated Thousand-armed Kannon Bosatsu (Sahasrabhuja), Important Cultural Property
Hidden Buddha Principal image of worship
Seated Thousand-armed Kannon Bosatsu (Sahasrabhuja)
By Kyojin
Heian period, 12th century
Unpenji, Tokushima
Important Cultural Property
 

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General Information

Period Tuesday, January 16 - Sunday, March 11, 2018
Venue Heiseikan, Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)
Hours 9:30 - 17:00, Fridays, Saturdays until 21:00
(Last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Closed Mondays (Except for Monday, February 12) and Tuesday, February 13
Admission Adults: 1600 (1400/1300) yen
University students: 1200 (1000/900) yen
High school students: 900 (700/600) yen
Junior high school students and under: Free 
* Prices shown in parentheses indicate advance and group (more than 20 persons) discount tickets.
* Persons with disabilities are admitted free with one accompanying person each (please present an ID at the ticket booth).
*

Advance tickets will be on sale at the museum ticket booths (during museum opening hours excluding the last 30 minutes) and other major ticketing agencies from November 1, 2017 to January 15, 2018. End of sales

Access 10 minutes' walk from JR Ueno Station (Park exit) and Uguisudani Station
15 minutes' walk from Keisei Ueno Station, Tokyo Metro Ueno Station and Tokyo Metro Nezu Station
Organizers Tokyo National Museum, Ninnaji Temple, The Yomiuri Shimbun
With the Special Assistance of Ninna Association
With the Assistance of Sabia Inc.
With Sponsorship of Mitsumura Printing Co.,Ltd.
Catalog, Audio guide The exhibition catalog (2,800 yen) is available at the Heiseikan Special Exhibition Shop and at the museum shop in Honkan (Japanese Gallery). Audio guide (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean) is available for 520 yen.
General Inquiries 03-5777-8600  (Hello Dial)
Exhibition Website http://ninnaji2018.com/ (In Japanese)

 

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