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Mountain Worship and the Belief in the Decline of Buddhism

"Mountain Worship and the Belief in the Decline of Buddhism"

Heiseikan Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 3, 2020 (Tue) - September 27, 2020 (Sun)

  
Repousse Image of the Deity ZaōGongen, Found at Mount Ōmine Peak Site, Nara, Heian period, 10th–12th century (Important Art Object)

From the late Nara (710–794) to the Heian (794–1192) period, priests who worshipped in the mountains began to appear throughout Japan. Believing that Shinto and Buddhism are essentially the same faith, and that Shinto gods are in fact Buddhist deities, they climbed mountains in search of sacred sites where they could worship the mountain gods. Sites on the peaks of Mt. Omine in Nara prefecture and Mt. Nantai in Tochigi prefecture are well-known examples, with excavations revealing various objects that these priests had left as offerings. This form of mountain worship eventually developed into Shugendo, a folk religion unique to Japan.

In the mid-Heian period, the belief in Buddhism’s decline also permeated society. The age of decline was thought to begin in the year 1052, leading people to associate reoccurring natural disasters and disturbances in society with this new age. In response, aristocrats and others living in the capital began creating sutra mounds throughout Japan. Aristocrats also believed in a prophecy that the Buddhist deity Maitreya would reappear 5,670,000,000 years in the future to save all beings. Transcribing sutra scrolls and preserving them in sutra mounds was most likely a way of praying for peace in this world and the next during these troubled times. This section features excavated objects connected with mountain worship and the belief in Buddhism’s decline.

Major Work(s) on Exhibit 6 results
Designation Name Amount Creation Excavation Period Acquisition Ownership Comment
_MD_RECOMMEND Important Cultural Property Plaque with an Image of Zaō Gongen Found in Kinpu Mountain Range, Nara Heian period, 10th-12th century Lent by Ōminesanji Temple, Nara
_MD_RECOMMEND Important Art Object Octafoil Mirror with Auspicious Flowers and Pair of [Luan] Mythical Birds Found at Mt. Ōmine Peak Site, Nara Heian period, 10th–12th century E-19974
_MD_RECOMMEND Important Art Object Repousse Image of the Deity Zaō Gongen Found at Mount Ōmine Peak Site, Nara Heian period, 10th–12th century E-19973
_MD_RECOMMEND Important Cultural Property Finial of Priest’s Staff, Bronze From Mount Nantaisan Peak Tomb, Tyugusi, Nikko-shi, Tochigi Heian-Kamakura period, 10th-13th century Lent by Futarasan-jinja, Tochigi
_MD_RECOMMEND Important Cultural Property Bell with Handle, Bronze From Mount Nantaisan Peak Tomb, Tyugusi, Nikko-shi, Tochigi Heian-Kamakura period, 10th-13th century Lent by Futarasan-jinja, Tochigi
_MD_RECOMMEND Important Cultural Property Iron Spearheads From Mount Nantaisan Peak Tomb, Tyugusi, Nikko-shi, Tochigi Heian-Kamakura period, 10th-13th century Lent by Futarasan-jinja, Tochigi