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Sutra Mounds: Time Capsules for 5,670,000,000 Years

"Sutra Mounds: Time Capsules for 5,670,000,000 Years"

Heiseikan Japanese Archaeology Gallery  March 23, 2021 (Tue) - September 20, 2021 (Mon)

Riveted Helmet Bowl with Twelve Divisions
Found at Ikō Sutra Mound, Tokyo, Heian period, 11th century

Sutra mounds were created from the Heian (794–1192) to the Edo (1603–1868) period for the purpose of preserving Buddhist sutra scrolls. The oldest example is a mound from which a cylinder containing sutras was excavated on Mt. Kinpu in Nara prefecture. It is believed that the Heian-period aristocrat Fujiwara no Michinaga dedicated this cylinder in 1007. The shape of a mound as well as the sutras and other objects it contains vary with its location and the time it was created. Sutras for these mounds were inscribed not only on paper but also on ceramic tiles, bronze plates, stones, shells, and other materials.

The creation of sutra mounds was motivated by the idea, which became widespread in the mid-Heian period, that Buddhist Law will decline 2,000 years after the Buddha’s death. A series of natural disasters and disturbances in society occurred around 1052, the year that this decline was thought to begin, leading people to draw connections. It was also believed that the Buddhist deity Maitreya would reappear in this world 5,670,000,000 years in the future and that Buddhism would prosper again. Sutra mounds were essentially time capsules meant to preserve sutra scrolls until the arrival of this age.

Major Work(s) on Exhibit 7 results
Designation Name Amount Creation Excavation Period Acquisition Ownership Comment
_MD_RECOMMEND Sutra Case Found at Harayamadera Sutra Mound, Fukuoka Heian period, 1152 (Ninpei 2) E-14522
_MD_RECOMMEND Sutra Case, Gilt Bronze From Nishiyama-cho, Sabae-shi, Fukui Muromachi period, 16th century E-14821
_MD_RECOMMEND Stones with Sutra Text Muromachi period, 16th century B-2130
_MD_RECOMMEND Seashells with Sutra Text Excaveted at Amidadera, Mure-mura, Hofu-shi, Yamaguchi Muromachi period, 16th century Gift of Mr. Tokugawa Yorisada, B-2165
_MD_RECOMMEND Riveted Helmet Bowl with Twelve Divisions Found at Ikō Sutra Mound, Tokyo Heian period, 11th century F-16027
_MD_RECOMMEND Sake Vessels Found at Ikō Sutra Mound, Tokyo Heian–Kamakura period, 13th century E-17355
_MD_RECOMMEND Important Cultural Property Sutra Case Excavated at Kashioyama Sutra Mound, Katsunuma-cho, Koshu-shi, Yamanashi Heian period, dated 1103 (Kowa 5) J-37251
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