Repousse Image of the Deity Zaō Gongen
Found at Mount Ōmine Peak Site, Nara, Heian period, 10th–12th century (Important Art Object)
Heiseikan Japanese Archaeology Gallery
September 21, 2022 (Wed) - March 12, 2023 (Sun)
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.
|Highlight||Important Cultural Property||The Deity Zaō Gongen||Found on Kinpu Mountain Range, Nara||Heian period, 10th–12th century||Lent by Ōminesanji Temple, Nara|
|Highlight||Important Art Object||Repousse Image of the Deity Zaō Gongen||Found at Mount Ōmine Peak Site, Nara||Heian period, 10th–12th century||E-19973|
|Highlight||Important Cultural Property||Heads of Monk's Staffs||Found at Mount Nantai Peak Site, Tochigi||Heian–Kamakura period, 10th–13th century||Lent by Futarasan-jinja, Tochigi|
|Highlight||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|
|Highlight||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|