Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Rooms T1 & T2
November 3, 2015 (Tue) - December 13, 2015 (Sun)
Ippen (1239–1289), the founder of the Ji sect of Buddhism, made pilgrimages to various Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and other sacred places throughout Japan. During these travels he propagated his faith, which centered on praying to the deity Amitabha for salvation, by distributing slips of paper with prayers to this deity and performing a “dance” while chanting them. Ippen was born in Iyo province (now Ehime prefecture) into the Kono clan of samurai. He entered the priesthood at the age of 13 and practiced his unique faith until his death at the age of 51.
The National Treasure, Illustrated Biography of Priest Ippen, was created on the 10th anniversary of his death in 1299. A picture scroll that recounts his life, it shows the magnificent sceneries of the sacred places he visited. These include important temples such as as Zenkoji, which is known for its miraculous Buddhist sculpture, and Shitennoji, which is regarded as the “Eastern Gate to Buddhist Paradise.” The sacred grounds of Kumano and shrines such as Iwashimizu Hachimangu where Shinto gods thought to be manifestations of Amitabha are worshipped also feature in this scroll. It is written in the Illustrated Biography of Priest Ippen that “those who practice the Buddhist way should also esteem the dignity of Shinto gods,” and indeed, Ippen travelled to various shrines and temples throughout his life.
With volume seven of the Illustrated Biography of Priest Ippen and copies of this biography by Kano school painters of the Edo period (1603–1868) as invaluable references, this exhibition introduces the sacred places Ippen visited as well as paintings, sculptures, and archeological artifacts related to the faith of these places. Visitors are invited to view this exhibition as though travelling with the Priest Ippen.