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Special Thematic Exhibition; Sacred Images of Ancient Japan: Buddhist Sculptures from Four Temples in Nara

Sacred Images of Ancient Japan: Buddhist Sculptures from Four Temples in Nara / Honkan Room 11   June 18, 2019 (Tue) - September 23, 2019 (Mon)

  

The Four Great Temples of Yamato (now Nara prefecture) are Okadera, Murouji, Hasedera and Abe Monjuin. These temples were built between the 7th and 8th century, shortly after Buddhism was introduced and began to thrive there. The Buddhist sculptures displayed here were borrowed from the Four Great Temples. They are not only excellently sculpted images, but also provide a fascinating glimpse into early developments in the Buddhist culture of the Four Great Temples of Yamato.

Highlights of the Exhibition

General Information

About the Exhibitions and Highlights

 Okadera Temple

The stage of ancient political affairs: Ikaruga in Yamato Province. On the higher plateaus, where there are many historical landmarks, such as stone burial tombs, stands Okadera Temple. It is said that the temple was founded by the Buddhist monk Gien (died 728), who was active from the late Asuka period (593–710) to the Nara period (710–794). The brick depicting a celestial figure that is displayed in this exhibition dates back to Gien’s lifetime, when the temple was constructed.
The main image of Okadera Temple was produced in the late 8th century. With a height of almost 5 meters, it is the largest molded image of a seated Nyoin Kannon sculpture in Japan. As a well-known miraculous place that enjoys the bodhisattva Kannon’s favor, worshippers and pilgrims have visited the temple grounds for prayers against misfortune, as well as the beautiful seasonal flowers.

義淵僧正坐像義淵僧正坐像
Photo: Nara National Museum
Seated Priest Gien
Nara period, 8th century
(National Treasure, Lent by Okadera, Nara)

This sculpture is believed to represent the Founder of Okadera Temple: the monk Gien. In the carving of the folds of his robes, you can feel the deep spiritual nature of this exquisite ancient figural sculpture.

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 Murouji Temple

Murouji Temple, the main temple of the Murou school of Esoteric Buddhism, lingers on the slopes of steep Mount Murou, facing the clear streams of the Murou River. In the densely forested valley of the temple, there are many caves facing the river with dark entrances, giving the area a mystical atmosphere. According to local myth, dragon gods lived in these caves, and even in the capital people heard about it. During the late 8th century, Murouji was established in this area. Regardless of which Buddhist school they belonged to, many monks came to the area, and a distinctive Buddhist culture came to be cultivated at Murouji. The many sculptures handed down by the temple to this day, eloquently pass on this rich and deep history.

十一面観音菩薩立像 十一面観音菩薩立像
Standing Juichimen Kannon (Eleven-headed Avalokitesvara)
Heian period, 9th-10th century
(National Treasure, Lent by Murouji, Nara)

The Standing Juichimen Kannon of Murouji Temple is a stunning sculpture with a plump round face and impressive folds in the clothing sculpted in parallel lines.
Seated Shaka Nyorai (Sakyamuni)
Heian period, 9th century
(National Treasure, Lent by Murouji, Nara)

This sculpture of Sakyamuni has sharply carved robes and stately proportions, which are characteristic of early Heian-period (794–1192) sculptures. During this period, most sculptures were carved in a single block of wood.
釈迦如来坐像
Photo: Nara National Museum
釈迦如来坐像
Photo: Nara National Museum
Seated Shaka Nyorai (Sakyamuni)
Heian period, 9th century
(National Treasure, Lent by Murouji, Nara)

This sculpture of Sakyamuni has sharply carved robes and stately proportions, which are characteristic of early Heian-period (794–1192) sculptures. During this period, most sculptures were carved in a single block of wood.

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 Hasedera Temple

Hasedera Temple is the head temple of the Buzan branch of Esoteric Shingon Buddhism. The temple grounds stretch out over the slopes of Mount Hase, from where you can see the Hase River. In this valley with fast-flowing rivers where the temple is located, there is an area known as ’’Hidden Hase,’’ where the gods have been thought to reside since ancient times. It was in this sacred area that some of the earliest Buddhist sculptures were enshrined. One of these images is the more than 10-meter tall Kannon image, which was carved in the early 8th-century. After catching fire and being restored several times, people started to visit and worship the image as a miraculous sculpture. At the same time, worshippers also visited the temple to enjoy cherry blossoms and peonies in springtime, hydrangeas in summer, red leaves in autumn and again peonies in winter.

十一面観音菩薩立像 十一面観音菩薩立像
Photo: Nara National Museum
Standing Juichimen Kannon (Eleven-headed Avalokitesvara)
Kamakura period, 13th century
(Important Cultural Property, Lent by Hasedera, Nara)

This Kannon image holds a water pot in the left hand and a staff in the right. It is an imitation of the sacred main image of Hasedera Temple. It is an excellent Kannon image carved in the Hasedera style during the Kamakura period (1185–1333).

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 Abe Monjuin Temple

When the Soga clan was annihilated by Emperor Tenji and Fujiwara no Kamatari in 645, the minister of the left Abe no Uchimaro built a family temple for his clan. It is not clear which main image stood at the temple during its foundational years, but the main image today is a Monju sculpture by the master carver Kaikei. This sculpture is known as one of the Three Big Monju Sculptures of Japan.

文殊菩薩像像内納入品 仏頂尊勝陀羅尼・文殊真言等 文殊菩薩像像内納入品 仏頂尊勝陀羅尼・文殊真言等
Photo: Nara National Museum
Documents deposited in the Statue of Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri): Butcho Sonsho darani, Monju shingon etc.
Kamakura period, dated 1220
(National Treasure, Lent by Abe Monjuin, Nara)

These sutras were discovered inside the Monju sculpture of Abe Monjuin Temple. They reveal that the Monju image was carved by the master sculptor Kaikei. The last scroll also mentions these sutras were transcribed by a monk in 1220.

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General Information

Period Tuesday, June 18 - Monday, September 23, 2019
Venue Honkan Room 11, Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)
Hours 9:30 - 17:00
Fridays, Saturdays: until 21:00
September 20 and 21: until 22:00
(Last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Closed Mondays (Except for July 15, August 12, September 16, September 23),
July 16, September 17
Admission

Admission to ''Sacred Images of Ancient Japan: Buddhist Sculptures from Four Temples in Nara'' is included in tickets for the regular and special exhibitions (if visited on the same day).

Adults: 620 (520) yen
University students: 410 (310) yen


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() indicates fees per person for groups of 20 or more.

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Adults accompanying children of high-school age and under receive a 100-yen discount on Regular Exhibition admissions. (Valid for up to two adults with each child.)

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Persons with disabilities and one person accompanying each are admitted free of charge (please show ID when entering).

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Admission is free for senior high/junior high/elementary school students and persons under 18 and over 70 years of age (please show proof of age when entering).

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The special exhibitions Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Japan–China Cultural Exchange Agreement Three Kingdoms Unveiling the Story (Tuesday, July 9, 2019–Sunday, September 16, 2019, Heiseikan Special Exhibition Galleries), require separate admission fees.

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Free admission to the regular exhibitions on September 16, 2019 (excluding special exhibitions).

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, Nikkei Inc.
With the Cooperation of Central Japan Railway Company
General Inquiries 03-5777-8600  (Hello Dial)