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Treasures of a Sacred Mountain KÛKAI AND MOUNT KÔYA

  • Image of "Mandala of Two Realm of Esoteric Buddhism known as "Blood Mandala" (details)Kongobuji"

    Mandala of Two Realm of Esoteric Buddhism known as "Blood Mandala" (details)

    Japanese Archaeology and Special Exhibition (Heiseikan) Special Exhibition Galleries
    April 6, 2004 (Tue) - May 16, 2004 (Sun)

    Celebrating 1200 years of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan, this special exhibition brings together Buddhist arts of the highest quality under the theme of Kukai and Mount Koya, the sacred place for the esoteric Buddhist teachings of the Shingon sect

 General Information
Period Tuesday, April 6 - Sunday, March 16, 2004
Venue Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)
Hours 9:30-17:00; open until 20:00 on Fridays during the exhibition; open until 18:00 on Saturdays, Sundays, and Bank holidays (Last entry is 30 minutes before the closing time.)
Closed Every Monday (except for May 3) and May 6
Admissions Adults: 1300(1100/950)yen
University Students: 900(800/510)yen
High School Students: 800(700/450)yen
Jr. High & Elementary School Students: Free
Prices shown in ( ) indicate advances discount/ group (more than 20 people) tickets.
Ticket price includes admission to regular exhibitions.
Persons with disability and one person accompanying them are admitted free of charge.Valid identification requested upon entry.
Advance tickets are on sale at the ticked booth of the Museum (during Museum hours), the counters of JR East, Ticket Pia and Lawson Ticket, CN Playguide, JTB, and other major ticket offices until April 5, 2004.
Access 10 minutes walk from JR Ueno Station (Park exit) and Uguisudani Station
15 minutes walk from Keisei Ueno Station and Ginza or Hibiya Tokyo Metro Ueno Station.
General Inquiries Tokyo National Museum
TEL. +81-3-3822-1111
Exhibition Web site
(in Japanese)
The website has closed with the end of the exhibition.
Organizers Tokyo National Museum, Kongôbuji Headquarters of the Shingon Sect on Mount Kôya, Foundation for the Preservation of Cultural Properties on Mount Kôya, NHK, NHK Promotions Co., Ltd.
Additional support
provided by
Agency for Cultural Affairs
Special sponsorship
provided by
Nankai Electric Railway
Additional sponsorship from Nissha Printing Co., Ltd., Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co., Ltd., and Artéfactory Inc.
Cooperated by Nippon Express, JR West, and Celartem Technology Inc.
Planning Assistance
proviede by
NHK Kinki Media Plan
 Next venue
* This exhibition will travel to the Wakayama Prefectual Museum from October 9 to November 23, 2004
 About the Exhibition and Major Works on display
1. History of Mount Kôya and Priest Kûkai  
1200 years have passed since Priest Kûkai, also known by the name of “Kôbô-daishi," went to Tang, China. Upon his return to Japan, he established the Shingon school of esoteric Buddhism and founded the headquarter on Mount Kôya.Since then Mount Kôya has been in the limelight in Japan's history.
The temple had its ups and downs, but thanks to the secluded location on the mountain, an excellent Buddhist culture was cultivated without the influence of worldly conflicts and problems.
In the first section of this exhibition, Priest Kûkai's mementos and cultural properties related to the history of Kongôbuji on Mount Kôya are exhibited.
National Treasure
Rôkoshiiki, a Comparative Study of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism By Kôbô-daishi (Priest Kûkai)

(The part of the image is exhibited April 6 – April 25 only)
 Major Works in this section
National Treasure Rôkoshiiki, a Comparative Study of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism
By Kôbô-daishi (Priest Kûkai) , Heian period, 8th – 9th century,Kongôbuji

*volume 1 is exhibited April 6 – April 25; volume 2 is exhibited April 27 – May 16
National Treasure Shrine of Buddhist Deities Tang dynasty, 8th century, Kongôbuji
Important Cultural Property Ritual Pestle with Three-pronged End (Known, as "Flying Pestle" which Priest Kûkai reportedly threw from China to Japan) Reportedly possessed by Priest Kûkai, Heian period, 9th-12th century, Kongôbuji
Important Cultural Property Kôbô-daishi (Priest Kûkai) and Two Local Deities of Mount Kôya (Known as "Mondôkô Honzonzô"), Kamakura period, 14th century, Kongôbuji
National Treasure Letter from Shôgun Minamoto no Yoritomo (Hôkanshu, vol.2), Collections of Old Temple Documents: "Hôkanshû," "Zoku Hôkanshû," "Yôzoku Hôkanshû", Kamakura period, 12th century, Kongôbuji
*exhibited April 6 – April 25 only
2. Priest Kûkai's Ideas and the Form of Esoteric Buddhism  
Priest Kûkai had realized the innovativeness of esoteric Buddhism even before he went to the Tang dynasty China to study under Priest Keika (Ch. Huiguo). Esoteric Buddhism is an integrated religion, based on the unique idea that all beings and existence including Buddha and Buddhist deities such as Boddhisattvas are under Dainichi-nyorai (Skt. Vairocana).
Another characteristic aspect of esoteric Buddhism is its emphasis on the importance of icons, Mandala, and ritual implements. Symbolizing Buddhist deities with Sanskrit letters or with their belongings is also one of the characteristics of esoteric Buddhism. Based on these characteristics, a wide variety of art works of esoteric Buddhism has developed.
In this section, objects which show Priest Kûkai's ideas and his religious practices, Mandala as a representative art form of esoteric Buddhism, as well as ritual tools of the earlier days are all displayed.
Important Cultural Property
Mandala of Two Realms of Esoteric Buddhism (Known as "Blood Mandala")
Muromachi period, 15th century
 Major Works in this section
National Treasure Mandala of Two Realms of Esoteric Buddhism (Known as "Blood Mandala"), Heian period, 12th century, Kongôbuji
Important Cultural Property Seated Statue of Dainichi-nyorai (Skt. Vairocana), Heian period, dated 887, Kongôbuji temple
National Treasure Image of Kannon (Skt. Avalokitesvara) Reportedly Escorted Priest Kûkai's Voyage to China, Heian period, 12th century, RyûkôI
Important Cultural Property Gilt Bronze Ritual Tools of Esoteric Buddhism from a set of eight objects, Kongôbuji
  Gilt Bronze Ritual Bell with Single-pronged End, Tang dynasty, 9th century, China
  Gilt Bronze Ritual Pestle with Single-pronged End, Tang dynasty (or Heian period), 9th century, China
  Gilt Bronze Ritual Pestle with Three-pronged End, Heian period, 12th century 
3. Multiple Beliefs and their Art Forms  
Even after Priest Kûkai's death, the doctrine of Shingon esoteric Buddhism was handed down from generation to generation in Kongôbuji on Mount Kôya. After the temple recovered from its first decline, several annual events were introduced during the late Heian period (11th-12th century), and in the following centuries, more and more events were added.
Meanwhile, the belief considering Mount Kôya as a kind of Buddhist Paradise (the Jôdo Pure Land) began to prevail until it became an established belief in the 11th century. Gradually, the faith in Amida's (another Buddhist deity, called Amitabha in Sanskrit) Pure Land was included in the religion on Mount Kôya, and several temple structures relating to that belief were constructed.
In this section, art works of this integrated Buddhism with the multiple aspects developed on Mount Kôya are displayed.
Important Cultural Property
Kujaku-myô'ô (Skt. Mahamayuri) By Kaikei,
 Major Works in this section
National Treasure Eight Attendants of Fudô-myô'ô (Acalana;tha); Seitaka-dôji, Ekô-dôji, Eki-dôji Kamakura period, 12th century, Kongôbuji
National Treasure Buddha's Nirvana (Last Enlightenment beyond Physical Existence), Heian period, dated 1086, Kongôbuji
National Treasure Kujaku-myô'ô (Mahamayûri) by Kaikei, Kamakura period, dated 1200, Kongôbujii
4.Treasure House on the Mountain  
During the long course of temple’s history, a large amount of cultural properties were brought to Kongôbuji complex on Mount Kôya and have been preserved there until today. Partly because of its secluded location, those cultural properties have not been exposed to wars and battles, and have been able to survive radical changes in politics.
Some of them were brought to Mount Kôya for the purpose of preservation, and the holy mountain functioned as a shelter of cultural properties in the war-torn eras. Mount Kôya is often compared to the Shôsô-in repository attached to the Tôdai-ji temple in Nara, which has been housing excellent Japanese artifacts as well as rare treasures from China and West.
In this section significant art works and old documents, which have been preserved on Mount Kôya, are displayed in order to show that the temple had an excellent function of preserving cultural assets.
Important Cultural Property
(Skt. Amitabha) and Attendants Descending from Heaven

 Major Works in this section
National Treasure, Heian period, 12th century, Yûshihachimankô Jûhachikain monasteries *exhibited April 6 – April 25 only
Kannon (Skt. Avalokitesvara) with a Vase of Willow Branch, Koryo dynasty, 14th century, Korea, Hôjuin *exhibited April 27 – May 16 only
Important Cultural Property Segment of Daihatsu Nehan-gyô (Skt. Nirvana sutra) in Sanskrit Letters ,Tang dynasty, 8th - 9th century, China, Hôjuin
National Treasure Lacquered Karabitsu Type Legged Case with maki-e Gold Powdered Decoration of Plovers by the Shore, Heian period, 12th century, Kongôbuji
5. Mount Kôya in Pre-Modern Ages  
During the Momoyama period in the 16th century, Kongôbuji suffered attacks by a war-lord Oda Nobunaga and then by Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi. However, the temple managed to sustain and received support of Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Thus, damaged temple structures were renovated and the prosperity of the temple was promised.
In the Edo period (17th-19th century), Kongôbuji was placed under the jurisdiction of the government, and according to the government's policy, hierarchical system between the head temple (Kongôbuji) and subordinate temples was established, and lodging monasteries were prepared to offer accommodations. The relationship between lodging monasteries and feudal lords became firmer, and strong ties were observed between Kongôbuji and lodging monasteries. Accordingly, more and more artists started to visit Mount Kôya. Most of the interior paintings on walls and screen doors in the lodging monasteries were produced in those days.
In this section Buddhist sutra scrolls donated by warriors in the Pre-Modern period and selected masterpieces of warriors' portraits and interior paintings (wall and door-panel paintings) are exhibited.
Important Cultural Property
Landscape and Human Figures
by Ike Taiga
 Major Works in this section
National Treasure Shaka (shakya-muni Buddha) Triad by Kanô Tan’yû, Edo period, dated 1654, Hôjuin
Important Cultural Property Portrait of Azai Nagamasa's Wife, Momoyama period, 16th century, Jimyôin
Issai-kyô, Complete Collection of Buddhist Scriptures in Gold and silver Paint on Dark Blue Paper (Known as "Chûsonji-kyô Sutra"), Heian period, 12th century, Kongôbuji (National Treasure)
National Treasure Landscape and Human Figures by Ike Taiga, Edo period, 18th century, Henjôkôin