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Miniature Buddhist Structures: Pagodas, Stupas, and Shrines

  • Image of "Miniature Shrine with the Kasuga Mandala for Buddhist Relics, Muromachi period, 1479"

    Miniature Shrine with the Kasuga Mandala for Buddhist Relics, Muromachi period, 1479

    Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 14
    January 16, 2024 (Tue) - February 25, 2024 (Sun)

    Pagodas and stupas were erected to enshrine the cremated remains of the founder of Buddhism, the Buddha Śākyamuni. Later, as the Buddha himself and his remains became more deeply revered, a number of miniature models of these structures were made as objects to worship or pray for the repose of the deceased. The practice of making miniature pagodas and stupas prevailed also because it was encouraged as a good deed according to teachings expounded in Buddhist scriptures such as the Lotus Sutra.

    Miniature shrines are double-door cabinets made specifically for housing and worshipping Buddhist statues or relics. Their designs varied considerably; some were modeled on actual Buddhist halls, while others were based on people’s images of the Pure Land, where Buddhist gods were believed to reside. Some miniature shrines were made to house pagoda- or stupa-shaped Buddhist reliquaries, making for a fascinating connection between these Buddhist objects.

    This exhibition aims to give an overview of miniature pagodas, stupas, and shrines, all of which were created based on their full-sized equivalents, and presents a variety of their types and charms.

Major works in this exhibition

* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.

Stupa-Shaped Buddhist Reliquary for a Wish-Granting Jewel, Kamakura period, 13th century (National Treasure, Lent by Chōfukuji Temple, Nara)

Covered Bowl with a Stupa-Shaped Knob, Collection of Hōryūji Treasures, Nara period, 8th century (Important Cultural Property)

One of Qian Hongchu's 84,000 Pagodas, Found on Mount Nachi, Wakayama, Five Dynasties period, 10th century (Gift of Mr. Kitamata Tomeshirō and two others)

Buddhist Reliquary in the Shape of a Five-Element Stupa, Muromachi period, 15th century

Miniature Shrine, Kamakura period, 13th–14th century


塔と厨子 リーフレットの表紙画像

Miniature Buddhist Structures: Pagodas, Stupas, and Shrines

This pamphlet is also available at the information desk in the Honkan during the exhibition period.