Religious Textile Art
Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 14 : September 27, 2005 (Tue) - December 11, 2005 (Sun)
When Buddhism rose in the Asuka period, embroidered images of Buddhist deities are said to have been hung like paintings in temples for worship. The large works measuring 4.8m long that were mentioned in the Chronicles of Japan have not survived, but Embroidery Fragments with Tenjukoku (Heavenly Paradise) Scene, which is owned by Chuguji temple, provides certain clues about their appearances.
In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), faith in Amida (Amitabha) Buddha coupled with the belief that by saying prayers one could go to the Pure Land flourished. Many hanging scrolls with embroidered images of Amida descending from the Pure Land were donated to temples. Instead of black silk threads, the donors' hair was used to embroider the Sakyamuni's curly hair and the sutra text characters, indicating their ardent wish to be closer to Buddha's body.
Banners, kesa (priest's robe) and other textile pieces that existed at temples in abundance were often converted from fabrics donated by devotees. In old days people donated textile pieces used by themselves or their families with inscriptions to Shinto or Buddhist deities for their protection. This display features embroidery and other textile works accumulated in this way and preserved at temples. The delicate embroidery needle work, soft colors of natural dyes and carefully woven designs demonstrate how people who were dependent on their beliefs gave shapes to their prayers.