Museum (Part One)

Here, we will guide you through the numerous pieces of Buddhist art held by Chion-in.

Amida Nijūgo Bosatsu Raigōzu
(Descent of Amida and Twenty-Five Attendants, National Treasure)

This is a depiction of Amida, led by Kannon and Seishi, crossing towering peaks to descend upon the mansion of a nembutsu practitioner. There is a sutra that appears to be Hokekyō (Lotus Sutra) on top of a desk in the mansion. Since there are depictions of a mystical tower and numerous Buddhas, this scene is thought to be from the Kanmuryōjukyō (Meditation on the Buddha of Infinite Life Sutra ). This work of art, with its depictions of cherry blossoms, and deep mountain pools carved by waterfalls, as well as the fast-moving cloud carrying Amida, Kannon, and Seishi, captures the desire of the people of the Kamakura Period to quickly be taken to the Pure Land.

Hōnen Shōnin Gyōjō Ezu (Illustrated Biography of Hōnen, National Treasure)

This is an illustrated biography of our founder, Hōnen. Consisting of 48 volumes, in addition to his deeds from birth to death, it includes his sermons, letters, writings, as well as information on his disciples and followers (such as emperors, nobles, and warriors). It is said that The priest Shunsho(who later became the ninth chief high priest of Chion-in) was ordered to compose the biography by Emperor Go-Fushimi in 1307 and spent more than ten years working on it. There are various theories as to who the actual author was, and the style of the work appears to include elements from an earlier period. The composition and colors of the first half of the work are particularly superb and vividly display the court artistry of the late Kamakura Period (1192-1333).

Bosatsu Shotaikyō (The Bodhisattva Womb Sutra, National Treasure)

This sutra is based on the events before the Buddha attained nirvana(a state of complete enlightenment and libertation), and tells the story of how he preached for ten months while in his mother’s womb. The sutra consists of five volumes. The first volume was copied during the late Heian Period (794-1185) and the fifth was copied during Nara Period (710-784). However, the colophon on the remaining three copies state that they were copied in China in 550. Among the ancient sutras in our collection, this is the most famous, and is said to be one of the oldest in the world.

Jōgū Shōtoku Hōōteisetsu
(Biography of  Shōtoku Taishi, National Treasure)

This is a biography of Shōtoku Taishi in five parts, and the oldest parts are said to date back to the early eighth century. This is the oldest biography of Shōtoku Taishi, and it is of considerable historical value because it differs from the Nihon Shoki (Chronicles of Japan) in its description of how Buddhism entered Japan and Shōtoku Taishi’s death.

Soban Issaikyō
(Sung Dynasty Edition of the Buddhist Canon, Important Cultural Treasure)

The Buddhist canon represents the entirety of Buddhism’s sacred texts and is a collection of all the texts that were available at the time. The Sung Dynasty collection that was passed to Chion-in is a mixed set consisting of 5,969 volumes and was copied at the Kaiyuansi and Chanlinsi temples in Fujian, China during the Sung Period (960-1279).

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