Horyuji treasures go on the road to pray for reconstruction

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Statues of Kichijo-ten, left, and Bishamon-ten owned by Horyuji temple (The photo of Kichijo-ten was taken by Kinji Morimoto and provided by Nara National Museum)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
March 20, 2014

To pray for recovery from the 2011 disaster, a major exhibition of Horyuji temple treasures will be held in Tokyo from April 26 through June 22 for the first time in 20 years at the University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts.

The exhibition, to commemorate the third anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the 10th year since the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake, is being premiered in Sendai. It will run through April 13.

The exhibition “Horyuji–Prayers and Their Images” will feature noted treasures of the temple, which was built in present-day Nara Prefecture in the seventh century.

“Horyuji temple has gone through a number of fateful crises and overcome each crisis,” said Genmyo Ono, chief abbot of Horyuji, at the opening ceremony of the exhibition at Sendai City Museum on March 1. “I hope visitors will appreciate the exhibited items thinking of the history.”

Horyuji was founded by Prince Shotoku during the Asuka Period (592-710), which began following the introduction of Buddhism in the mid-sixth century.

Horyuji houses a number of fine arts, sculptures and crafts that represent the dawning of Buddhism art in Japan.

The temple became Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.

On display at the Tokyo exhibition will be about 40 paintings, sculptures and dyed fabrics created from the Asuka Period to the Kamakura Period (1192-1333).

Among these will be two national treasures: the statue of Bishamon-ten (Varisravana), the guardian deity of warding off disasters and a peaceful nation; and the statue of Kichijo-ten (Mahasri), goddess of beauty and fertility. Statues of Shotoku will also be shown.

The exhibition will also feature about 30 items showing the good relationship between Horyuji temple and the Tokyo Fine Arts School (the present Tokyo University of the Arts) founded by Tenshin Okakura, who advocated the protection and preservation of traditional cultural properties in opposition to the anti-Buddhism movement that erupted when the newly established Meiji Era (1868-1912) government took power.

The exhibits will include a modern Japanese painting on the theme of Horyuji by Nihonga artist Yukihiko Yasuda (1884-1978), a graduate of the fine arts school.

Reproduction of the wall paintings of Horyuji’s Golden Hall, which were destroyed in a fire, will provide a vivid picture of the interior of the hall.

The exhibition will continue on to Niigata Prefectural Museum after the Tokyo dates are concluded.

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