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Type of Item
Monument near Gadan
This view of a monument near Gah-Idan (or Gadan) monastery is from a collection of 50 photographs of central Tibet acquired in 1904 from the Imperial Russian Geographical Society in Saint Petersburg by the American Geographical Society. According to the photographer’s note, the monument was erected by the living (thirteenth) Dalai Lama on the spot where he is supposed to have dedicated some relics of the Tibetan religious philosopher and teacher of Buddhism, Tson-kha-pa (also seen as Tsongkhapa, Tson-k'apa, or Tsongk'apa in other sources). In The Land ...
Geographical Description of Tiantai Mountain
Tendaisan ki (Tiantaishanji in Chinese) is a geographical description of the Chinese holy mountain, Tendaisan (Tiantaishan in Chinese), located in Zheijiang Province. The author, Xu Lingfu, was a Taoist who lived in seclusion in order to discipline his mind and body. Xu lived on Tendaisan from 815 to 825, where he wrote this book. A Japanese monk studying in China may have copied the original in China or he may have brought a copy back to Japan, after which it was lost. This manuscript, held in the National ...
The practice of printing Buddhist scriptures on the reverse of letters from the deceased to pray for the repose of his or her soul became common from the end of the Heian period (late 12th century) onward. The scrolls shown here contain the text of a Buddhist sutra called Myōhō renge-kyō (Lotus sutra). They are printed on the reverse of letters sent from Daitō Genchi, the second abbot of Kakuon-ji Temple in Kamakura. It is believed that Hōjō Sadatoki’s wife, to whom the letters are addressed, and some others ...
Buddhist Sutra “Jū-issai-fukutoku-zanmai-kyō”
The hand copying of Buddhist sutras was believed to confer great merit and spiritual benefit, so that from the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the sixth century, numerous manuscripts were reproduced throughout the country. Shown here is a volume from the hand-copied Issai-kyō (a Buddhist corpus) commissioned by the Empress Kōmyō (701−60), wife of the Emperor Shōmu, to pray for the repose of her parents, Fujiwara no Fuhito and Tachibana no Michiyo. The work commissioned by the empress amounts to about 7,000 volumes, which include almost all ...
The Completion of Mere Ideation
In Japan temples were the center of publishing until the Middle Ages. The Kasuga edition of the Buddhist scriptures was produced at the Kōfuku-ji Temple in Nara. These scrolls, from that edition, contain the text of Jōyuishikiron (The completion of mere ideation), a commentary on the work by the Indian scholar Seshin (Vasubandhu in Sanskrit) known as Yuishiki sanjūju (Triṃśikā-vijñapti-kārikā in Sanskrit, Weishi sanshi song in Chinese). The commentary was translated into Chinese during the Tang dynasty by a Chinese monk named Xuanzang. It was a canon of the ...
Buddhist Sutra “Bimashōkyō”
The hand copying of Buddhist sutras was believed to confer great merit and spiritual benefit, so that from the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the sixth century numerous manuscripts were reproduced throughout the country. In the late Heian period, there arose the Mappō (age of Dharma decline) doctrine, which held that Buddhist teaching, and consequently the protection of Buddha, would decline. At a time of religious pessimism coupled with the very real decline of the aristocracy, many court nobles sought to attain the after-death passage to the Pure Land ...
The Stele of Buddha Niches at Yique
Shown here are rubbings of the texts on the famous Yique fo kan bei (The stele of Yique Buddha niches), also known as the Stele of Three Niches or the Stele of Three Niches of Longmen. The tablet was erected in the 11th month of the 15th year of the Zhenguan reign (641) during the Tang dynasty, in the Binyang Cave of the Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang, Henan. The texts were composed by Cen Wenben (595−645) and written by famed calligrapher Chu Suiliang (596−658). The horizontal inscription in seal ...
Buddhist Texts, Including the Legend of Phra Malai, with Illustrations of The Ten Birth Tales
The legend of Phra Malai, a Buddhist monk of the Theravada tradition said to have attained supernatural powers through his accumulated merit and meditation, is the main text in this 19th-century Thai samut khoi (folding book) held in the Thai, Lao, and Cambodian Collections of the British Library. Phra Malai figures prominently in Thai art, religious treatises, and rituals associated with the afterlife, and the story is one of the most popular subjects of 19th-century illustrated Thai manuscripts. The earliest surviving examples of Phra Malai manuscripts date back to the ...
Treatise on Cats
This manuscript containing fine paintings of cats is in the format of a samut khoi (Thai folding book) with 12 folios, which open from top to bottom. It was produced in the 19th century in central Thailand. Folding books were usually made from the bark of mulberry trees; minerals, plant liquids, and occasionally materials imported from China and Europe were used as paints. Sometimes the paper was blackened with lampblack or lacquer to make the paper stronger and more resistant to damage by insects or humidity. Such books were mainly ...
This printed edition of this work from the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127) is the sole copy in existence. It was originally in the collection of Fu Zengxiang, and was acquired by the Library of Congress in 1941.
The Zhaocheng Jin Tripitaka
This edition of the Buddhist canon was printed between about the ninth year of the Huangtong era of Xizong of the Jin dynasty and sometime in the Dading era of Shizong, and for this reason is called the "Jin Tripitaka" by scholars. It is also called the “Jin Tripitaka from Tianning Temple in Xiezhou" because the woodblocks were carved at Tianning Temple on Jinglin Mountain, in Xiezhou, Shanxi (modern Xie County in the Jinnan district). In 1933, the work was rediscovered at Guangsheng Temple in Zhaocheng County, Shanxi, so its ...
Twenty-One Hymns to the Rescuer Mother of Buddhas
Also known as “Twenty-One Hymns to the Rescuer Saint Tārā, Mother of Buddhas,” this item is a sutra from Tibetan esoteric Buddhism. The copyist was Yong Rong (1744–90), sixth son of the Qianlong emperor and general editor of the Siku quanshu. In addition to being a poet, calligrapher, and painter, Yong Rong had a sophisticated understanding of astronomy and mathematics. On the top protective cover of this item is written, “Imperially commissioned translation of the hymn to the rescuer mother of Buddhas," in Manchu, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese scripts ...
Diamond Prajna Paramita Sutra
This complete scroll from the first year of the Yifeng era (676) of the Tang dynasty was unearthed in Dunhuang, China. The scroll contains the Diamond Prajna pāramitā sutra, a work that is an important sacred text in the prajñā line of Mahayana Buddhism as well as a foundational text in Chinese Chan (Japanese Zen) Buddhism. The text was transmitted to China in the Period of Southern and Northern Courts in many translations, but the translation by Kumārajīva is the most respected. For generations, it was felt that reciting the ...
Life History and Sermon of Buddha Abstracted from Buddhist Scriptures
Seokbosangjeol (Life history and sermons of Buddha abstracted from Buddhist scriptures) was compiled by Prince Suyang, the son of King Sejong and Queen Soheon, in the 29th year of King Sejong’s reign (1447). It was written in Korean prose style, not only to pray for the repose of the prince’s mother, but also to let the common people learn Buddhist doctrines more easily. Its content teaches about Buddha’s life and his main sermons, selected from the Chinese sutras such as the Sutra of the Lotus, the Sutra ...
Ji Guang Jing, Land of Solitude and Illumination
This three-volume work by Hong Yingming, a Ming-dynasty philosopher, known also under his style name Zicheng, contains portraits of Buddhas. Volume one depicts 19 Buddhas of India; volumes two and three contain portraits of 42 Buddhas of China. The work includes brief biographies.
Manuscript of a Mongolian Sūtra
This text is a representative example from the collection of Mongolian manuscripts in the Bavarian State Library. It is a Buddhist manuscript produced in the Beijing style, in which a sheet has been inserted in both the upper and lower cover. A silk curtain of different colors protects the sheets set in the recess. This type of book cover was developed in Beijing for Tibetan and Mongolian manuscripts and is sometimes also found among block print bindings. This example is one of the Mahayana Sutras (Yeke kölgen sudur): the popular ...
The Noble, Great, and Cleansing Liberation from All Sins through the Buddha
This marvelous manuscript contains a Mahayana Sutra text from the Kanjur (Translation of the words of the Buddha), i.e., the scriptures of Tibetan Buddhism. It is especially remarkable because it was not translated directly from Sanskrit, like so many other works of the Kanjur, but from Chinese. The translators obviously had no original text from which to work. Accordingly, they did not give the work a Sanskrit title, as was usually the case. Manuscripts containing only this text are very rare, and even in this case a further work ...