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An Actor in the Role of Sato Norikiyo who Becomes Saigyo: An Actor in the Role of Yoshinaka
The Japanese art of Ukiyo-e (“Pictures of the floating [or sorrowful] world”) developed in the city of Edo (now Tokyo) during the Tokugawa or Edo Period (1600-1868), a relatively peaceful era during which the Tokugawa shoguns ruled Japan and made Edo the seat of power. The Ukiyo-e tradition of woodblock printing and painting continued into the 20th century. This diptych print of between 1849 and 1852 shows Saigyō surrounded by men trying to prevent him from leaving his house to become a priest. The poet Saigyō (1118-90) was born into ...
Gusinoe Ozero (Town), Datsan, Main Temple (1858-70), West Facade, Gusinoe Ozero, Russia
This photograph of the main temple at the Gusinoozersk Buddhist monastery (datsan) was taken in 2000 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Located near Gusinoe Ozero (Goose lake) in the southwestern part of the Republic of Buriatiia (Russian Federation), the Gusinoozersk, or Tamchinskii, datsan was founded in the mid-18th century and in 1809 became the center of Buddhism in eastern Siberia, a position it held until 1930. In 1858 work began on ...
Ivolginsk Buddhist Datsan, Main Temple, Interior, Ivolga, Russia
This photograph of the interior of the main temple at the Ivolginsk Buddhist datsan (monastery) was taken in 2000 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. This primary Buddhist center in the Republic of Buriatiia (Russian Federation) is situated 25 kilometers to the southwest of Ulan-Ude near the Ivolga River. It was founded in 1946 after the destruction or closure of previous Buddhist monastic communities in what appears to have been a cultural ...
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 ...
Map of India in the Age of the Mahabharata
This undated 20th-century map, published in Pune (formerly Poona), India, shows place names in India associated with the Mahābhārāta, one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India (the other being the Ramayana). The title of the map is in Marathi; the place names are in Sanskrit. Mahābhārata can be translated as "the great tale of the Bharata Dynasty.” Most likely composed between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D., this enormously long epic recounts the story of the dynastic struggle and civil war between the Pandavas and the ...
Monograph on Buddha Sakyamuni’s Birth-Place in the Nepalese Tarai
In the 1870s, the Archaeological Survey of India undertook a series of expeditions to increase understanding of the early history of India and to further the preservation of important monuments and ruins. In 1896 German archaeologist Alois Anton Führer (1853–1930) received permission from the government of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh and the government of India to carry out an expedition to Nepal. Führer generally is credited with discovering the birthplace of Buddha. Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born in about 563 B.C. at the gardens of Lumbini ...
Ruins of Prambanan, Tjandi Sewoe, Soerakarta Residence
This photograph depicts the ruins of the temple of Prambanan in central Java, the largest Hindu temple ever built in Indonesia and one of the largest in Southeast Asia. Dedicated to the triumvirate of Shiva, Brahma, and Vishnu, the temple was built around 850 A.D. by the Mataram dynasty but abandoned soon after its construction. The Mataram dynasty practiced aspects of both Hinduism and Buddhism, and the temple complex includes some of the earliest Buddhist temples in Indonesia. Prambanan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. The ...
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.
One Million Small Wooden Pagodas and Dharani Prayers
Hyakumanto Darani (The one million pagodas and Dharani prayers) is the oldest traceable publication in the world whose production date is clearly identified. In 764, the Empress Shōtoku (718-770) ordered the donation of Hyakumanto Darani, each containing a small scroll printed with four Buddhist Dharani sutras, to ten major temples. The National Diet Library holds several of the scrolls that were donated to the Hōryūji Temple in Nara prefecture in western Japan. These three-tiered pagodas were painted with white clay. It is unclear whether the printing blocks were of wood ...
Life and Activities of Shakyamuni Buddha Incarnate
The vivid colors in this Chinese book are reminiscent of the pictures in medieval European manuscripts. Liu Ruoyu (Ming dynasty) records this edition in his Neiban jingshu jilue (Outline record of imperial editions): “Life and Activities of Shakyamuni Incarnate: Four volumes, 440 pages.” The original book, by the Ming monk Baocheng, is in six juan (sections) and is titled Shijia rulai yinghua lu (Record of the teachings of the thus-come Śākyamuni Buddha), which indicates that the book was revised and combined with other texts before the printing blocks for it ...
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 ...
Manusyaloka, Map of the Human World
Jainism is an Indian religion, which was founded by Vardhamana Mahavira, a spiritual leader called the Jina (conqueror), in the sixth century B.C. Jainism teaches nonviolence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice rely mainly on the effort of advancing the soul on the spiritual ladder to divine consciousness in a universe that has no beginning or end. Jainism has its own version of geography and cosmology, in which the universe is divided into three kingdoms: the upper is the realm of the heavens and the celestials; the ...
Brahman Priest Painting His Forehead, India
This photograph of a priest in India is from the Frank and Frances Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress. Frank G. Carpenter (1855–1924) was an American writer of books on travel and world geography, whose works helped to popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the United States in the early years of the 20th century. Consisting of photographs taken and gathered by Carpenter and his daughter Frances (1890-1972) to illustrate his writings, the collection includes an estimated 16,800 photographs and 7,000 glass and film negatives. In ...
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 ...