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 titles of Buddhist sutras in Japan at that time. Each volume comes with a prayer of the Empress Kōmyō copied at the end. As the text was dated  “May 1, in the 12th year of the Tenpyō era,” the volumes are collectively called Go-gatsu Tsuitachi kyō (The May 1 sutras). Produced by a professional copyist employing the Chinese Tang style of calligraphy, this copy is considered one of the superior manuscripts of the Nara period (710−94). The paper is made from hemp; the cover and the shaft were repaired at a later date.

Last updated: January 3, 2018