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Treasures from Ninnaji Temple and Omuro

Exquisite peace in Buddhist statues


Ninnaji, famed for its late-blooming Omuro cherry trees, is a Buddhist temple that took its name from the era in which it was built. It was initiated in 886 (Ninna 2) by the order of Emperor Koko and completed in 888 (Ninna 4) under his successor, Emperor Uda. The name Omuro originally referred to a room (a monk’s quarters) at Ninnaji that was built for the emperor Uda, who had abdicated to his son, but from the Kamakura period onward the term “Omuro” became frequently used to refer to Ninnaji itself. This exhibition introduces the Ninnaji Temple and the masterpieces from temples throughout Japan affiliated with the Omuro branch of Shingon Buddhism headed by Ninnaji.

1201_t2One of the highlights is the Seated Senju (Thousand-armed) Kannon Bosatsu, a National Treasure from Fujiidera in Osaka. This seated thousand-armed Kannon Bosatsu sculpture is the only one of its kind confirmed to have more than a thousand arms. A total of 1041 arms, both large and small, surround its gentle face and plump body like a halo.

From Ninnaji will be exhibited the Seated Amida Nyorai, another National Treasure that was the original principal icon at the time of the temple’s founding. The hand formation known as jōin, where the hands are brought together in front of the belly, is the oldest among all statues of its kind for which the year of formation is known. This elegant figure conveys a spirit of peace.

A number of other “hidden Buddhas” normally inaccessible to the public will be featured, including the Eleven-faced Kannon (a National Treasure) from Domyoji Temple in Osaka, the Seated Bato Kannon Bosatsu (an Important Cultural Property) from Nakayamadera Temple in Fukui, and the Seated Nyoirin Kannon (an Important Cultural Property) from Kannoji Temple in Hyogo. In addition, the Ninnaji Kannon Hall, which is not open to the public, will be recreated for this exhibition with thirty-three enshrined figures as well as high-resolution reproductions of its wall paintings. This is a unique opportunity to experience these statues and surroundings that are seldom seen by the public.

(Text: Naoko Aono)

Treasures from Ninnaji Temple and Omuro
Masterpieces of Tenpyo Art and Shingon Esoteric Buddhism
Dates: January 16 (Tue) – March 11 (Sun), 2018
Venue: Tokyo National Museum Heiseikan 13-9 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Times: 9:30 – 17:00 (Friday, Saturday until 21:00, admission until 30 minutes before closing) Closed Mondays (open February 12, closed February 13)
Admission: 1,600 general; other rates
Contact: 03-5777-8600 (Hello Dial)

The Seated Senju Kannon Bosatsu (National Treasure) 8th century, Nara period Fujiidera, Osaka Exhibition dates: February 14-March 11
The Seated Amida Nyorai (National Treasure) 888 (Ninna 4), Heian period Ninnaji, Kyoto


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