Past Exhibitions

Illustrated Biographies of Famous Priests: Remembering the Patriarchs
July 7, 2015 - August 9, 2015

Some of the anecdotes most prized by Japanese Buddhism sects are stories about their founders. Episodes from the exemplary lives of Buddhist patriarchs help strengthen the faith of congregations and devotion to their schools. In the late Kamakura period, after a number of schools of Buddhism had set down their roots in Japanese society, these sects began producing illustrated biographies of their patriarchs for promotional purposes and to strengthen denominational solidarity. In the years to follow, such handscrolls were frequently copied and adapted as later editions.

This exhibition features illustrated biographies of three major figures in Japanese Buddhism: Shingon sect patriarch Kūkai (774–835), Ji sect founder Ippen (1234–1289), and Nichiren sect originator Nichiren (1222–1282). It might be interesting to consider the role of these priests in conjunction with the feature exhibition The Eastward Expansion of Buddhism, which goes on view July 29, 2015.

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