Past Exhibitions

Prayers of an Empress: The First Day of the Fifth Month Sutras
July 18, 2018 - September 2, 2018

The Nara-period Empress Kōmyō (701–760)—wife of Emperor Shōmu, who constructed the Great Buddha at Tōdai-ji—was a devout worshiper of Buddhism. Following the death of her father Fujiwara no Fuhito and her mother Tachibana Michiyo, she decided to commission in their honor a newly scribed edition of the entire Buddhist Canon (known as the Tripitaka; J: issaikyō). At the end of each scroll in this massive compendium is a dedication from the empress dated "first day of the fifth [lunar] month of 740." The sutras—comprising all the Buddhist scriptures that had been brought to Japan by envoys to Tang—were diligently copied by scribes in the imperial scriptorium in Nara.
Even without understanding the text, we can enjoy the elegant Tang-style Buddist calligraphy, with its stately, meticulously formed characters in formal, standard script. They represent the fervent faith in the Buddha's teachings of an empress living over twelve centuries ago.

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