Scroll of the Buddhist Cannon, known as Jingoji Sutra

  • Late Heian period
  • 12c
  • Handscroll, gold paint on dark blue paper
  • H-25.8 W-610.3
    Transmitted by Jingoji temple
Catalogue Entry

Scroll 13 (Jingoji Sutra)
Late Heian period, 12th century
Handscroll, gold paint on dark blue paper
Height, 25.8cm;
overall length (including frontispiece painting), 610.3cm

A number of sutras were copied onto dark blue paper during the late Heian period, and the blue is thought to have been meant to represent an image of the lapis lazuli Buddha world. The use of gold paint to write the texts of the sutras was an act of reverence toward the Buddha's teachings and can also be seen as a representation of the shining bright body of the Buddha himself. The boundary lines drawn in silver paint were yet another method of revering the shining teachings of the Buddha.

Sutras created in gold paint on dark blue paper were, in most cases, accompanied by a cover sheet decorated with hosoge karakusa vining patterns, and the frontispiece section would include a painting in gold and silver paint representing a scene or passage from the sutra text. There are also many examples which show an image of Shaka (S⇔akyamuni) preaching against a backdrop of Vulture Peak. In addition, the majority of these sutras are adorned with plectrum-shaped scroll roller ends made of gilt bronze in a fish-roe ground pattern.

This single scroll has a red letter square seal that reads "Jingoji" impressed beneath the title at the front of the scroll, and thus it has been identified as 1 scroll from the "Gold Letter on Blue Paper Buddhist Canon" that was handed down at Jingoji and has hence come to be known as the Jingoji Sutras. 3 sets of the Issaikyo, or Buddhist canon, are recorded in the Jingoji Ryakuki, and this scroll is thought to accord to the one described as being painted in gold and recorded during the Jogen period (976-78). That notation goes on to state that Emperor Toba ordered the copy and that it was presented by the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa.

As in normal examples of this kind of sutra, this scroll of the Jingoji Sutras has a cover sheet decorated with hosoge karakusa vining patterns painted in gold and silver paint, and the frontispiece painting is an image of Shaka preaching against a background of Vulture Peak painted in gold and silver paint. However, the iconography of this scene has been abbreviated and is somewhat patterned so that all of the elements are given a generally uniform expression. The roller bar ends are the original gilt bronze plectrum-shaped rollers decorated with a fish-roe ground.

Regarding the date of this work, the Jingoji Issai-kyo has come down through the centuries with a chitsu-bound book of 202 pages with a date inscription of 1149 (Kyuan 5) written in black ink, and it is thought that this scroll was created around that period.
In accord with the "Jogen record," it is thought that there were originally close to 5,400 sutra scrolls, and at present, the original owner of the scrolls, Jingoji, still preserves some 2,317 scrolls which have been designated Important Cultural Properties. In addition, there are many scrolls from this set which have found their way into the world, and they are considered extremely important antique sutra scrolls representative of the beauty of the gold-on-blue Buddhist canon created during the late Heian period. EA