Color on paper
Heian period/12th century
Tokyo National Museum
This charming edition of the Lotus Sutra (J. Hokekyô) was copied on to a two-fold book made of fan-shaped papers joined at the seam. Dating from the late twelfth century, this beautiful copy is one of ten books that were passed down in Shitennô-ji Temple in Osaka. During the Heian period (794-1185), courtiers actively copied the Lotus Sutra and conducted dedicatory offerings of this sutra. Over time, these dedicatory manuscripts were formalized into a style called "decorated sutras," to which this edition belongs. This is the only extant copy with underdrawings on the fan-shaped paper that was highly valued during this period.
Ten Rasetsunyo, protective deities of the Lotus Sutra, depicted here as Heian court women, were painted individually on the cover of each booklet. On the inner pages are illustrated scenes from the daily lives of courtiers and commoners, whose expressions and appearance are peaceful and lively. These underdrawings, both painted and printed by wood block, have been colored in warm tones such as red and yellow. The manuscripts are made of the highest quality torinoko paper (literally, "chick" paper, made of ganpi fibers, so named because of its light-brown egg color). This was printed with fine mica (J. kira) and sprinkled with gold and silver cut leaf, creating a breathtaking background effect upon which the colorful scenes were painted.