Ink on paper
Heian period/9th century
Tokyo National Museum
Enchin (814-891) traveled to Tang China in 853 (Ninju 3) and brought back to Japan a large number of Buddhist scriptures. The articles in these eight scrolls include a letter written by Enchin himself as well as documents attesting to Enchin's clerical life and papers issued for his departure to China. The documents provide concrete information both about Enchin's activities around the time he traveled to China and about Sino-Japanese relations in the mid-ninth century. The collection is also a valuable resource for the study of the history of calligraphy.
Enchin was born in Sanuki Province (present-day Kagawa Prefecture) and at the age of fifteen entered Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei. After practicing and studying Buddhism in China, he returned to Japan in 858 (Ten'an 2). In 868 (Jôgan 10), he became the abbot (J. zasu) of Enryaku-ji. He established an affiliation between Onjô-ji (Mii-dera) Temple and the Tendai headquarters on Mt. Hiei and is known as the founder of the Jimon ("Temple School") lineage of the Tendai sect. In 927 (Enchô 5), thirty-six years after Enchin's death, Emperor Daigo (r. 897-930) conferred on him the highest ecclesiastical rank, "Great Master of the Dharma Seal" (J. Hôin Daikashô) and granted him the posthumous name Chishô Daishi.
This collection of documents had been kept in Onjô-ji Temple, but at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) it passed into the hands of the Kitashiragawa-no-miya family.