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Art / Historical | Ueno

National Treasures of To-ji Temple: Kukai and the Sculpture Mandala

When the capital of Japan was named Kyoto in 794, Toji temple was founded as a state-sponsored institution in order to provide divine protection for the nation and its people. In 823, Emperor Saga assigned Toji to Kukai (aka Kobo Daishi, 774-835), a Buddhist monk who had returned from China after studing the newly established concepts and teachings of Esoteric Buddhism.

Fifteen statues from Kukai's sculpture mandala — a set of 21 figures of the Shingon Buddhist Pantheon housed at Toji — have been brought to the museum for this comprehensive exhibition covering Kukai and his sect. It's the first time so many of the statues have been exhibited together.

Other works include four cultural properties, 11 national treasures, paintings, calligraphy pieces and examples of decorative arts. (Yukari Tanaka)