2 8th-cent. Japanese Buddhist manus. SUTRA SCROLL in Chinese 106


Description: 8th-century Japanese Buddhist manuscript sutra scroll in Chinese

Dá bõrê bõluómìduõ jing [English: Great perfection of wisdom sutra; Japanese: Daihannya-haramitta-kyô; Sanskrit: Mahaprajnaparamita sutra]. Dì [= number] 172.
[Japan (Nara?), ca. 730?]. 15-sheet scroll (25 x 826 cm). Japanese scroll written in Chinese with a brush in black ink on kozo (mulberry bark) paper, dyed yellow with a preparation from the kihada tree. With 20th-century brown Japanese paper extensions at the beginning and end, that at the end (left) attached to a Japanese dark brown wooden (walnut?) roller, and that at the beginning (right) with a mulberry-colour cloth tie.
€ 45,000
Japanese Buddhist sutra scroll in Chinese, produced in the Nara period (710-794), most likely ca. 730. It is the complete juãn (volume) 172 of the 600-volume Sanskrit Maha prajna paramita sutra (Great perfection of wisdom sutra) as translated into Chinese by the Chinese Buddhist monk Xuánzàng (ca. 602-664), known in Japan as Genjõ. This volume presents the Buddhist doctrines concerning emptiness (void) and lack of essence.
Concerned about the inaccurate, incomplete and badly translated texts of the Buddhist scriptures that circulated in China, Xuánzàng set off for India in 629 and studied ancient Buddhist scriptures under Prajñakara at the Nava Vihãha monastery in what is now northern Afghanistan. He travelled on to Kashmir and northern India, studying at various monasteries, visiting sites associated with the Shakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama). After an adventurous seventeen years, Xuánzàng returned to China in 645, bringing many manuscripts with him, including three Sanskrit copies of the Great perfection of wisdom sutra. He devoted the rest of his life to translating Buddhist scriptures into Chinese.
In 1232 the present volume (and at least many volumes from the same 600-volume set) belonged to the Kofuku-ji Buddhist temple in Nara, which had a large collection of 8th- and 9th-century manuscripts of the Greater perfection of wisdom sutra. They were under the care of the monk Eion (1167-post 1233), who punctuated the present volume and others from the set in red. They were later donated to the Kunitama Shrine of the Kii family, near Osaka, and were eventually dispersed. A few other volumes from the present set survive: 514 and 522 at the Kyoto National Museum, 267 at Harvard University's Sackler Museum and 174 in the Schøyen Collection (Oslo and London).
Like all surviving volumes of the present set, this one has suffered worm damage throughout but has been expertly and unobtrusively restored in traditional Japanese style without retouching the text, which remains clearly readable. It had also been torn through in sheet 3, which was probably repaired at the same time. Toward the end of the manuscript, chips in the upper and lower margins have also been restored. As restored, the manuscript remains in very good condition. A rare complete volume, in scroll form, of an 8th-century Japanese Buddhist sutra written in Chinese: an important document of early Japanese Buddhism and a remarkable show-piece for any collection.
  • Number: 1010722
  • Dealer: Speculum Orbis Nauticum

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