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Two Cinnabar Stamped Japanese Pilgrims’ Books

Written on September 19, 2008

These are two Japanese pilgrim’s books that have just arrived; I think I’ll post one on my website next week.  I believe they are from the 88 Temple pilgrimage on Shikoku island, Japan and they probably date to the 1920s or 1930s.

Each page on the book on the left is completely covered with the oily red cinnabar stamps which the pilgrim received at each of the temples visited on his sacred pilgrimage cycle: I have never seen a pilgrim’s book with such a profusion of red stamps on each page; the book is still very fragrant from the cinnabar.

Shikoku island’s 88 Buddhist temples are sacred as Shikoku was the birthplace of  Kukai (known posthumously as Kobo-Daishi), 774-835 CE, the Japanese Buddhist monk, poet, scholar and artist who brought Esoteric Buddhism to Japan from China.  In Japan it is known as Shingon.   Pilgrims would literally bushwhack their way around the island in an attempt to visit all the sacred temples, and this long trip would be arduous and, in some cases, fatal.   Most likely these books, being from the modern era, belonged to pilgrims who did not brave the elements to the extent of their forebears, but still, completing the pilgrimage takes devotion, determination and faith.

Have a look at the coats that pilgrims would wear by going here.

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