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A Pilgrim’s Book Dating from 1802: 88 Temple Pilgrimage

March 19, 2010

Japan in the late Edo Period (1603-1868) is a far cry from the Japan of today.  Enduring  in modern Japan, however, are traditional pilgrimage circuits where the faithful follow a prescribed course and make their way to a set of distinguished Buddhist temples: the reason I bring up the Edo Period is that this shuin-cho, or pilgrim’s stamp book, dates to 1802.
HonMap1This book was taken by a pilgrim as he or she circumambulated the island of Shikoku, visiting 88 temples sacred to the renowned Buddhist monk and scholar Kukai (774-835), who brought the Shingon Sect of Esoteric Buddhism to Japan from China.

HonMap1aAbove you will see a partial map of the route, and below you will see the cinnabar stamps received by the pilgrim from a priest at the temple: the priest will also write the name of the temple, and, at times, the date of the visit.HonMap1b


HonMap1dIt is really impressive that this book has survived over 200 years of history in Japan, some of the recent events of last century being quite devastating, as is universally known.HonMap1e

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A Portal to Another Place

January 6, 2010

What I mean by “portal” is shaded with several meanings.  First, I’m showing here a richly stamped and decorated pilgrim’s coat from my collection, the main image is that of Kannon: the coat was worn by a pilgrim as he or she made their way to holy sites following a prescribed pilgrimage route.  In so doing, the pilgrim–cloaked in this supernaturally-charged garment–approached the portal to a sacred space, thus transcending the mundane and entering the realm of the sublime.Kannon1

On a more practical level, I am going to provide several links below that will serve as a portal to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum‘s website that discusses Japanese pilgrimage and has borrowed images from my collection to illustrate their entries.  Rather than discuss this coat in detail here, I’ll just provide links, and let you have the fun of poking around the V & A’s site, which is bursting with fascinating content.


Here is the entry where this coat is shown, the topic discussed is Koyasan, a mountain sacred to the Shingon Sect of Buddhism.


Discussed here is the famous 88 temple pilgrimage on Shikoku Island–and do follow the links provided by the V & A.  Fascinating stuff.


And here is a link to the Saikoku Kannon Pilgrimage, a pilgim circuit of 33 Kannon temples in Western Japan.  I encourage you to delve into the      V & A’s website which provides additional information on Buddhism and sacred sites related to the Buddha and his teachings.


And have a look here and here to see some of the Buddhist textiles and objects I am currently offering for sale on my website.


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Two Cinnabar Stamped Japanese Pilgrims’ Books

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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