Following the relocation of the capital to Kyoto, To-ji temple (Kyo-o-gokoku-ji temple) was established alongside Sai-ji temple as a state-sponsored institution meant to ensure divine protection for the country. Around this time, the Japanese priest Kukai travelled to Tang-dynasty China to study the newly-established teachings of Esoteric Buddhism. In 823, Emperor Saga granted Kukai control of To-ji following his return from China. Kukai made this temple the focal point of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism, with the year 2023 set to mark the 1,200th anniversary of the establishment of this influential religious sect.
The objects of Esoteric Buddhism associated with Kukai are also of immense artistic quality, with their rich variety and expressiveness holding an exceptional position among the Buddhist art of Japan. This comprehensive exhibition will present cultural properties handed down at To-ji, with a focus on the numerous treasured articles associated with Kukai himself. The Lecture Hall of To-ji houses Kukai’s sculpture mandala, a three-dimensional representation of the pantheon of Shingon Buddhism. This exhibition will feature an unprecedented 15 of the mandala’s 21 sculptures, including 11 National Treasures and 4 Important Cultural Properties. Other magnificent sculptures and paintings, as well as works of calligraphy and decorative art representing the pinnacle of artistic expression in Esoteric Buddhism will also be displayed. We invite you to witness these priceless objects, passed down together with the teachings of Kukai for nearly 1,200 years at To-ji temple.