770. Item #89096
[EARLY PRINTING]. HYAKUMANTÔ DARANI. Turned wooden pagoda shaped container and printed Dharani Buddhist charm placed inside. The pagoda is about 21.0 cm tall and the circular base has a diameter of about 10.3 cm. The printed charm in the Hyakumantô [One Million Pagodas] was part of a devotional project called for by Empress Shotoku to produce one million wooden pagoda, each with one out of a total of four different dharani prayers inside, printed on paper slips. The edict, in celebration of the successful defeat of a rebellion in the north, was issued in 764 and the printing was completed by 770. Traditionally, the project was celebrated as the first example of printing that could be dated accurately. As cultural matters so often are in 21st century East Asia, the Hyakumantô's primacy as printing has become politicized and been much disputed by Korea and China, both of whom claim earlier 8th century examples. That being said, the Hyakumantô is early indeed. The enormous number produced mean that quite a few survive. The Hyakumantô is the only example of such early printing any of us could ever hope to possess or even see in a lifetime. Our example comes in a vintage (Edo era?) wormed wooden box. Our pagoda retains just a bit of its original whitewash patina, with some edgewear and very slight worming to the base. The charm, called the "Jishin'in Darani", one of the 4 varieties printed at the time, is wormed and has been laid down on backing paper to preserve it. A remarkable and enormously important 1250 year old relic of East Asian high culture.