11. Item #89652
[EARLY PRINTING] Jôruriji Temple. SURIBUTSU OF 100 BUDDHAS. Joruri-ji Temple [c.1100-1110 C.E.] Single sheet woodblock printed "suribotoke" of seated Amida Buddha figures, printed from a hangi woodblock. Approximately 44 x 30 cm at its fullest points. In the early 12th century, an 11th century Yakushi temple outside Nara, named Joruri-ji, was rededicated to Amida and 9 statues of that Buddhist diety were carved and consecrated to stand in the main hall. It should be noted that the mid-11th century marked the transition to Mappo, the age of degenerate law, when enlightenment was not possible by one's own efforts but a time where invoking the mercy of Amida, one could enter Paradise upon death. Hence there was much celebration of Amida and such of his "helpers" as the Boddhisattva, Kannon. So, the installation of Amida statues in Joruri-ji would have been a matter of course at the time. Invoking the name of Amida was represented by the multiple iterations of his image on the printed sheets, placed into the statues forever. The statues are currently considered National Treasures of Japan. When the central figure was opened in the late Meiji period, about the turn of the 20th century (Heian statues being often hollow), it was found to contain a sheaf of printed Buddha images, so-called "suributsu". The Jôruriji examples (most were retained by the temple) are generally considered to be the oldest printed Buddha images and oldest printed illustrations in Japan which still exist. Woodblock was used for this "variety" consisting of paper printed from a single carved block with 100 Buddhas incised on it. There were also two other Jôruriji varieties (according to the great bookseller, Sorimachi Shigeo, as noted in his catalogue 38 from 1971) consisting of a smaller group of Amida Buddhas printed repeatedly onto paper, perhaps stamped onto the sheet (named "imbutsu") and another suribotoke with 81 images. Our copy contains about 80 complete and near complete images of the original 100. It would appear that there is a similar copy at the MFA in Boston and a small fragment of another in the Art Museum of South Australia. Our copy also seems to still have signs of the triangular incised mark in the upper top margin which is a characteristic of the printed sheets. Although the sheet is delicate, as the paper is very thin, it nonetheless retains a remarkable durability. As a product.