Tue, Oct 12, 2021

Paintings, statues, mandalas and sutras of the Tendai school of Buddhism showcased

Commemorating the 1200th anniversary of Saicho’s passing

Art writers, reporters and others present at the press preview of the Buddhist Art of the Tendai School exhibit on Oct. 11 view the "Prince Shotoku and the High Priests of Tendai Buddhism," altogether a government-designated national treasure.

A special exhibition commemorating the 1200th death anniversary of Saicho (Dengyo Daishi), the founder of the esoteric Tendai school of Buddhism in Japan, is now running at the Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park).

The “Buddhist Art of the Tendai School” exhibit is held in conjunction with Nihonhaku (Japan Cultural Expo) and supported by the Tsumugu Project — a joint effort by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, Imperial Household Agency and national daily The Yomiuri Shimbun (Tokyo) to help preserve Japan’s cultural legacies.

Tsumugu helped finance the repair work of the “Certificate Issued to Saicho by Daosui” (Heian period, 9th century) from the Enryakuji temple in Shiga Prefecture, which will later go on display at the exhibit (Nov. 2-).

The special exhibition will last until Nov. 21, 2021, in Tokyo, and move on to Fukuoka (Kyushu National Museum) and then to Kyoto (Kyoto National Museum) in 2022.

The seated figure of purportedly Jikaku Daishi, or Priest Ennin (dated 1047), from the Kokusekiji temple in Iwate Prefecture oversees the exhibition floor.
Some of the objects on display are strikingly colorful.
Viewers admire the seated Jigen Daishi, or Priest Tenkai (dated 1640), from the Rinnoji temple in Tochigi Prefecture.
Mandala of the Two Realms (12th-13th century) of Shitennoji temple in Osaka city is just one of the many mandalas on display.
The standing Thousand-Armed Kannon and Two Attendants (12th century) from the Myo-o-in temple in Shiga Prefecture
From the Tokyo National Museum website:

The year 2021 marks the 1200th anniversary of the death of the monk Saicho (767–822).

Saicho was particularly moved by the doctrine of the Lotus Sutra, which taught that all humans were fundamentally equal. Based on this concept, he founded the Tendai school of Buddhism in Japan and spread its teachings throughout the country.

Saicho also founded a temple, called Enryakuji, which produced many eminent monks. The effects of their teachings sent ripples through Japanese culture that are still felt today.

This exhibition introduces the history of Tendai Buddhism, beginning with its founding at Enryakuji temple and ending with the founding of Kaneiji temple in Edo (now Tokyo) during a period in which the school held strong ties with the samurai government of the Edo period (1603–1868).

The exhibition will showcase cultural works that bear unique traits from the regions in which they were treasured and passed down, and also present objects that reflect the spirit of the Lotus Sutra‘s radical tenet that all people can achieve salvation.

Incense sticks and other items from Hieizan (Mt. Hiei, Shiga Prefecture), where the Tendai school is headquartered, are available at the museum shop.

(Photos by Kazuki Matsuura)

For more information:

Outline of the event


Tue, Oct 12, 2021〜Sun, Nov 21, 2021

Commemorating the 1200th Anniversary of Saichō’s Death
Buddhist Art of the Tendai School


Tokyo National Museum
13-9 Ueno Park
Taito-ku, Tokyo


[Online reservation required]
Adults: ¥2200 (¥2100)
University students: ¥1400 (¥1300)
High school students: ¥1000 (¥900)
Junior high school students & under: Free

*( ) indicate discount prices for advance tickets.
*A limited number of same-day tickets are also available for purchase (w/o reservation) at the museum.
*Persons with disabilities are admitted free with 1 accompanying person ea. (ID required).

Closing day


Opening hours

9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.


050-5541-8600 (Hello Dial)



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