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Tue, Aug 2, 2022

Otokuni-dera temple’s statue of standing Bishamonten to be repaired in Kyoto

The “Standing Bishamonten (Vaisravana)” of Otokuni-dera temple in Nagaokakyo, Kyoto Pref. — a designated important cultural property — has been moved to Kyoto National Museum’s Conservation Center for Cultural Properties (Kyoto city) for repairs. The repair work will be conducted by conservators from Bijutsu-in, a public interest incorporated foundation based in Kyoto.

Conservators carefully apply masking paper before moving the “Standing Bishamonten (Vaisravana)” to the Kyoto National Museum. (Photo by Michihiro Kawamura)

Otukunidera — an ancient temple said to have been founded by Prince Shotoku (574-622) — is where Kukai (Kobo Daishi, 774-835), the founder of Shingon Buddhism, is said to have met with Saicho (Dengyo Daishi, 767-822), the founder of Tendai Buddhism, during the Heian period.

The wooden statue, which is about a meter tall and usually enshrined in the temple’s Bishamon Hall, was made using the yosegi-zukuri (joined-block construction) sculpting technique. The contemplative look on the face gives the statue its other name: The “Melancholic Bishamonten.”

Important cultural property
Standing Bishamonten (Vaisravana)
(Otokuni-dera temple, Kyoto Prefecture)

Experts say the statue was made during the late Heian period. The original coloring and kirikane patterns using thin strips of gold remain intact, but a considerable amount of time has elapsed since it was last repaired in 1932-33.

The paint and shippaku (gold foil applied with lacquer) are peeling on the backside of the statue, making it eligible for restoration work backed by the Tsumugu Project (a joint effort of Japan’s Cultural Affairs agency, Imperial Household Agency and national daily The Yomiuri Shimbun to help preserve the nation’s artistic treasures).

The statue seen from the back (Photo by Michihiro Kawamura)
The pedestal of the statue (Photo by Michihiro Kawamura)

Conservators from Bijutsu-in carefully applied masking paper to where the statue is damaged on May 9, 2022, and wrapped the main body, pedestal and halo with thin paper before moving them all to the conservation center the following day. Steps will be taken to prevent further peeling of paint and shippaku at the conservation center.

Conservators carry the statue out of Otokuni-dera temple. (Photo by Michihiro Kawamura)

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun and other sources)



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