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30th Anniversary Event: Exhibition “Days of Discipline and Grace: Treasures from the Imperial Buddhist Convents of Kyoto”
Friday, November 6, 1998 - Friday, December 4, 1998
Days of Discipline and Grace: Treasures from the Imperial Buddhist Convents of Kyoto
Disciple and spiritual heir of the Chinese Rinzai Zen monk Wu-hsueh Tsu-yuan (known in Japan as Mugaku Sogen [Bukko Kokushi]); founding Abbess of Keiaiji Convent, head temple-complex of the Five Mountain Rinzai Zen Convent Association; and spiritual matriarch of many of the remaining Imperial Convents today.
In the thirteenth century an extraordinarily realistic portrait statue (chinso chokoku) was carved depicting Abbess Mugai Nyodai in her seventies. Chinso statues are a category of remarkably realistic life-sized statues of the seated figures of historical Zen masters made as substitutes for the living person to convey the essence of the Zen master to his disciples after his death. This statue, the only thirteenth-century portrait statue of a female Zen master extant, has been declared an “Important Cultural Treasure” by the Japanese government. The original is an object of veneration in a Kyoto convent, but for protection, an exact replica was made and is kept by the Kanagawa Prefectural Kanazawa Bunko Museum.
The Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies is profoundly grateful to the Kanazawa Bunko for having lent to us the statue for the Abbess’s 700th anniversary memorial service. The service was conducted in front of the statue and it was then displayed in the exhibition “Days of Discipline and Grace: Treasures from the Imperial Buddhist Convents of Kyoto” in the C. V. Starr East Asian Library.