Yakushiji – Edo period Daihannyakyō books actually from Nara period

07 Feb

Yakushiji temple (薬師寺) in Nara prefecture has in its possession a set of folding books (orihon 折り本) belonging to the Large Sūtra on Perfect Wisdom, or Daihannyakyō (大般若経) – the full name being the Daihannyaharamittakyō (大般若波羅蜜多経) or Mahāprajñāpāramitā-sūtra. The Daihannyaharamittakyō was translated by Genjō (玄奘; Hsüan-tsang [Xuanzang]), a Chinese  yakkyōsō (訳経僧; a monk employed to translate sutras) of the first half of the 7th century.

Researchers announced on February 1, 2010, however, that 47 of the books, until now considered as belonging to the Edo period, were actually produced during the Nara-period (710-794). This exciting discovery is made all the more interesting by the revelation that they were actually used for services until approximately 30 years ago.

(picture source)

A monk from Kōfukuji (興福寺) in Nara prefecture, Eion (永恩; 1167-?) is known for compiling Daihannyakyō sutra scrolls from the Nara to Heian periods into a collection known as the Eionkyō (永恩経) or Eiongukyō (永恩具経). Originally in scroll form (makimono 巻物), the Yakushiji texts were made into folding books in the Edo period, and have been misunderstood as Early Modern texts ever since.

The great majority of the scrolls belonging to the Eionkyō have disappeared, with only approximately 40 of the 600 (which would comprise one set) having been previously found.

Each folding book measures 25.6 centimeters tall and a length of 8-10 meters if stretched out fully.

Eion’s vermillion signature was found at the end of a volume in September 2010, leading researchers to identify the text as the Eionkyō. Judging from the handwriting and quality of the paper, the text was dated to the Nara period. Handwritten notations and dates have also been found, such as “Jōei 1″ (貞永元年[1232]) and “Tenpuku 1″ (天福元年 [1233]). A section of the Eionkyō belonging to the Kyoto National Museum has a handwritten date of Tenpyō 2 (天平2年 [730]).

Eion’s signature can be seen within the circle, above (picture source)

See The Princeton Companion to Classical Japanese Literature ( p. 380) for more information on the Daihannyaharamittakyō.

奈良時代の写経47巻 – 薬師寺、29年前まで法要で使われていた
2011年2月2日 奈良新聞
奈良市西ノ京町の薬師寺で、奈良時代に写された大般若経が47巻まとまって見つかり、薬師寺が1日、発表した。興福寺の僧、永恩(えいおん)が鎌倉時代に集めた「永恩具経」と呼ばれる大般若経(全600巻)の一部で、全国で約40巻しか確認されていない。発見で約6分の 1がそろったことになり、全体像に迫る貴重な資料となる。


薬師寺:「酷使」のお経、奈良時代 永恩収集の47巻、製作時期判明
毎日新聞 2011年2月2日 大阪朝刊


江戸時代の経本、実は奈良時代の写経だった 薬師寺






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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in Uncategorized


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