2018 年 72 巻 3 号 p. 77-
Hokke-do Hall at Todaiji Temple is widely known as a monument built in the beginning of the 8th century, and it is also famous for the many original Buddist statues that are still there. In 2015, construction work was carried out on the building to reinforce it against earthquakes. During this process, a number of ancient writings written in India ink were discovered, including writings from the original construction. These writings were discovered in the canopy within the hall, under the floorboards, and in the halo of the main statue. These writings contain some things of great historical significance, and yet, due to various circumstances, we have reached the present day without making any official report. At the request of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, I have looked at almost all of these writings, and I have received digital photos of them. This paper examines the results of deciphering a particularly important writing, the writing in India ink found in the canopy, and it describes its significance in cultural history. Below is a summary of this.
In order from east to west, the canopies in Hokke-do Hall are called the eastern canopy, the central canopy, and the western canopy. When they were created, they were each different, and looking at them from the perspective of art, the eastern canopy is a work of art from the Nara period (with modern repairs that have been done to it), the central canopy is from the Kamakura period, and the western canopy is from the time of original construction, the Nara period.
The most notable of the discovered India-ink writings were those from the western canopy. The era that those writings came from was determined based on the construction situation of the canopy, and they seem to have been written after the materials for the canopy were prepared but before the canopy was completed. Some interesting content from those writings included a phrase written in the style of Chinese poetry in two different places that means “last night I slept with a young unmarried woman, but the night was too short, and my love was not properly exhausted.” This sort of content—not appropriate for a Buddhist temple—written in scribbles or on practice writing paper in the style of Chinese poetry is not necessarily rare. For example, there are five words scribbled on the inside of the pedestal of the Shakyamuni triad in the main Hall of Houryuuji that was created around the year 623. Additionally, there are also some scribbles in the style of Chinese poetry that can be seen on the wooden writing plates from the end of the 7th century that were excavated from Asuka-ike site in Nara Prefecture. Both of these have content that suggests a rendezvous between a man and a woman, and the ideas and format seem consistent with the writings found in the canopy. The characters that partially remain, such as “beautiful,” “a bush warbler sings,” and “pleasant voice,” could also be part of a series, with these phrases written in the style of Chinese poetry.
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