Painting of Buddha hidden in Japanese temple

Infrared camera technology helps researchers to know the existence of 8 pictures depicting Buddhas spreading sentient beings in Saimyoji Temple.

Hình vẽ trên các cây cột ở đền Saimyoji  Ảnh: Ancient Origins.

The picture on the pillars of Saimyoji Temple Photo: Ancient Origins.

A group of Japanese art experts, including Noriaki Ajima at Hiroshima University and Yukari Takama at Osaka Kyoiku University, discovered the paintings at Saimyoji shrine in Kora town in Shiga prefecture. The temple dates back to at least from the Kamakura period (12th – 13th century). Experts found works of art on a Buddhist theme after taking infrared photos of the main shrine space. This method allows them to observe images that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Due to the infrared image, the researchers were able to detect the drawing hidden under the black soot on the pillars. In total, they found 8 pictures. The photo revealed four Buddhas on each pillar. The pillars are located on the left and right sides of the seat of the Buddha image (shumidan). This is the area where the main statue of the temple is located along with many standing Buddha statues.

Four Buddhas on each pillar are drawn in two rows. Each figure is about 15.24 cm high. Behind them is a picture of a crowd of people. In the paintings, Buddhas are depicted in a natural manner, using bright colors. The team also discovered some decorative motifs in the upper corner of the pillar.

Previously, experts knew there was Buddhist painting on the column but could not study it carefully due to the position of the column near the altar. The large number of statues makes it difficult to check. However, these statues have been exhibited in recent months, giving the team the opportunity to take infrared pictures of the pillars.

Ajima and Takama claim that the paintings were born in the Middle Ages, specifically the second half of the 7th century under Asuka (years 592 – 710). However, professor Yoshitaka Ariga of Tokyo University of the Arts disagrees with this speculation. He argued that the themes and composition of the paintings indicated they belonged to another period. Ariga thinks the team needs to re-examine their findings.

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