This votive prayer sheet, printed in Japan at the beginning of the 12th century, contains one hundred images of Amitābha (in Japanese: Amida) Buddha arranged in ten rows with ten figures in each.
How and why was it made?
The sheet was created using a woodblock on which the Buddha figures were painstakingly carved. Ink was applied to the block which was then pressed onto paper to create the printed images. Traditionally the creation of a Buddhist image or copying of a Buddhist text was seen as a way of acquiring religious merit. Repetition, either in chanting or writing, has always formed an important element of Buddhist practice as an aid to prayer and meditation.
Where was it found?
The sheet was discovered inside a sculpture of Amitābha Buddha housed in the Paradise Hall of the Jōruriji , a temple of the Pure Land School of Buddhism in Kyoto. The hall contains nine statues of Amitābha and was constructed in 1107. During renovations at the beginning of the 20th century, the central sculpture was found to contain bundles of these printed sheets, put there as an act of devotion to enhance the power of the Buddha statue. Although the original printed sheets were hidden inside a statue and not meant to be seen, at some point following its discovery, this sheet was mounted on a hanging scroll to allow it to be displayed as a treasured object for veneration.
Why is it important?
Printed around 1107, the depictions of Amitābha found in the statue at the Jōruriji are the oldest surviving printed Buddhist images in Japan.