Slideshow: Buddhist Woodblock Prints, early 19th c.

Like many religions and cultures, the Japanese have a tradition of making pilgrimages to sacred places. Mementos of their visits were often in the form of simple woodblock prints, often with an inscription in Japanese or Sankrit/Siddham. I guess they’d be analogous to Catholic holy cards (which I used to collect as a child, though they were mostly obtained at family funerals) — a souvenir with the benefits of a blessing. Apparently they were pasted into scrapbooks, either codex/book style or in a handscroll.

The wonderful optical illusion on the right is Daikoku-ten (aka Sanmen Daikoku), one of the seven gods of good luck. In the kitchen of Buddhist monasteries, he is supposed to provide for the nourishment of the priests. He is also believed to be the “protector of the three treasures of Buddhism” (i.e. the Buddha, the teachings and the spiritual community). His large sack contains wisdom and patience. He shakes his special mallet to obtain abundant riches.

A selection of the ones that surfaced while we’ve been doing our Japan inventory are in the slideshow below (better full-screen, if click the “full-screen” icon):

Being enchanted by these is how Jim and I have been spending our days this week.

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