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Optical Studies of Cultural Properties and Transmission
of their Records to the Future Generations

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  (Photos: SHIRONO Seiji)

Optical Study and Recording of Visual Information of Byodoin Temple

 Byodoin Temple, located in Uji city, Kyoto, was originally a Villa of a noble named Fujiwara Michinaga. In 1052, Fujiwara Yorimichi, the chief adviser of the Emperor and a son of Michinaga, succeeded the Villa from his father, and converted it to a Buddhist temple. In 1053, Amida-do Hall (or Houou-do Hall (the Phoenix Hall)) was completed. At the center of the hall, the Amitabha Buddha (Amida Nyorai) Seated Statue created by a sculptor named Jocho was dedicated, 52 statues of the Praying Bodhisattva on Clouds (Unchu Kuyo Bosatsu) were on the small walls above beams running between the columns, and the Paintings of the Nine Stages of Amida’s Welcoming Descent (Kuhon Raigo-zu) based on the Contemplation Sutra was drawn on the doors and the walls of the hall. In the late Heian period, Japanese people believed the world would come to an end when Buddhism would decline, and the year 1052 was considered as the first year of declining of Buddhism. It is considered that the Phoenix Hall and the Amitabha Buddha Seated Statue, wall paintings on the doors and walls, statues of Praying Bodhisattva on Clouds as well as the garden were created as the realization of the Buddhism paradise in this secular world to imagine the pure paradise in the West.
 Many cultural properties such as buildings, paintings, art crafts, historic sites and spots of scenic beauty exist in the Phoenix Hall and its surroundings. These cultural properties have been preserved until today through continuous efforts of conservation, restoration and maintenance. Phoenix Hall and the Amitabha Buddha Seated Statue in the hall were designated as the National Treasure in 1951. In 1994, the whole area of Byodoin Temple was also inscribed on the World Heritage List as one of the 17 components of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto (Kyoto, Uji and Otsu Cities).
 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has conducted various research and studies on Byodoin Temple since early Showa era (1930s). Since 2002, it has undertaken studies of materials and techniques used for paintings and crafts with using most advanced optical instruments. In 2014, it started comprehensive cooperation on research and giving advice related to the cultural properties in the Phoenix Hall as well as the hall’s microclimate. In these ways, the institute has contributed preservation and inheritance of the temple’s historic and artistic values for a long time. In addition, it is actively engaged in photographic documentation of the drawings, plans and photographs obtained during interventions, wooden parts and metal objects stored without being reused. In particular, digitization of the dry glass plates stored at the temple and some other institutions has begun since 2016. In this way, the institute has been undertaking creation and preservation of the accurate and clear digital image to transmit the appearance of Byodoin Temple in the past to the future generations.
 This exhibition introduces some of the achievements of the recent optical studies and visual documentation of the Phoenix Hall and Byodoin Temple.

May 2018
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties




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