Solemn Decoration for Deities and the Buddha
Mainly referred to as shinpō in Japanese, sacred treasures are certain types of objects, including sumptuous maki-e furnishings, that have been handed down for centuries in prestigious Shinto shrines. They were dedicated on such occasions as the establishment or rebuilding of shrines, and the accession of an emperor. They were also donated by court nobles and warriors for special prayers. Such sacred treasures compellingly reflect the lifestyle and culture of the court.
In the context of Buddhism, boxes for precious sutras and implements were embellished with maki-e. During the Heian period (794-1192), Japanese Buddhism witnessed a new development resulting from the influence of two monks, Dengyō Daishi Saichō (767-822) and Kōbō Daishi Kūkai (774-835). Saichō established the Tendai sect. The Lotus Sutra (Hoke-kyō), which formed the basis of the sect, taught the virtues of copying sutras as a meritorious act. This resulted in the production of magnificently decorated sutras. By contrast, Kūkai brought Esoteric Buddhist pictorial images and implements from China, which exerted a great influence on the art of Esoteric Buddhism in Japan. In the temples of Kūkai’s Shingon sect, masterpieces of maki-e lacquerware for storing Buddhist vestments, wish-fulfilling jewels, and sutras have been handed down.