Calligraphy Collecting and the Nigatsudo “Burnt Sutra” (Yakegyo)
Keywords:Kohitsu, Nigatsudō, Nigatsudō yakegyō, Ō-Jōmu, Sovereign Shōmu, Sugawara no Michizane, tekagami, Tenjin
Using an eighth-century copy of the 60-fascicle Flower Ornament Sutra as a case study, this article examines the transformation of a Buddhist scripture into an aesthetic object in early modern Japan. On the 14th day of the second month, 1667, a fire decimated Nigatsudo at Todaiji (Nara prefecture) along with most of the sacred objects within. Clerics salvaged partially burnt scrolls of an eighth-century Flower Ornament Sutra done in silver ink on indigo-dyed paper. The scrolls were restored ten years later, but by the first half of the eighteenth century, part of the set left the temple and began circulating in the art market as collectable calligraphy fragments, later known as the “Nigatsudo burnt sutra” (Nigatsudo yakegyo). This study traces the curious shift in the attribution of Nigatsudo yakegyo’s calligrapher that took place in the eighteenth century to consider how the burn marks impacted the transformation of this scripture from a devotional text into a collectable artefact. I argue that the curious switch in attribution occurred adhering to the popular imagination of the calligraphers, as well as the distinct role certain fragments played within the early-modern calligraphy collecting culture.
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