Date of this Version
Published in Sacred and Ceremonial Textiles: Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Chicago, Illinois, 1996. (Minneapolis, 1997).
Exploratory rather than definitive, this paper summarizes some controlling concepts that inform the sacred banners of Japan, touching particularly on their form, function, and fabrics used in early banners. Interwoven with my ideas are some of the concerns that came up in discussion (small print), reflecting the pan-Asian implications of the topic.
Banners traveled to Japan with the earliest introduction of Buddhism. The Chronicles of Japan record that in 552 the king of Paekche sent the essential trappings of Buddhism to Emperor Kinmei of Japan: a gilt bronze image to worship, sutras (scriptures) to chant, and canopies and banners for adornment and ceremonial functions.1 Then Prince Shotoku (572-621) made Buddhism the state religion and in 607 founded the monastery of Horyuji, which preserves till today the oldest banners and the oldest depiction of banners in Japan.2