Textile Society of America


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).


Copyright 1996 by the author.


A square support fabric measuring 90 centimeters on each side holds the arbitrarily mounted fragments of an embroidered textile known as the Tenjukoku Shucho or Tenjukoku Mandara. The artifact belongs to Chuguji, a Buddhist temple in Nara prefecture, but it is now housed in the Nara National Museum for preservation purposes.2 Despite their fragmentary condition, it is possible to reconstruct the history of the fragments because of the abundance of documents associated with them. An inscription recorded in an eleventh century document indicates that a shucho ("embroidered curtain") depicting Tenjukoku was made sometime in the Asuka period (538 or 552-645 C.E.).3 The history of the Tenjukoku "embroidered curtains," however, is not limited to the Asuka period. Documents of the Kamakura period (1185-1333 C.E.) mention the discovery of the artifact in 1274, where it is called Tenjukoku Mandara.4 Furthermore, there is reference to the manufacture of a replica of the so-called Tenjukoku Mandara, which was finished in 1275, and consecrated by the Buddhist ritual of the "eye-opening."5 A record shows that both artifacts were in Chugliji,6 and consequently both the original artifact, and its replica were damaged in the fires of 1309 and 1311, that partially destroyed the temple complex.7