Hyakumanto Darani

Hyakumanto Darani

Japan — ca. 770

One million miniature wooden pagodas containing Buddhist prayers printed with woodcuts in celebration of the suppression of a rebellion

  1. Empress Shōtoku (718-770) reascended the throne in 765 after previously ruling as Empress Kōken

  2. Hundreds of people were involved in the creation of the pagodas and prayers at her behest

  3. Presumably executed in Nara, the massive project was completed in 770 after 6 years of work

Hyakumanto Darani

  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Hyakumanto Darani

On the orders of the Japanese Empress: Hyakumantō Darani or "One Million Pagodas and Dharani Prayers" was a grand project completed in 770 after six years of labor by hundreds of people. After the suppression of an unsuccessful rebellion, the Empress Shōtoku commissioned the creation of one million miniature wooden pagodas, each filled with Buddhist prayers and spells that were printed on paper using woodcuts. Incredibly, more than 45,000 of these 1,200-year-old pagodas survive today.

Hyakumanto Darani

The Hyakumantō Darani or "One Million Pagodas and Dharani Prayers" are a series of Buddhist prayers or spells that were printed on paper and then rolled up and housed in miniature wooden pagodas to be distributed to temples across all of Japan in the year 770. These prayers for peace were commissioned in 764 by the Empress of Japan to celebrate the successful suppression of the short-lived Fujiwara no Nakamaro Rebellion, also known as the Emi Rebellion.

On the Orders of the Empress

After previously reigning as Empress Kōken (718-770), she was called Empress Shōtoku in her second reign and decreed that one million miniature wooden pagodas containing printed scrolls be created and sent across Japan in celebration. A second motivation would simply have been a display of power by asserting control over resources in order to carry out such an ambitious project that made use of the new technology of printing. As such, the Hyakumantō Darani can be seen as serving both political and devotional aims.

Woodcuts and Wooden Pagodas

Likely produced in Nara, these small three-story pagodas were made of a combination of cypress and katsura wood and contained four prayers for peace (Kompon, Jishinin, Sorin, and Rokudo), each printed on a separate piece of handmade paper. Created using woodblock printing, they are the oldest surviving examples of printing in Japan as well as some of the oldest specimens of printing worldwide. The enormous undertaking likely occurred in Nara, a center of printing in classical Japan, and was completed in the year 770 after 6 years of work and must have employed hundreds of people because marks on the 45,000+ surviving pagodas show evidence of more than 100 different lathes.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
One Million Pagodas and Darani Prayers
Hyakumanto and Darani-kyo
Eine Million Pagoden und Dharani-Gebete
Origin
Japan
Date
ca. 770
Language
Content
Prayers for peace, entitled Kompon, Jishinin, Sorin and Rokudo

Available facsimile editions:
Hyakumanto Darani
Limited Edition: 125 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Hyakumanto Darani

Limited Edition: 125 copies
Binding: The four rolls are stored inside a three-story pagoda with a height of 21.4 cm. The base of the pagoda was made of Hinoki wood (cypress tree) and the top section was made of Katsura wood (Katsura tree).
Commentary: 1 volume by Torataro Yoneyama
Language: Japanese
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
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