Cover Graphics

Mural of the scene of Shakyamuni's "Pure Land"
from the first wall of the Kondo, Horyu-ji temple (Photo courtesy of Benrido)

法隆寺金堂壁画 第一号壁(釈迦浄土図)

This mural is one of the world-renowned murals that were painted on the walls inside the Kondo (Golden Hall) of Horyu-ji temple. At one time, there were four paintings of the "pure lands" (paradise) of the Shakyamuni, Yakushi, Maitreya and Amida Buddhas, eight portraits of Bodhisattvas (seekers of truth) on 12 wall surfaces of varying sizes and paintings of mountain Arhat (Buddhist holy men) on the 18 surfaces of the upper smaller walls of the Kondo's outer chamber. Pictures of angels were also painted on the 20 surfaces of horizontal beams in the inner chamber. However, these were all lost in a fire in January 1949. The photo used for this cover graphic was taken in 1935, before the Kondo was struck by disaster. This mural on the first wall depicts a scene in which Shakyamuni is preaching the Lotus Sutra on Mount Gridhrakuta (Vulture Peak) in India, flanked on both sides by attendants and ten disciples. There is a straw canopy (tengai) and angels in the upper portion of the mural, while at Shakyamuni's feet lies an altar with lions on its right and left sides.

The conservation of the murals in Horyu-ji temple's Kondo began in April 1916 when a committee was established to investigate methods of conserving the murals. The committee examined stopgap measures for saving the murals as well as methods for their permanent conservation, which entailed a survey of the walls on which the murals were painted, paint analysis, the prevention of peeling, methods for shoring up the walls and an investigation into lighting, etc. This application of natural science techniques for the conservation and repair of a cultural asset was a ground-breaking event and the investigations of the murals in Horyu-ji temple's Kondo and the conservation work that began in 1934 called the "Great Showa Restoration" heralded the start of the adoption of conservation science for Japan's cultural assets.

(Emi Koseto, Museum Science Department, National Museum of Japanese History)


Opening essay

Special Feature:History's First Steps (Conservation science)
Areas of interdisciplinary research inextricably associated with conservation science
(Emi Koseto)

A Witness to History

A photographic introduction to items from the collection
Folding screens depicting scenes of the attendance of daimyo at Edo castle - the transformation of a bakufu ritual into a "famous site"
(Reiji Iwabuchi)

Special Feature:History's First Steps (Conservation science)

The conservation of excavated relics (Junko Furihata)
The museum and measures for preventing insect damage (Naoko Sonoda)
The conservation of murals and painted stone cultural assets of Malta (Yoko Taniguchi)
The conservation of historical buildings and structures supported in the regions (Kazuko Koresawa)


Destruction and non-destruction (Tsutomu Saito)
Photographs of cultural assets (Toru Katsuta)

The 17th Rekihaku Research Update

Seventh Rekihaku International Symposium
"Planning historical exhibitions - Peoples, Wars and Education"
(Michihiro Kojima)

Introducing Our Researchers - Part 11

Engineering a museum (Fumio Adachi)

Book Review

Bulletin of National Museum of Japanese History, Vol. 105
"Joint Research - The Environment and Indigenous Praxis in Asian Regions"
Reviewed by Yoshitaka Takahashi

Book Review

Kazuo Hirose's "The State During the Era of Keyhole-Shaped Tomb Mounds", Kadokawa Sensho 355
Reviewed by Michiaki Kishimoto

Speech Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Opening of the Museum

"Fruits of the Museum's Work over the Past Twenty Years"
Presented by Keiji Nagahara

Rekihaku Chat (readers' page) March 20, 2004

Rekihaku News