Koyasan: Senju’s Works of Art 1,200 Years After Kūkai, is a tribute to both Senju Hiroshi, a celebrated contemporary Japanese artist, and Kūkai, a Japanese Buddhist monk credited with founding the Shingon sect of Buddhism. The book primarily centers around the sacred Kongobuji Temple, which sits atop Mount Koya in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan, and serves as the headquarters of the Shingon sect. Moved by the surrounding pine trees, rocks, and streams that Kūkai found atop Mount Koya, he chose to create his center for his esoteric doctrine there, and the temple that stands in Koyasan today was at the spot on Mount Koya where Kūkai found enlightenment some 1200 years ago.
Kūkai is an incredibly important figure in Japan, and people regularly travel to visit Kongobuji temple at Koyasan. The temple is very much still in use today; it is run by a head monk who is a Kūkai scholar and wrote the main text in this introspective volume. To celebrate the 1200 years since Kūkai’s foundation, the temple invited Senju Hiroshi to create site-specific works, two monumental mural paintings that each consist of different panels to make up one body of work. Appropriately titled Waterfall and Cliff, the works are inspiredby the tranquil environment surrounding the temple, the surroundings of which served as a muse to Kūkai in his poetry and work as a monk. The two murals are installed in the room in the temple where a ceremony takes place to honor new monks joining the Buddhist sect, serving as a momentous reminder of Kūkai and his vision.
With Koyasan as the main character, and Kūkai and Senju in the service of the pervasive beauty surrounding Mount Koya, this title’s opening scene begins on the mountain, with a text by the head monk telling the story of Kūkai from birth and how he came to Koyasan. The book includes quotes from Kūkai’s poems, generous installation views of Senju’s works at the temple, as well as Japanese national treasures like statues and artefacts that belong to the temple’s collection. Also presented within, are images of the modern day monks and their rituals honoring Kūkai, a text from Senju Hiroshi himself about his connection with Kūkai, and the journey to produce the paintings. This beautifully made tome is indicative of the quiet meditative peace and honor of Kūkai.
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