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Tour: Prince Shōtoku: The Secrets Within

Photograph and X-ray images of Prince Shōtoku at Age Two, Japanese, Kamakura period, datable to about 1292. Wood (hinoki cypress) with polychromy; inlaid rock-crystal (quartz) eyes. Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Partial and promised gift of Walter C. Sedgwick in memory of Ellery Sedgwick Sr. and Ellery Sedgwick Jr., 2019.122. X-ray image courtesy of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. 


Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

Join us for an in-depth tour of our exhibition Prince Shōtoku: The Secrets Within, on view May 25 through August 11, 2019 in the University Teaching Gallery on Level 3. Offered jointly by Rachel Saunders, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Associate Curator of Asian Art, and conservators from the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, the tour will highlight the collaborative effort to interpret this unique ensemble from both inside out—and outside in—presenting the latest findings made possible by advances in technology and scholarship.

Prince Shōtoku: The Secrets Within gives visitors the rare chance to encounter a significant 13th-century Japanese icon, Prince Shōtoku at Age Two. Legendary prince Shōtoku Taishi (c. 574–622) is regarded as the founder of Buddhism in Japan. At two years old (one by the Western count), he was believed to have taken several steps forward, faced east, put his hands together, and praised the Buddha. A sacred relic, the eyeball of the Buddha, then appeared between his hands. The diminutive life-size sculpture—the oldest and finest of its kind—depicts that miraculous moment.

This striking sculpture is remarkable not only for its seemingly animated presence, but also for the cache of more than 70 objects contained within the hollow body cavity. Sealed inside a veritable time capsule for more than 700 years, these objects—relic grains, sutras, miniature sculptures, and scraps of paper inscribed with personalized poems and prayers—were carefully removed in the early 20th century. One of the most important objects from the group, an extremely rare printed Lotus Sutra dating to the Southern Song period (c. 1160), was subsequently gifted to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Thanks to the generosity of the Library of Congress, this exhibition reunites the sutra with the remaining ensemble for the first time in over 70 years.

Free with museums admission. This tour is limited to 15 people and tickets are required. Ten minutes before the tour, tickets will become available at the admissions desk.

Please meet in the Calderwood Courtyard, in front of the digital screens between the shop and the admissions desk. Museums staff will be on hand to collect tickets.

Prince Shōtoku: The Secrets Within is curated by Rachel Saunders, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Harvard Art Museums. This exhibition was made possible in part by the Robert H. Ellsworth Bequest to the Harvard Art Museums. Additional support was provided by Harvard University’s Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and by the Harvard Art Museums’ Leopold (Harvard M.B.A. ’64) and Jane Swergold Asian Art Exhibitions and Publications Fund and José Soriano Fund. Support for related programming provided by the Robert and Margaret Rothschild Lecture Fund.