In this section of a decorated Lotus Sutra, lines of
exactly 17 characters float above a galactic display
of silver and gold foil, while in the margins gemlike
lotuses bloom spontaneously in response.
This mid-12th-century fragment of the sutra
(Chapter 23, “The Medicine King”) is an example
of the finest paper decoration from the Heian
period. The ritual adornment (shōgon) of the
text through the attention lavished on the paper
demonstrates the extreme care afforded to the
words of the Buddha, signaling their status as
sacred entities in their own right.