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Gallery Text

The Buddhist karmic cycle allows humans to generate merit over the course of their mortal lives, ultimately leading to enlightenment and rebirth in a higher spiritual realm. Written by those involved in the creation of the sculpture, the prayers shown here are devotional vows to observe the Buddhist way. The prayer at top left is signed by a nun named Kenkai. At top right, the three prayers written on a single piece of paper in three different hands are signed by nuns named Shōgan, Shunchi, and Kangyō. The prayers written on the sheet mounted at the bottom are dated to the ninth day of the fifth month of the year 1292.

Translation of Kenkai’s prayer (top left):

We take refuge in the Honorable Śākyamuni.

Our wish for our future lives is that

whether reborn in good or evil places,

we will never forget our aspiration to achieve Bodhi-wisdom.

Nun Kenkai

Identification and Creation

Object Number
One of Four Sheets of Paper inscribed with Religious Texts, Poems, Charms [mounted on a board]
Work Type
Kamakura period, datable to circa 1292
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Kamakura period, 1185-1333
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Single-sheet manuscript; ink on paper
H. 7.7 × W. 10.6 cm (3 1/16 × 4 3/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
[Yamanaka Shoji Co., Ltd, Awata Kyoto (1936)], sold; to Ellery Sedgwick, Beverly, MA, (1936-1960), passed; to his wife, Marjorie Russell, Beverly, MA (1960-1971), inherited; by Ellery Sedgwick, Jr., Gates Mills, Ohio, (1971-1991), inherited; by Walter Sedgwick, Woodside, CA, (1991-2019), partial and promised gift; to the Harvard Art Museums.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
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.
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Publication History

  • Keizaburō Mizuno, ed., Nihon chōkokushi kiso shiryō shūsei (Compendium of the History of Japanese Sculpture), Chūō Kōron Bijutsu Shuppan (Tokyo, 2019)
  • Rachel Saunders, “Hābādo Daigaku Bijutsukan shozō Shōtoku Taishi nisai zō ni komerareta imi” (Interpreting the Sculpture of Prince Shōtoku at Age Two at the Harvard Art Museums), Zōkei no poetika: Nihon bijutsushi o meguru aratana chihei (The Poetics of Form: New Horizons in Japanese Art History), ed. Sano Midori Festschrift Committee, Seikansha (Tokyo, 2021), pp, 71-86
  • Kenji Matsuo, "Nuns and Convents in the Eison Order and the Provenance of the Sedwick Shōtoku Taishi Sculpture at the Harvard Art Museums, The Eastern Buddhist, The Eastern Buddhist Society (Kyoto, 2022), vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 1-18, pp. 4-5, pl. 3
  • Rachel Saunders, Angela Chang, Penley Knipe, and H. Greg Lin, “Hābādo Bijutsukan shozō Namu Butsu Taishi zō: kyōdō kenkyū to sono seika” (When Art Meets Science: Interdisciplinary Research and Prince Shōtoku at Age Two at the Harvard Art Museums), Hābādo Bijutsukan Namu Butsu Taishi zō no kenkyū, Chūō Kōron Bijutsu Shuppan (Tokyo, 2023), pp. 191-235
  • Mika Abé, Yasurō Abé, Kensuke Chikamoto, Rachel Saunders, Ai Seya, and Takayuki Seya, ed., Hābādo Bijutsukan Namu Butsu Taishi zō no kenkyū (The Sculpture of Prince Shōtoku at Age Two at the Harvard Art Museums), Chūō Kōron Bijutsu Shuppan (Tokyo, 2023)

Related Works

Verification Level

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