Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

These sheets of paper bear short vows, poems, and sections of the Lotus Sutra; some have signatures on the reverse. One vow is signed by the nun Kangyō, whose name also appears at the end of a series of three prayers displayed nearby (2019.122.11). Here her name is accompanied by those of four men, all with noble ranks, who declare their shared commitment to the Buddha path. Kangyō may have been central to the commission of the sculpture, and perhaps enlisted the financial backing of these courtiers for the project.

An anonymous writer copied half of a well-known classical waka poem onto the sheet at the top of the board:

I have come to know

The true meaning of spring:

When the blooms are bursting,

There are none with quiet hearts!

The writer omits the final line, creating a permanent and poignant connection between the incomplete version interred within the sacred sculpture and the writer within whom the unwritten line remains.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
One of Six Sheets of Paper (some double-sided) inscribed with Religious Texts, Poems, Charms
Work Type
Kamakura period, datable to circa 1292
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Kamakura period, 1185-1333
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Ink on paper
H. 9.1 × W. 9.4 cm (3 9/16 × 3 11/16 in.)
[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

John M. Rosenfield, The Sedgwick Statue of the Infant Shotoku Taishi, Archives of Asian Art (1968-1969), Vol. XXII / pp. 56-79

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. 8-10, pl. 7

Related Works

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