A Kyoto temple will offer the first public viewing of two 250-year-old Buddhist statues and one dating back a millennium that were hidden in the body of a larger statue.
The three statues were discovered in 2009 at Bishamon-do Shourinji temple in Higashiyama Ward. They had been concealed in a 30-centimeter-high, deep-red case within the waist of a 1.5-meter-high standing statue of Bishamonten, a god that protects Buddhism and the principal image of the temple.
The three statues are called Bishamonten Sanzonzo, or “three reverend statues of Bishamonten.”
The standing statue has also been secretly kept at the temple, a branch of the Tofukuji temple that heads the Tofukuji school of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism.
The three statues were shown to the media on Nov. 12. They will be available for public viewing starting on Nov. 15.
The statue in the middle, also a Bishamonten standing statue, is 16.7 cm high with a kind but powerful facial expression, similar to the one of the larger Bishamonten standing statue. The smaller statue is believed to have been created in the middle of the Heian Period (794-1185).
The other two are a 9.4-cm-high Kisshoten goddess and an 8.4-cm-high Zennishidoji, a son of Bishamonten and Kisshoten.
A sculptor in Kyoto created the two statues in 1763. They were then placed in the case that already held the smaller Bishamonten standing statue.
Bishamon-do Shourinji temple decided to show the trio to the public, along with the larger Bishamonten standing statue, to mark the 250th anniversary of the Kisshoten and Zennishidoji statues.
Visitors can see them until Dec. 8. Admission is 600 yen (about $6) for adults. For details, visit the temple’s (Japanese) website (http://shourin-ji.org/).