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ART AS SACRED ENCOUNTER , Preserved in Kyoto, and the Daoist Center

  • Written by  Dr. Michael Saso, Ph.D.
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Budaya-Tionghoa.Net | Kyoto, a city modeled after the Tang dynasty Eastern Capital Luoyang, has from the 8th century until now treasured and preserved for all who come to visit, the sacred beauty of ancient Chine. Like the great Western capital Changan (today”s Xian), and the Forbidden City (i.e., the Imperial Palace) in Beijing, a Buddhist temple (Mt Hiei) guards the northeast mountaintop over looking Kyoto city proper. Just south of the Imperial Palace in the very center of Kyoto are “Temple Street” (Teramachi) and “Sanjo” (3rd street), the cultural hub of ancient and modern Kyoto. The road from Kyoto to Edo (modern Tokyo) depicted in the 52 wood block prints of Hiroshige, began here.


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28 temples are located along Teramachi Street, representing the major Buddhist schools that came to Japan from Tang and Song dynasty China, many of which no longer exist in China today. As one proceeds from the intersection of Temple Street westward on 3rd street, a tall red brick building, the Kyoto Cultural museum looms up on the north (right hand) side of the street. A smaller 3-story stucco building with a pine-frost green gate is to the south (left) side. The name of this outwardly modest building is “Tohgendo” or Tao Yuan Dong 桃源洞 “Peach Garden Pavilion” in Chinese. It is named after a poem written by the famous 5th century Chinese poet Tao Yuanming 陶淵明.

Tohgendo museum is famous for its rare, very precious collections of Asian sacred art. Jade from Neolithic (New Stone Age) China, jade and “green bronze” from Shang dynasty China, along with the best of Buddhist and other sacred art of Korea, Tibet, and Japan are preserved here.
Pictured here are jade pieces from 5000-3000 BC China, and green bronze from 1700-1100 BC Shang-Yin dynasty. Those who come to visit the collection are allowed to respectfully pick up the jade items, and hold them in their own hands. It is an amazing experience, prompting the motto given to the collection by its curator, Dr. Morimoto, “Art is a sacred encounter.”
1. The Tohgendo entrance with a gourmet coffee shop “Club David,” offering space to enjoy and discuss the first floor, of Tohgendo’s “Sacred Art” collection.
2. 25 pound green jade ‘belt buckle” of the Sun spirit, with a Taotie bird mask “liaison spirit” inscribed on top. From the 3000 BC Liangzhu Neolithic site.
3. A white jade ‘Dragon pig” that rescues the soul of the deceased from the grave. From the Hongshan Neolithic site, the “Pig’s head” symbol is still used by Altaic and Korean shaman to locate and free souls from the underworld.
4. A 20 pound white jade cong 琮 from Liangzhu near Hangzhou in central China, that helps conduct the soul of the deceased from square earth to circular heaven.
5. Shang dynasty green bronze “wine heating” cups and goblets. The images of cicada for rebirth, dragon for “yang” and tiger for “yin” are inscribed on them.
6. 3 jade pieces from the Qijia Neolithic site, north Tibet, recently found buried under a Tibetan temple foundation, now in the Daoist Center, Beijing;
7. A rare yellow jade Bi circular disc, from a western Zhou nobleman’s burial site (ca. 750 BC). The Bi disc is encrusted with hardened, rusted iron, from the armor buried with the nobleman’s coffin (also from the Beijing Daoist center collection).

Lao-tzu is the founder of Daoism, the indigenous inner or “spiritual” path of China. He left behind a 5,000 word, 81 Chapter statement of wisdom filled phrases, called “The Dao-de Jing” Practice the Tao Classic, (“How to practice the Dao/Way”). It has been translated more than 200 times into English. It is found in all modern bookstores. Here are Master Chuang’s (Daoist Master Zhuang’s) favorite passages, to teach Daoist spiritual practice:


  1. http://www.michaelsaso.org/ [with permission]


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Last modified onWednesday, 25 July 2012 10:33
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