UH Manoa Library Receives Valuable Addition to Japanese Collection

Donation of volumes containing the writings of Kobo Daishi, major 9th-century Buddhist monk in Japan, worth more than $40,000

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Kristen Cabral, (808) 956-5039
Public Information Officer
Dana Myers, (808) 956-8688
Director of Development for Libraries
Posted: Sep 4, 2003

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Library received a rare gift to its Asian Collections recently when a limited edition 22-volume set of "Kobo Daishi Bokuseki Shushu," the complete works of Kobo Daishi (774-835 AD), founder of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism, was presented to the library. Valued at approximately $43,000 (5 million Yen), the books were presented at a ceremony to University Librarian Diane Perushek by Reverend Ryujo Fujita of the Kawasaki Daishi Temple, one of the largest Buddhist temples in Japan.

Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai, was a famous Buddhist priest of the early Heian period (794—1185 AD) and founder of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. Kukai is famous as a calligrapher and is said to have invented (on the model of Sanskrit) hiragana, the syllabary in which, in combination with Chinese characters, Japanese is written.

"Hamilton Library‘s Japan Collection holds modern Japanese language translations and reprints of some of Kobo Daishi‘s works. However, nothing compares with these beautiful reproductions of his original handwritten works," said Japan Specialist Librarian Tokiko Bazzell.

After many years of preparation and coordination with 18 Japanese Shingon temples, Kawasaki Daishi Temple successfully completed the facsimile reproduction and publication of the volumes. The 22 volumes, each covered with gold and silver embroidery on black silk cloth symbolizing the ocean waves between Japan and China, are stored in seven separate traditional Japanese cases.

Each volume is crafted in traditional accordion book style so that the text can be read continuously as the scroll is opened. Some of the original scrolls have been designated as national treasures in Japan.

"Although Shingon is not as well known and studied as Zen and Pure Land Buddhism, it has influenced Japanese politics, art, and warrior culture," says UH Mānoa religion professor George Tanabe. "Kobo Daishi‘s intellectual contributions are gaining the attention of Western scholars and his facsimile reproductions are a valuable resource for students of both art and religion."

The Religion Department began establishing a relationship with the Kawasaki Daishi Temple 10 years ago when Reverend Fujita spent two years at UH as a visiting scholar.