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The Tōji Lecture Hall Statue Mandala and the Choreography of Mikkyō

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Chapter Summary

The Lecture Hall of Tōji, a monastery in modern Kyoto, houses a group of twenty-one statues unequaled in age and type among surviving esoteric icons in East Asia. Once under the direction of the Japanese esoteric, or mikkyō, master Kūkai, Tōji was the first urban center for his Shingon teachings. The present-day Lecture Hall dates to the late sixteenth century but it closely follows the original plan, with the raised altar located over the original altar. Today there is no consensus about the use or meaning of the Tōji Lecture Hall sculptural program. Scholarship on the altar typically presents it as an iconographic program with sources in the textual works brought from China by Kūkai, with an emphasis on the stateprotecting function of those texts. This chapter helps to understand the relationship of the Tōji statues to mikkyō ritual or the foundations for Kūkai's teachings in early Heian-period Japan.

Keywords: altar; Japanese esoteric; Kyoto; mikkyō; Tōji lecture hall statue



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