The Twenty-five Articles of Priest Kūkai’s Last Will


The Twenty-five Articles of Priest Kūkai’s Last Will

History / Nara


Nanbokuchō period, 14th century/Ryakuō 2, 1339

Handscroll, ink on paper

H 30.0, L 1325.0


Formerly kept in Daigo-ji temple, Kyoto


This is the last will, which Priest Kūkai (or Kōbō-daishi, 774-835) handed to his disciples on March 15, 835, six days before his death.
In the written will Priest Kūkai announced that his death was approaching and gave detailed directions about the administration and management of the temples of his sect. Since then, generations of priests in the Shingon sect of Buddhism have been keeping Kūkai’s last will as their precept.
The scroll introduced in this article is a copy made on April 21, 1339 by Priest Kenshun (1299-1357), of Daigo-ji temple. Kenshun gained power as Shogun Ashikaga Takauji’s priest. The calligraphic style of this copy is slightly different from Kenshun’s other handwritings, because he may have paid respect to the original manuscript. The densely written kana-type characters, the Japanese pronunciation added to Chinese characters and other punctuation marks indicate that Kenshun tried to make this copy an authorized version of Kūkai’s last will.

Masterpieces of Nara National Museum. Nara National Museum, 1993, p.95, no.72.

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