Biography of Priest Kūkai


Biography of Priest Kūkai

calligraphy / Nara

Heian period, 12th century

Handscroll, ink on paper



These scrolls contain several records about Priest Kūkai which are chronologically ordered. The first volume begins with a brief chronicle of the period between 701 and 773, then the biography of Kūkai from his birth in 813 until the age of forty follows. In the second volume, records of Kūkai’s life from 814 until his death at the age of 62 in 835 are included. Following the biography, the letter of condolence by the Emperor Junna sent after Kūkai’s death, the miraculous legend about Kūkai told by Priest Kanken, and other records are included in this volume. Kana-type characters and Japanese pronunciation for Chinese characters are written in the texts in red ink. Although the origin of this biography is not known, it probably was written by some monk in Daigo-ji temple during the Heian period. It is an important record for studying the compilation of Kūkai’s biography. Judging from the calligraphic style, it is conceivable that this copied record was made at the end of the Heian period.

Masterpieces of Nara National Museum. Nara National Museum, 1993, p.94-95, no.73.

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