Movable Wooden Type Sutra, Privately Printed; Kan’eiji Ban or Tenkai Ban

Movable type orihon (accordion format) of Vol. 11 of the Tenkai Canon, part of the Sutra of Discourse on the Great Decease or Mahaparinirvanasutra, text starting “Daihatsunehangyo…”

24 columns per sheet, 6 columns per page, 17 characters per column (text block height: 220 mm.), printed on 23 joined sheets (290 mm. high, sheet lengths averaging 390-395 mm., total printed length 9100 mm.). 91 pages. Tall narrow 8vo (290 x 100 mm.), later brown semi-stiff wrappers. [Kan’eiji Temple in Edo: 1637-48].

A rare example of a privately printed movable wooden type sutra, printed on thick paper at the Kan’eiji Temple in Edo in the years 1637-48. This volume is part of the Tenkai or Japanese Canon, which is also known as the Kan’eiji or Toeizan edition. “Some temples also engaged in publishing during the Tokugawa period, including the temples of Mt Koya and temples of the Nichiren sect. It was also in this period that the first Japanese editions of the Buddhist canon were published in private ventures undertaken by temples, rather than by commercial publishers. The first was produced by the Kan’eiji in Edo and was produced in 1637-48, mostly with movable type, and the second by the Obaku sect in Kyoto in 1669-81. In general it appears that Buddhist works that were not commercially marketable, especially scholarly texts or huge compilations like the full canon, were privately published by temples, but hitherto there has been little study of the temple imprints of the Tokugawa period.”–Kornicki, The Book in Japan, pp. 152-53.

“This edition was sponsored by Tokugawa Iemitsu (1623-51) and undertaken by the powerful monk-advisor Tenkai (1534-1643). It was based on Zifu Canon (Sixi Canon) or Yuanjue Canon of the Southern Song Dynasty and supplemented with Puning Canon of the Yuan Dynasty. The project was started in 1637 and completed in 1648. Printed with movable wood type, this edition adopted the accordion-folding format with 24 columns per sheet of paper, which was folded into four half-pages. Each half-page thus has six columns and 17 characters per column. The complete canon contains 1,453 titles and 6,323 fascicles in 665 cases.”–Jiang Wu, compiler, “Appendix 1. A Brief Survey of the Printed Editions of the Chinese Buddhist Canon” in Spreading Buddha’s Word in East Asia (Columbia University Press: 2016), pp. 315-16.

The Sutra of Discourse on the Great Decease, best known as the Nirvana Sutra, describes the events and the Buddha’s final instructions prior to his passage into Parinirvana. The translator from Sanskrit into Chinese was Dharmaksema (385-433), “Indian Buddhist monk who was an early translator of Buddhist materials into Chinese…[After moving to the Kucha kingdom in Central Asia] Dharmaksema then moved to China and lived in the western outpost of Dunhuang for several years. Juqu Mengxun, the non-Chinese ruler of the Northern Liang dynasty (397-439), eventually brought Dharmaksema to his capital. After studying the Chinese language for three years and learning how to translate Sanskrit texts orally into Chinese, Dharmaksema engaged there in a series of translation projects under Jugu Mengxun‘s patronage. With the assistance of Chinese monks, such as Daolang and Huigao, Dharmaksema produced a number of influential Chinese translations…Dharmaksema’s translations of Indian Buddhist texts into Chinese had a significant impact on Chinese Buddhism; in particular, the doctrine that all beings have the buddha-nature, a teaching appearing in Dharmaksema’s translation of the Mahaparinirvanasutra, exerted tremendous influence on the development of Chinese Buddhist thought.”–Buswell & Lopez, eds., The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, pp. 247-48.

In the pillar in the middle fold of each sheet, there is the equivalent of a catchword, stating the name and number of the sutra and the number of the sheet.

A very good copy, preserved in a chitsu. There is some worming throughout, skillfully repaired by expertly backing the entire sutra. One page with a pale stain.

Price: $15,000.00

Item ID: 7969