The Mandala of the two worlds


‘Various types of Mandala exist but the most important are the Mandala of the two worlds, kept in an ancient temple in Kyoto (north of Tokyo): the Kyoo Gokoku-ji To-ji. These are the Mandala of the Womb world and the Mandala of the Diamond world, or more descriptively, the Mandala of the “Circle born from the Womb of Great Mercy” and the Mandala of the “Nine Reunions”. The first is of concentric shape, the second arranged like a checkerboard. The first, as the title suggests, celebrates the infinite mercy of Buddha, the other his absolute wisdom. The Mandala of the two worlds are distinguished by their marvellous colours and are the oldest of those still in existence. The exact story of their birth is still unknown. They do however represent a remote copy of the ancient Mandala which the patriarch Kukai brought to Japan from China at the beginning of the 9th cent. A.D. (the To-ji was founded in 823 and given to the high priest as the main temple of the Shingon sect.) The liturgical and artistic value of the Mandala of the two worlds is priceless and they are only shown to the public on rare occasions. The photographer, Yasuhiro Ishimoto, born in San Francisco in 1922 to a family of Japanese immigrants was able, during the summer of 1973, to carry out a thorough and detailed study of these legendary Mandala and to create a number of excellent reproductions together with a faithful and fascinating interpretation. As Roger Geopper points out, the use of blown-up photography has in no way deviated our understanding of these works of art; quite the contrary, it has facilitated it and highlighted the quality and meaning of the numerous small figures which make up the Mandala. The important photographic research of Ishimoto was not long in finding the merit it deserved. The publishers Heibonsha used a large number of his prints in one of the most luxurious books ever printed and dedicated to the Mandala of the two worlds. A first exhibition of Ishimoto’s photographs was staged in 1977 at the Seibu Museum of Art in Tokyo and met with tremendous success. This fascinating exhibition has once again been organized as part of the Meeting for Friendship among Peoples thanks to the support of the Japan Foundation, the Seibu group and the Museum of Asiatic Countries of Cologne (the current owners of the exhibition). The Rimini review is completed, by a number of “Shomyo” concerts: sacred buddhist music performed by three buddhist monks. As Ryuki Washio, Superior of the Kyoo–Gokoku-ji wrote in the preface, to the catalogue: “The most ancient things often represent the most modern”. The exhibition has been organized in the former “Chiesa della Crocin” in the “Diotallevi Palace” Via Tempio Malatestiano in the old centre of Rimini.’


23 Agosto 1986 - 30 Agosto 1986


Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions