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The portable shrine with the image of Senju-Kannon Bodhisattva (Japanese: Bosatsu) was made with the use of the most valued techniques, and the precision of the fine exposure of details emphasises the high class of the exhibit.

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The portable shrine with the image of Senju-Kannon Bodhisattva (Japanese: Bosatsu) was made with the use of the most valued techniques, and the precision of the fine exposure of details emphasises the high class of the exhibit. The external surfaces of the shrine are covered with lacquer, while the interior and the Bodhisattva figure are gilded. For Buddhists, the solid figure, known in iconography also as the “eleven-headed” Kannon, remains, at the same time, the Bodhisattva of Great Mercy. Japanese sacral works, particularly of high class, belong to extremely precious exhibits, because, as objects of cult, they rarely left their native temples.
In the collection donated to the National Museum in Kraków by Feliks Jasieński, Japan was represented by about 6,500 exhibits. They included paintings, sculptures, fabrics, kimonos, obi belts, lacquer items, ceramics, brass items, templates for dying fabrics and other art-and-craft products, as well as military items.

Elaborated by Beata Romanowicz (The National Museum in Kraków), © all rights reserved

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Merciful Kannon

With the first wave of Buddhism that swept the entire archipelago, a Hindu bodhisattva arrived in Japan: Avalokiteshvara. In India, he was considered the spiritual son of Buddha Amitabha (in Japanese – Amida), and also the “ocean of compassion” as well as the embodiment of Mahayana virtues.

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With the first wave of Buddhism that swept the entire archipelago, a Hindu bodhisattva arrived in Japan: Avalokiteshvara. In India, he was considered the spiritual son of Buddha Amitabha (in Japanese – Amida), and also the “ocean of compassion” as well as the embodiment of Mahayana virtues.
After settling in the lands of China, this male bodhisattva figure was transformed into the female deity, Kuan Yün – the goddess of mercy – but, upon her arrival in Japan, she was named, “Kannon” (with a Japanized Chinese name). In the opinion of theologians, however, he is still the spiritual son of Amida. He had already reached this stage of his existence, in which his sexuality ceased to have any significance. Most of the worshippers consider Kannon to be female.
Both in Japanese (writing in foreign languages) and non-Japanese literature, Kannon is consistently called a goddess. It is assumed that this is a female character, but it is not often that her depiction in this form is encountered, for example, in paintings or statues of Kannon, which could be considered as female portraits. There are also a few purely male effigies. Most of the images (which are immensely numerous) present a figure of unspecified sex.
According to the Buddhist canon, the Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva, before reaching the final liberation, Kannon paused to help others, showing them the way to liberation. In order to be able to act as effectively as possible, he assumed thirty-three different personalities, depending on whom he was dealing with at that moment. This theological assumption has found its application in pilgrimages to the “thirty-three holy places in the western provinces”. These types of pilgrimages have been going on continuously for over 1,200 years. Modern pilgrims use widely available means of transport, and sometimes organise special coach trips. However, one can still meet pilgrims acting as if they had been transported straight from the Middle Ages! Such pilgrims have very simple and loose clothing, wear wide straw cane hats on their heads, and straw sandals on their feet. When walking, they lean on pilgrim sticks and beggars’ bags hang down from their backs. Interestingly, it is rare for a pilgrim to know exactly why they are crossing vast areas of the country to visit thirty-three temples. Thus, the theological justification has ceased to be relevant – only the magic number thirty-three remained – as well as a deep faith in the goodness of the goddess Kannon.
The cult of the goddess Kannon very quickly went beyond the discourse of theologians – beyond the closed circles of the Buddhist clergy – and established a very strong position among the mass of society. Its followers see Kannon as the goddess of unlimited mercy, who helps all sick, weak, or afflicted people. She also brings relief in pain as well as comfort in misfortune. She takes care of married couples and pregnant women, giving them the possibility of an easy delivery.
Since the earliest times, Kannon has had avid worshippers among merchants and aristocrats, and the numerous temples devoted to her cult belong to the richest in the country. It is a rare to see statues of Kannon standing, for example, at road intersections or in the middle of nowhere.
One of the many local legends about the blessings of the goddess Kannon is as follows:
Once upon a time there lived a samurai who was extremely pious. For this reason, he devoted a lot of time to pilgrimages to Kiyomizu. When he had completed the two rounds of the “pilgrimage of a thousand days”, he was bursting with pride. From then on, he was sure that it would fully secure his salvation. He was still, however, an ordinary samurai, an ordinary man ... He had a certain flaw: a passion for gambling. This flaw turned out to be the cause of his misfortune. When bad times intruded on his life, he lost his savings, his clothes, swords, and even the roof over his head. He then turned to his opponent and presented him with a certain offer, which was the renunciation of all the benefits of the pilgrimage, which was at stake in the next duel. His opponent got the better of him, because he won again. As a consequence, the pair made a joint journey to Kiyomizu, to put the transaction on paper in the presence of monks.
This was a moment in the samurai’s life when nothing could save him. He had sunk low very quickly and finally died a wretch in prison. The second samurai, who had won the fight with him for the benefits of the pilgrimage, enjoyed great luck in everything he did. He became a beloved, respected, and rich man.

*A contemporary image of Senju-Kannon (one of the images of the goddess Kannon) may be associated primarily with performances, during which groups of artists perform characteristic dance choreography, aimed at presenting the goddess of a thousand hands.

Elaborated by Anna Klimczak (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See shrine with the Senju-Kannon Bosatsu figure in Małopolska’s Virtual Museums collection.
 

Bibligraphy:
Jolanta Tubielewicz, Mitologia Japonii, Warszawa 1977, p. 175–186.

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Feliks “Manggha” Jasieński. Creating a collection

Feliks Jasieński collected art for thirty years of his life. The collection numbered about 15,000 items and included paintings and graphics from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a set of Asian art objects, carpets, kilims, furniture and arts and crafts, as well as a library. The unique collection became a testimony to the time of its creator, who initially collected works in his apartment, and then, on 11 March 1920, donated them to the city of Kraków...

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Feliks Jasieński collected art for thirty years of his life. The collection numbered about 15,000 items and included paintings and graphics from the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, a set of Asian art objects, carpets, kilims, furniture and arts and crafts, as well as a library. The unique collection became a testimony to the time of its creator, who initially collected works in his apartment, and then, on 11 March 1920, donated them to the city of Kraków.

Photo National Digital Archives

Who was the man whose collection inspires so much admiration? An anthropologist, cultural scientist, he was also interested in art, various aspects of civilization. He came from a landowning family. He received a very thorough education: in Dorpat, Berlin and Paris. He pursued various fields of study: economics, philosophy, literature, art history and music. Above all, however, he was an enthusiast and collector who consistently gathered a coherent collection of works. His pseudonym Manggha came from the collection of woodcuts by a Japanese artist Katsushiki Hokusai.
Thanks to Jasieński’s involvement, he managed to save the painting Szał [Frenzy] by Podkowiński , which had been cut up by the author. Jasieński carefully restored the canvas and hung it on the wall of his apartment in Cracow, as the most valuable object in his collection. He started the collection with the works of his contemporaries. The most outstanding artists of his time made an attempt at portraying him: Boznańska, Wyczółkowski, Malczewski, and Laszczka. His private acquisitions transformed into a museum collection. Would anyone be willing to donate their private collection of contemporary art to a museum nowadays?

Elaborated by: Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums,
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

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Shrine with the Senju-Kannon Bosatsu figure

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