A Stamped and Resist Dyed Pilgrim's Kimono: Esoteric Buddhism
early twentieth century
52" x 48", 132 cm x 122 cm
This is a very well-used, resist dyed and stamped cotton pilgrim's kimono which shows a great deal of wear from its service in cloaking a Japanese Buddhist pilgrim who visited sacred mountain temples, performing austerities which were essential to his form of worship.
The pilgrimage route had to do with the esoteric, Shingon sect of Buddhism whose sites are located in the Kii Mountains.
On the back of the coat are three, resist dyed bonji, or Sanskrit letters which probably relate to seed-syllables of mantras. In kanji, in the center of the coat is written and read from right to left: Omine (a sacred mountain), left side: Ryuu-Oo (Dragon King), right side: Hachi-dai (8th generation) which may refer to a certain group of mountain pilgrims.
On top of this are large, black stamps showing ascetics and deities relevant to this pilgrimage circuit and who are revered by the Shingon sect of Buddhism, including En no Gyoja, the famous and fierce historical ascetic who founded a form of mountain asceticism.
Red stamps can also be faintly seen and these were received from various temples visited on this pilgrimage.
The coat is entirely hand stitched and shows a great deal of abrasion and fading, the beautiful residue of hard-driving Buddhist worship in old Japan.