|KEY WORD : art history / sculptures|
| Lit. secret Buddha. A Buddhist image which
is ordinarily kept secret. Hibutsu are enshrined in miniature shrines *zushi
厨子 which may have its doors opened to the public at regular intervals. Openings
may be seasonal, annual, or in cycles of seven, thirty-three or sixty years.
In rare cases an image is never shown. The opening of a hibutsu is called
*kaichou 開帳. When
it is carried out at its own temple, it is called igaichou 居開帳, and
when it is shown at a different place, it is referred to as degaichou
出開帳. The practice of maintaining hibutsu seems to have developed
in Japan in the Heian period with the rise of Esoteric Buddhism mikkyou
密教. In 1884 the Japanese government allowed Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908)
and Okakura Tenshin 岡倉天心 (1863-1913) to disclose the secret image of the *Yumedono 夢殿 at Houryuuji 法隆寺, which was kept as a hibutsu for centuries
and had not been seen by anyone including the priests. When its white cloth
was unwrapped, the magnificent image of *Guze Kannon 救世観音 from the 7c was
revealed as one of Japan's greatest art treasures. It is still kept as a
hibutsu by the temple, but it is now opened for a short time every
spring and fall. Other famous hibutsu include the images of *Shukongoushin 執金剛神 and the priest Rouben 良弁 (689-773) at Toudaiji 東大寺, which are opened once a year.
The principal image at the Sangatsudou 三月堂 (also known as *Hokkedou 法華堂) of Toudaiji, however, is never
shown to anyone. The Nyoirin Kannon 如意輪観音 of Ishiyamadera 石山寺 is opened
every 33 years.
(C)2001 Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System. No reproduction or republication without written permission.