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Chika Sannomiya

Aesthetic Feeling of Temperance and Serenity
- The Hattori Collection: Invitations from Tiny Buddha -

Chika Sannomiya,Research Assistant, Waseda University Aizu Museum

In January of 2005, the Waseda University Aizu Museum received a donation of 660 pieces of oriental antiques from university alumni Mr. Kazuhiko Hattori. The donation was given the name of "Hattori Collection" and has been the subject of surveying and research. From September 24th to October 16th, the Aizu Museum will display the Hattori Collection with a focus on small gilt bronze Buddhist statues.

Mr. Kazuhiko Hattori Pursuit for Oriental Antiques

Mr. Kazuhiko Hattori was born in 1923 in Shimada City, Shizuoka Prefecture. According to the preface in the "Wagen-Do Illustrated Book of Antiques", from the time of childhood until he was a young adult, Mr. Hattori was fond of nature and possessed a rich sensitivity and appreciation towards works of art. When he was an elementary student, Mr. Hattori was already collecting menko (Japanese game cards), labels from matchboxes, stamps, old coins, and other types of memorabilia. Mr. Hattori's aesthetic perceptions were formed from the interest in Japanese art that he possessed from a young age. At the same time, he became aware of the intrigue found in the collecting of art. In later years, Mr. Hattori's collection expanded as a result of his pursuit for oriental antiques.

In September of 1942, when he was 19 years old, Mr. Hattori graduated from the School of Commerce in the Special Department of Waseda University. He joined World War II in 1943. After being discharged from his service in Siberia in 1947, he began selling chemicals in the city of Shizuoka, his birthplace and the hometown of his parents. In 1958, at the age of 35, he established Toyo Chemical Corporation (later known as Hattori Chemical) and began work as a businessman.

It was at this time, when Mr. Hattori was around 30 years old, that his collection of oriental antiques began in earnest. In 1956, when he had begun his collection of Buddhist objects, that Mr. Hattori met the Buddhist archeologist Mr. Mosaku Ishida, who was participating in excavation and research at the sight of Katayamahai Temple, also known as Suraga-no-Kuni Kokubun Temple. The two were introduced by Mr. Masahiro Mochizuki of the Toro Museum. Mr. Mosaku Ishida was an eminent scholar who pioneered the new field of Buddhist archeology in Japan. Mr. Hattori is said to have brought 2 to 3 recently collected pieces of esoteric Buddhist items and votive plaques to his first meeting with Mr. Ishida. From that time on, Mr. Hattori looked to Mr. Ishida for guidance regarding the collection of art. In this way, Mr. Hattori collected archaic patterned mirrors, votive plaques, esoteric Buddhist items (such as flower vases, rokki (sets of 6 bowls and saucers), censers, dorje, kongo bells, rinbo (wheels representing the various sects of Buddhism), katsuma (Buddhist crosses)), and waniguchi (Buddhist gongs). He also collected Buddhist statues, small Buddhist pagodas, meiki (ceremonial items buried with the deceased), bronze ware, earthenware vessels, ceramic vessels, accessories, seals, and portraits of humans and animals.

660 Pieces of Oriental Art

In his writing "Drawn by Esoteric Buddhist Items", Mr. Hattori stated the following: "For works from the Kamakura Period, when you look carefully at the expression of a small Buddhist statue such as a votive plaque, it doesn't merely seem as if it could be alive. One also gets the sensation of something like temperance or serenity. To feel this sensation is to know the great depth in Buddhist works of art. One is struck with the same kind of perception when encountering the valiant esoteric Buddhist items of the Kamakura Period." It is apparent that when evaluating works of art, Mr. Hattori sought a mature beauty that was temperate, serene, and valiant, and held a standard of beauty that would endure in future generations. Also, Mr. Hattori reflects upon the uncertainty that he felt at the time he was assembling his collection by saying "I constantly struggled with the contradiction between my own style and the pursuit of beauty."

In this way, Mr. Hattori gathered works during his days of pursuing art and Buddhist studies. In 1972, these works were featured in the "Wagen-Do Illustrated Book of Antiques", which was published to commemorate the 77th birthday of Mr. Mosaku Ishida. Then, in 1977, when Mr. Hattori was 55 years old, he established the Wagen-Do Museum of Antiques for the purpose of exhibiting and storing his collection. The museum is located in the western area of Shizuoka city, in a mountain village in the Iima Valley along a branch of the Warashina River.

The 660 pieces of oriental antiques donated to the Aizu Museum represent a portion of the works stored in the Wagen-Do Museum of Antiques. Although none of the works have been nationally designated, the collection is quite broad and encompasses works from B.C. to modern times. Works from the west come from Greece, Egypt, Iran, and Afghanistan, while works from the east come from Southeast Asia, Tibet, China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan. In terms of sites of creation (sites of excavation) and dates of creation, the collection is both encompassing and systematic, and is truly worthy of being called a collection of oriental art. As a private collection, it boasts a high standard of quality and amount, and these works will be of great aid in further research of oriental art.

Small gilt bronze Buddhist statues: small yet lovely Buddha

Illustration 1
Seated Tathagata Statue Wuhu Shiliuguo Dynasty

From the 660 pieces of the Hattori Collection included in this exhibition, 102 Buddhist statues are being displayed. In the explanation of the sites of creation and dates of creation for these 102 statues, it can be seen that the statues range from throughout Eastern Asia, from countries such as China, North Korea, Tibet, Japan, and Southeastern Asia. The statues are dated throughout a wide time range, from the 4th century A.D. to modern times. This breadth makes for a very systematic collection. I would now like to introduce 3 representative works as examples.

The first example is the ancient gilt bronze Buddhist statues of China (illustration 1). These statues are dated to the Wuhu Shiliuguo Dynasty (304 to 439) of China, particularly from the middle to the end of the 4th century. They are the oldest Buddhist statues made and were created from the plains of the middle and lower valleys of the Yellow River to Northern China. A large number of these Buddhist statues share the same form. There are 4 special features of this ancient gilt bronze Buddhist statue. (1) The patched robe is draped over both shoulders and the Buddha is performing a mudra (meditation mudra) in front of his stomach. The Buddha is sitting in the lotus position on a pedestal. (2) In front of the pedestal, a single lion etched in half-relief is positioned on each end. (3) The ushnisha (protrusion) on top of the Buddha's head is very large and high. (4) One mold was used from the top of the head to the pedestal. When viewed from the side, there is a vertical joint line and the remains of where metal burrs where chipped away. Therefore, the statue was made by aligning two separate molds, one for the front and one for the back. In this work (illustration 1), the entire body of the statue is well-proportioned, with a bulging stomach and thickness on both the left and right of both shoulders and in front of the knees. Also, this is a superior work in terms of the application of gilding.

Illustration 2
Left: Seated Tathagata Statue Pei-Wei Dynasty Front View
Right: Seated Tathagata Statue Pei-Wei Dynasty Rear View

Illustration 2 shows a seated Tathagata statue from the Pei-Wei Dynasty. This is another Buddhist statue for which there are many other similar statues in existence. The total height is 12.2 centimeters. The large robe is draped across the right shoulder so that one side is exposed and the Buddha is performing the meditation mudra. The head and body of the Buddha is encompassed by a light (flame), and the Buddha is sitting in the lotus position on a four-legged pedestal. Particularly worthy of attention is the light surrounding the Buddha. An insignia of flame is carved in a line around the fringe of the surface. Inside the fringe, in the area of light surrounding the body, there are 10 secondary Buddha performing the meditation mudra carved in half-relief. Furthermore, inside the area of light surrounding the head, a lotus appears carved in half-relief. Also, the icons on the rear area of the halo are all shown in half-relief. There are two Buddha sitting side-by-side on the lower stand. On both the left and rights sides there is one standing Bodhisattvas and flying heavenly figure. The middle stand shows 8 secondary Buddha. The upper stand has 2 Tathagata Buddha and standing Bodhisattva as flanking attendants. Finally, a single secondary Buddha is positioned above the head. This statue is made from a single mold from the light surrounding the head and body to the 4-legged pedestal. Inspection of the side of the statue reveals that it was created by aligning two separate molds for the front and back. The section with the two seated Buddha on the lower stand of rear area of the halo is sunken when compared to the surrounding area. This is due to poor flow of liquid bronze during the molding process. This kind of defect is a naturally occurring phenomenon for these kinds of small Buddhist statues, and is a common feature in works of this type. This statue is thought to have been created from the from the plains of the middle and lower valleys of the Yellow River to Northern China, and is dated to the Jingming Period (500 to 503) of the Pei-Wei Dynasty

Illustration 3
Seated Bodhisattva Statue Nepal, 16th Century

The final example is an exceptionally beautiful standing Bodhisattva statue from 16th century Nepal (illustration 3). The total height of the statues is 15.3 centimeters. In this Bodhisattva statue, the hair is decorated and styled high, a coronet is placed on the head, a robe is worn, and the right foot is raised into a half-lotus posture. The five fingers of the right hand are outstretched and the hand in place upon the knee with the palm facing upwards. The left arm is bent with the five fingers of the left hand outstretched, and the palm of the left hand is held in front of the chest facing forward. A coronary band hangs down from the coronet, and lotus decorations are positioned on each side of the neck. Necklaces, elbow bracelets, and wrist bracelets are also worn. A diadem hangs from both shoulders, forming a loose U-shaped pattern is formed in front of the stomach. The fringe of the robe is inlayed with bronze and silver, and even the smallest details contain elaborate designs. This is one of the most beautiful Buddhist statues in the entire exhibition.

The small gilt bronze Buddhist statues shown here were not the possessions of emperors or people with great power. Rather, they were placed at the Buddhist altars in the homes of aristocracy and wealthy families, where they served as daily reminders of the Buddhist faith. The statues are truly figures of prayer born from daily life. This autumn, I hope that visitors to the Aizu Museum will hear the message of prayer from many people that is contained within these tiny Buddhist statues.


Aizu Museum
Exhibition: The Hattori Collection-Invitations from Tiny Buddha (September 24th to October 16th)
Contact: 03-5286-3835