The head monk of Tenyu-ji, a Buddhist temple in the Nishi-Kojimachi district of Isahaya City, Nagasaki Prefecture, has commissioned a painting of the famous Christian iconography of the Virgin and Child in a typically Japanese style, with the bodhisattva Kannon taking the place of that of Jesus. mother. The painting, unveiled by Tetsujo Suda of Tenyu-ji earlier this fall, aims to commemorate the region's Christian history and build future bridges between the two religions.
“Not only the confrontation between religions, but also the conflicts and discrimination between different groups of people contribute to a plethora of tragedies around the world,” said Suda, 56. “I hope that our modest effort to promote universality will contribute to achieving peace. » (The Asahi Shimbun)
Both religions have been persecuted throughout Japan's long history. During the Edo period (1603-1867), many Christians were forced to practice in secret after violent repression. And during the Sengoku period (1467-1568), Christian warlords persecuted Buddhists in several regions.
Suda explained that he wanted the work to remind people of dark periods in Japanese history. In conversations with prefecture and city officials, Suda said he gained a greater appreciation of his region's religious history.
Officials described Tenyu-ji as "valuable due to its proximity, as few Buddhist-related cultural properties remain on the grounds of Christian warlord estates." (The Asahi Shimbun)
Michitaka Kanda, 43, a pastor and researcher at Chinzei Gakuin University, noticed a sign that tells the story of Buddhism's oppression. The sign states that "a fleeing temple leader was killed and buried during the Christian assault on temples and shrines." (The Asahi Shimbun)
The rich history got Suda thinking about Buddhists during their period of oppression, disguising the symbols as Christian icons. This led him to conceive the idea of creating the Virgin and Child painting depicting Kannon Bodhisattva in the role of Jesus' mother.
The work itself was created by Rina Matsudaira, 33, a painter from Kyoto Prefecture. Matsudaira, a Christian, is well known for her figure paintings in the traditional Japanese style.
For about six months, Matsudaira worked on this piece, while studying the religious history of the region and learning about Buddhism from Suda.
The final painting is in a traditional Japanese triptych format with Jesus and Kannon Bodhisattva at the center. Instead of a lotus flower in Kannon's hand, as usual, Matsudaira placed a rose, emblematic of Catholic iconography.
“From a Buddhist perspective, Kannon can be interpreted as making an appearance in the form of the Virgin Mary before Christians,” Suda said. “Finding out what different religions have in common seems more important than emphasizing their differences to fuel confrontation. » (The Asahi Shimbun)
Matsudaira agreed, adding, “I am a Christian but I have been thinking about the philosophies of Buddhism in my process of mastering Japanese-style painting,” she said. “I think religions can share certain concepts. » (The Asahi Shimbun)
The painting was displayed at the Tamatsukuri Catholic Church in Osaka's Chuo district, where Matsudaira attends church.
Toshihiro Sakai, auxiliary bishop of the Osaka-Takamatsu Archdiocese, expressed his appreciation of the project: "The painting is easy to accept because it displays a soft touch typical of Japanese drawings while maintaining a divine ambiance," said Sakai . “The idea of transcending religious frameworks seems very pleasant to me. Dialogue between religions is also an important theme for Catholicism.” (The Asahi Shimbun)
Le Virgin and Child artwork should be displayed at Buddhist events in hopes of overcoming religious divisions.