July 25, 2007

I'm Not Enlightened Enough To Know What To Do With This Awesome, Buddha Stamp-Filled Pilgrim Scroll


It doesn't really matter, because it's already sold, but for some reason, this scroll just seems spectacular to me. Part of it's purely aesthetic, because the simple inkstamped cotton technique is so simple. Part of it's the content and the devotion it conveys. And part of it's kind of sentimental, since the kid's first trip to Japan when she was just a few months old was, in fact, to Shikoku, the rural island where the only thing going on--besides the very occasional vacuum chamber testing of x-ray telescope satellites--is Buddhist mega-pilgrimages.

The Shikoku Pilgrimage is a circuit of 88 Buddhist temples, see, which the venerable monk Kukai visited in 774. Walking the 1200km takes between 30-60 days, though cars and buses and organized tours can cut down on the logistical hassle pretty dramatically.

Each temple has a distinctive Buddha stamp. Pilgrims known as o-henro-san collect'em all in books, on cloths, or more commonly on white cotton jackets. This particular scroll was found and sold by Sri, a Greenpoint vintage textile gallery run by Stephen Szczepanek. He specializes in boro, as in boroboro, the Japanese term for ragged; it's an insanely beautiful, unselfconscious, poverty-driven patchworking process that's kind of becoming the new, crafty hotness, I'm afraid. Still, good stuff.

In a nutshell, stamps rock. When we went to the Hall of 33 Bays in Kyoto last December, we got the kid a blank book, which a monk stamped and inscribed for her, like her little Buddhist passport. [Note to self: where'd we put that thing?] And when we discovered Muji's little DIY stamp kit for decorating these flimsy little 50-yen muslin tote bags, the kid and I would head over every morning to play with the stamps; the products became her Christmas presents for her aunts and uncles. I'll dig up a picture of one.

A Scroll of 88 Sacred Buddhist Temple Stamps - Sold [srithreads.com]
Profile of Sri's sweet space: When the Everyday Becomes Art [nyt]


Those Muji stamps were awesome... we spent a good half hour playing with them at the big one in Yurakucho that you turned me on to a couple years back... (note to self: where the hell are the bags we printed with them? Haven't seen them since we got back...)

A decade ago I did the late night climb up Mt. Fuji. There are stages up the mountain where you can get a hiking stick or book stamped as you ascend. Cool, but a bit of a racket for the monks and folks running the stations (something like $5 a pop).

I was happy to see the sunrise from the top and use the payphone up there to call the folks back in the US. But those stamps would have been great.

[yeah, I guess I forgot the total racket part. -ed.]

I have a friend that did the pilgrimage and kept very detailed records along the way. Here is a link to his site, I hope you enjoy:
the temple guy

[love that: the temple guy -ed.]

Well, don't desire it, for one thing.

[d'oh! of course, now I can see how Sri was able to get those cool pilgrim stamp jackets: their owners no longer had attachments to them -ed.]

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