Kyoto National Museum Celebrates its 120th Anniversary with Exhibition “National Treasures: Masterpieces of Japan”

To celebrate its 120th anniversary, Kyoto National Museum presents an exhibition titled “National Treasures: Masterpieces of Japan”.  Over 200 pieces of national treasures scattered across different museums or temples in Japan, from Kyushu, Shikoku, Kansai, Kantō etc., now come together in Kyoto National Museum for public viewing. It is definitely a rare and extraordinary experience you would not want to miss.

Heian period, 11th Century. “Shakyamuni Rising from the Golden Coffin”. Kyoto National Museum

The exhibition features 210 pieces of national treasures, including sculptures, paintings, portraits, metalworks and ceramics. 120 years ago, in 1897, Japan enacted the Old Temples and Shrines Preservation Act, which provided a legal foundation for the protection policies for historical buildings and national treasures. Up until now, there are roughly 880 pieces of artworks graded “national treasure” in Japan. This exhibition alone already showcases almost a quarter of them.

China, Southern Song Dynasty, 13th Century. Guanyin (Avalokiteśvara) Bodhisattva, Gibbons, and Crane By Muqi Fachang (n.d.). Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto

China, Southern Song Dynasty, 13th Century. Vase with Phoenix Handles, named Bansei. Kuboso Memorial Museum of Art, Izumi Osaka.

From a historical perspective, Japan has been inextricably linked to China. There is no surprise to see many Chinese artworks classified as national treasures in Japan. For example, one of the artworks in this exhibition, “Guanyin (Avalokiteśvara) Bodhisattva, Gibbons, and Crane” was created by Chinese artist Muqi Fachang. The works by this Buddhist monk from Southern Song dynasty did not receive much attention in China but were widely acclaimed in Japan.

For ceramics, Japanese people are fascinated by the aesthetics of the Song dynasty. Therefore, the museum selects a vase with phoenix handles from Southern Song dynasty for this exhibition as well.

Yayoi period, 1st Century. King of Na Gold Seal. Length: 2.3cm.

King of Na Gold Seal, the smallest national treasure in Japan, is also originated from China. The seal was discovered on Shikanoshima Island in Fukuoka Prefecture. The seal is believed to have been cast in China and bestowed by Emperor Guangwu of Han upon a diplomatic official (envoy) visiting from Japan in the year 57 AD. The five Chinese characters appearing on the seal identify it as the seal of the King of Na state of Wa (Japan), vassal state of the Han dynasty.

Kamakura period, 14th century. Saddle with Ivy and Poetic Characters. Eisei-Bunko Museum, Tokyo.

This exhibition will be held in four parts. Some exhibits are only available in a certain period while some are available throughout the whole time. For example, the King of Na Gold Seal will be displayed in part 3, from 31 October to 12 November.

Kyoto National Museum is located at Higashiyama-ku and it is easily accessible. Visitors can get off at Kyoto station via JR or subway or get off at Shichijo station via Keihan railway.


Other Highlights

Edo period, 17th Century. Wind God and Thunder God by Tawaraya Sōtatsu (n.d.). Kennin-ji Temple, Kyoto.

Heian period, 12th Century. Fan-shaped Lotus Sutra (Vols 1,7). Shitennō-ji Temple, Osaka.

Jōmon period, 3000-2000 BCE. Figurine (Dogū).

Heian period. 12th Century. Seated Dainichi (Mahāvairocana) Buddha. Kongō-ji Temple, Osaka

Heian-Kamakura period, 12th Century. Tales of Diseases and Deformities "Hermaphrodite," "Treatment of an Eye Disease," "Gum Disease". Kyoto National Museum


Kyoto National Museum 120th Anniversary Commemorative Special Exhibition
National Treasures: Masterpieces of Japan

Period: 2017/10/3 - 11/26
Venue: Kyoto National Museum
Adult|JPY 1,500
University Student|JPY 1,200
Hight School Student|JPY 900
Under Middle School Student|Free

Kyoto National Museum

Opening hours (No regular exhibitions during the period of special exhibition “National Treasures: Masterpieces of Japan”) :
Tuesdays to Thursdays, Sundays|9:30am - 6pm
Fridays to Saturdays|9:30am - 8pm
Mondays|Closed (Except national holidays, when closed following day instead)
Address: 527 Chaya-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto, Japan 605-0931
Enquiries: +81 75-525-2473