Photo/IllutrationMyogen Nishiyama, chief priest of Toshodaiji temple, left, and a colleague show a “kesa” Buddhist stole in Nara before it is presented to Damingsi temple in China. (Ryo Miyazaki)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

NARA--Toshodaiji temple here offered a gift of 20 “kesa” Buddhist stoles featuring an ancient poem to a temple in China to mark the 1,300th anniversary of a present that prompted a famed Chinese priest to visit Japan.

Jianzhen (688-763) landed in Japan in 753 after five failed attempts that led to his blindness. He founded the Risshu sect of Buddhism and established Toshodaiji.

Myogen Nishiyama, 66, chief priest of Toshodaiji, presented stoles to Damingsi temple in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, where Jianzhen lectured about the Buddhist commandments, on Sept. 12.

“Jianzhen’s feelings have been conveyed to the modern times over 1,300 years,” Nishiyama said. “We would like to receive the providence of Buddha by presenting kesa to Jianzhen’s country one more time.”

Nagayao (684-729), a grandson of Emperor Tenmu, arranged a gift of 1,000 kesa to Chinese priests in the Tang Dynasty.

The kesa were apparently given in 717 by Japanese envoys, including Abe no Nakamaro, according to a Toshodaiji official.

A poem stitched into the kesa read: “Even though regions or countries are different, the behaviors of wind and moon are connected under the same sky. We will contribute these kesa to your priests. Let’s form a connection with each other in the afterworld.”

Jianzhen was so impressed by this story that he decided to travel to Japan, according to “Todaiwajo Toseiden,” a biography of the priest.

The 20 kesa presented by Nishiyama carried the same needlework.

An additional 200 kesa will be sent to Damingsi temple before June 2018.