Sutra scroll container with cover
Heian period (794–1185)
Late 12th century
Stoneware with glaze
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund, 1983/2.248A&B
In Japan, the year 1052 was believed to be the beginning of mappō, the decline of the Age of Dharma (the Buddhist teachings). Japanese Buddhist practitioners believed that after this point no one could attain enlightenment and that morality would crumble over the next 10,000 years. In this period, the practice of burying sutras to preserve Buddhist teachings for the future increased. This practice also allowed the patron to build merit in the hope of a better rebirth. This relatively simple sutra container would have been buried on temple grounds or at a sacred site. Mountains were a common choice for such burials as they were believed to be closer to Buddhist paradises, or Pure Lands of Buddhas.