Fair highlight from Jonathan A. Hill, Bookseller, Inc.
Printed in 1297
TODAI JI TEMPLE (TODAIJIBAN). Daijo kishinron giki [Commentary on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana]. By Fazang. 43; 57 leaves, eight columns per page. Part I (“kan jo”) in two vols. 8vo (267 x 143 mm.) in orihon (accordion) format, pale brown paper wrappers, [Nara]: 1297.
Extremely rare; this is one of the earliest substantial wood-block printed books created in Japan to survive. Todaiji Temple in Nara, founded in 728, was the chief temple of the Kegon sect of Buddhism and served as a center for the training of scholar monks. Part of the monks’ activities was to print educational texts and to disseminate their religion using the new technology of woodblock printing. Two monks, Shoshu (1215-91) and Gyonen (1240-1321), were the first to establish an active printing program at the temple’s printing house (the todaijiban). Collectively, the printing activities at the six main temples of Nara are today called naraban (nara editions). Any publication from the 13th century issued by any of the naraban is of the greatest rarity and almost never appears in the market.
The text of this work is the classic exposition of Mahayana Buddhism. There is some controversy whether the text has an Indian Sanskrit origin or is a Chinese composition. Fazang (643-712), a Chinese scholar, wrote the present commentary which is generally recognized as one of the most authoritative works for the correct understanding of the text. Mahayana Buddhism arrived in Japan in the 7th century.
“Todai-ji, though not exclusively devoted to one sect of Buddhism, had a strong interest in the doctrines and practices of the Kegon sect and acted as the center of Kegon Buddhism in Japan. Thus it was natural that when Todai-ji monks began to undertake printing, they should concentrate on Kegon doctrinal works…