Bernard Franck — Images gravées des temples du Japon



Bernard Franck
Images gravées des temples du Japon

Past: May 11 → September 12, 2011

An ofuda most often appears in the form of a sheet of printed paper which, due to the presence of a central image or sometimes just one entry, embodies a being revered in Buddhism or, more rarely, in Shintoism. The latter, distributed to the faithful, is both the bearer of private devotion and a talisman showing the actual presence of the deity. While Buddhism is now well-known in the West, and despite the current popularity of Japanese culture, which popularized the spirit and aesthetics of Zen, Japanese Buddhism in its specificity remains largely unknown.

Humble leaflets, talismans invested the active presence, not matter how fleeting, of the deity depicted, or even evidence of a holy pilgrimage, these ofuda offer us a unique insight into the personal and mundane dimensions of the Buddhist faith, through the two-way mirror of individual practice and beliefs.

An outstanding collection

This new exhibition leads us to the discovery of the Japanese Buddhist pantheon, through the collection of Bernard Frank, presented for the first time the public in France. Bernard Frank, who was the first Professor to occupy the chair of Japanese Civilization at the College de France from 1979 to 1996, began collecting these paper-printed devotional engravings in 1954, accurate depictions of the High Venerable of the temple where they were handed out. Throughout his travels to almost 2000 sacred sites, he succeeded in the course of forty years to collect a thousand ofuda, figuring the eighty entities making up the six classes of gods: Buddha, Bodhisattva, kings of Science, deities, Japanese kami (considered as «circumstantial appearances» of the Buddha), eminent monks and patriarchs. This collection — the most comprehensive in the world — is represented here by 160 of its finest pieces, moving
testimonies of the deep devotion of believers.

A fresh look on the Panthéon Bouddhique

The exhibition, bringing great clarity to the complexity of the Japanese Buddhist pantheon’s gradual emergence, puts also into light the patient and passionate work of those specialists who, from Emile Guimet to Bernard Frank and his disciples, have, to this day, endeavored to better understand and penetrate the “Buddhist mind”. It is therefore natural for this exhibition to find its place in the galleries of the Musée Guimet’s Panthéon Bouddhique (situated 19 Avenue d’Iena), where, in 1991, Professor Frank, helped give a new life and meaning to the Emile Guimet’s lifework, by rejuvenating the collection of Buddhist statues that he had carefully assembled during his 1876 trip to Japan. Today, through a scenography devised as an homage to the architecture and atmosphere of Japanese temples, statues and ofuda face one another, thus creating a dialogue that sheds a new light not just on
Japanese Buddhist iconography, but also on its Indian and Chinese roots

Cultural Activities

To better understand the meaning of the ofuda Buddhist iconography, the nature of the Japanese Buddhist pantheon or discover the pilgrimages and religious practices of Japan, a string of cultural activities will be held from May to July at the museum in relation to the exhibition. A cycle of conferences by many scholars will be held on Friday, June 10, in the Grand Salon of the Panthéon Bouddhique. On Saturday June 11 in the morning, artist engraver Ximena Leon Lucero will hold a lecture-demonstration to better understand the techniques of traditional Japanese woodcutting and engraving. In the afternoon, Ms Ariane Wilson will offer the audience to retrace her steps on her pilgrimage to the island of Shikoku. The Auditorium will also honor the show with a hiatus in the Indian Season to host in the Festival of the Imaginary on Friday, May 13, to display the Anmitsu Ensemble for a discovery of the Tsugaru shamisen, regarded as the «Jazz of Japan”.

  • Screening Saturday, July 9, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    Diffusion du documentaire « Arukihenro » sur le pèlerinage du Shikoku.

Musée Guimet Museum
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6, place d’Iéna

75016 Paris

T. 01 56 52 53 00


Opening hours

Every day except Tuesday, 10 AM – 6 PM

Admission fee

Full rate €7,50€ — 8 — Concessions €5,50€ — 6

Free admission to exhibitions for young people under 18 years

The artist

  • Bernard Franck