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Fire-damaged Horyuji temple murals in Nara Pref. unveiled for 1st time in 27 yrs

IKARUGA, Nara -- Ancient murals that were damaged in a 1949 fire at Horyuji temple in this west Japan town have been unveiled for the first time in 27 years, with limited viewings beginning on Nov. 10 for people who have donated toward research on the artwork.

    Burned murals and pillars at the Kondo hall of Horyuji temple are seen in Ikaruga, Nara Prefecture, on Nov. 9, 2021. (Mainichi/Tatsuya Onishi)

    The murals in the temple's Kondo hall, painted between the latter half of the 7th century and the early 8th century, are designated as national important cultural assets. The temple, which itself is designated as a World Heritage site, and other organizations launched a crowdfunding campaign this past summer to conduct research on and survey the murals with a view to unveiling them publicly in the future, and the first 500 people who made donations can see them this time.

    The murals depict the pure lands of Buddha, Amida (Buddha of immeasurable light and life) and Yakushi (Buddha of healing) among other depictions on four large walls -- each about 3.1 meters high and 2.6 meters wide -- and eight smaller walls -- each about 3.1 meters high and 1.5 meters wide.

    The murals have been closed to the public in principle since November 1994, when they were unveiled to some 10,000 people for the first time after the Kondo hall was damaged by fire in 1949.

    (Japanese original by Satoshi Kubo, Nara Bureau)

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