Important cultural asset scroll auctioned in Tokyo

Courtesy of New Art Est-Ouest Auctions Co.
Shihon Chakushoku Shuikotokuden Volume 8 (detail)

A classic picture scroll from the Kamakura period (late 12th century-1333) designated as an important cultural asset fetched ¥243.9 million from an unnamed bidder at an auction by a Tokyo company on Thursday.

According to the Cultural Affairs Agency, no important cultural asset had been auctioned before. The name of the successful bidder was not made public.

The auction was held by New Art Est-Ouest Auctions Co. The price includes commissions.

The auctioned scroll is the eighth in a nine-scroll series called “Shihon Chakushoku Shuikotokuden,” which the auction house translated into English as “Gleanings of Buddhist priest Honen.” Made in the late years of the Kamakura period, the series is based on a biography of Honen (1133-1212), the founder of the Jodoshu school of Buddhism. The biography was written by Kakunyo, a great-grandson of Honen’s pupil Shinran, who founded the Jodo Shinshu school of Buddhism. The scrolls were made by a disciple of the Jodo Shinshu school. The eighth volume, depicting the death of Honen, was privately owned by two individuals in Japan.

The sale or purchase of a national treasure or an important cultural asset must be reported to the government before a contract is formally concluded. The government has a priority right to purchase the item at the price agreed by the seller and would-be purchaser. The contract can be finalized only when the government decides not to purchase the item.

The agency will now decide whether to purchase the scroll after receiving the report from its current owners.

It is essentially prohibited to take a national treasure or an important cultural asset abroad for purposes other than international cultural exchange, such as loans for exhibitions, to prevent precious cultural properties from being held permanently overseas.