Japan Monk’s Writings Added to UNESCO Memory List

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A historical document brought to Japan from Tang dynasty China by Japanese Buddhist monk Enchin is seen at Onjoji temple in Otsu.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — UNESCO’s executive board on Wednesday added to its Memory of the World list a set of historical materials brought to Japan from Tang dynasty China by Japanese Buddhist monk Enchin in the ninth century.

This is the eighth such listing from Japan, and the first since 2017. “The Monk Enchin Archives: A History of Japan-China Cultural Exchange” consists of 56 materials, all of which are national treasures of Japan.

The materials include an original of a route permit believed to be one of the origins of the modern-day passport.

Enchin traveled to China during Japan’s Heian period from the eighth to the 12th centuries, and spread esoteric Buddhism after returning home.

The Onjoji temple in Otsu and the Tokyo National Museum jointly applied for the Memory of the World registration of the Enchin-linked materials.

Over the Memory of the World list, the Japanese government had opposed the registration of documents about the 1937 Nanjing incident, as well as an application to register documents related to so-called comfort women, or Koreans who worked as prostitutes for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

In 2021, the executive board approved reform measures including the establishment of a system to allow countries concerned to raise objections and suspend the registration process until they give their consent.