Murals in the Kondo (Golden Hall) of Horyu-ji Temple (法隆寺金堂壁画)

The murals in the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple are Buddhist paintings around the late seventh century, which were painted on the walls of the Kondo of the Horyu-ji Temple in Ikaruga Town, Nara Prefecture. The murals in the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple represented the ancient Buddhist paintings in Asia, together with the murals in Ajanta Caves in India and the murals in Mogao Caves in Dun-huang City in China. However, the murals in the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple were burnt by fire in 1949 (please refer to the images of the murals in external links).

Summary

The murals in the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple' often refers to the 12 murals on the mud walls of the Kondo gejin (part of the main sanctuary outside the innermost sanctum of a shrine), however, there were additional murals as follows: 20 murals of Hiten (a flying Apsaras, a flying Buddhist angel playing music) on kokabe (the wall between the kamoi [a generic term for a head jamb, normally have tracks for sliding doors or partitions] and the ceiling) of the naijin (inner sanctuary of a shrine or temple), and 18 murals of Sanchu Rakan zu (painting of Arhat in mountain) on the kokabe of the gejin. Among the mural paintings, the fire of the Kondo in 1949 burnt 12 murals of the gejin and completely destroyed the Rakan zu (painting of Arhat) on the kokabe without any remain. As 20 Hiten mural paintings on the kokabe of the naijin were removed and stored in another place at the time of the fire, they spared from the tragedy.

The artistic value of the murals in the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple was already recognized since the early Meiji period (late 19th century) when investigation and protection of cultural properties were started in Japan. The murals were in a deteriorated condition, peeling from the walls, at the time of an investigation by the Japanese authority. A discussion that how to prevent the deterioration of the murals and how to preserve for future generations had already been started since Meiji period. The project to reproduce the murals by top artist painters at the time had been started since 1940. The reproduction project continued through World War II and after, but the Kondo was burnt in a suspicious fire in 1949. The murals were burnt and lost the artistic value forever. This mural burning has been recorded as a symbolic accident in the history of protecting cultural assets in Japan. The accident triggered the establishment of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Additionally, January 26, when the murals were damaged by fire, became Bunkazai Boka Day (Cultural Property Fire Prevention Day), and temples and shrines were to participate in fire-fighting exercises throughout Japan. Today, the murals in the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple were reproduced by well-known painters over a period from 1967 to 1968 (which are different replicas created since 1940, mentioned previously in this section). The original burnt murals are kept intact with the burnt pillars in a repository next to Daihozoden (Treasure House) in the Horyu-ji Temple, and are not open for general viewing.

The murals of the gejin

In the first layer of the Kondo in Horyu-ji Temple, the gejin has five Ken (space between pillars) in the front and four Ken in the side, and the naijin three in the front and two in the side. Around the gejin, there is a hisashi (a long, thin hallway which surrounded the main wing of an aristocrat's home, in traditional Heian architecture) called mokoshi (double-roof structure) which is the only place to permit ordinary visitors to enter. In this section, 'Ken' does not represent the length of the measurement system, it is an architectural term for representing the number of intervals between two pillars; 'five Ken' refers to five hashirama (an interval of a space between two pillars) in six lines of pillars. Doors were installed in the following six hashirama in gejin: Center three Ken of front five Ken, back center, second from the north in both sides. In the remaining 12 hashirama, mud walls with murals were set.

The murals were numbered from 1 through 12. Entering through east side door, the wall No. 1 is on the left, and the next (the south side) No. 2, then numbering in a clockwise fashion to the wall of the north side of the east door, the wall No. 12. There are two different sized walls: Taiheki (the large wall) with approximately 255 to 260 centimeters wide, and Shoheki (the small wall) with approximately 155 centimeters wide (each wall has a height of approximately 310 centimeters). There are four Taiheki such as No. 1 wall on the east side, No. 6 wall on west, No. 9 and No. 10 walls on each side of the center door of the north side. The remaining eight walls located in four corners of the gejin are Shoheki.

The Murals on the Shoheki of the Gejin

Shoheki walls were placed right above the murals of the above-mentioned 12 walls, that is, between the kashira-nuki (head rail, wood connected horizontally through crossing the top of the pillars) and the ceiling. On the Shoheki walls, 18 murals of Sanchu Rakan zu were painted (there were other Shoheki above the six doors, and then the total was 18 walls). Regarding this Rakan zu, five murals were already painted over before Meiji period; the remaining murals were ruined by fire of the Kondo in 1949 and do not exist today. A photograph taken prior to the fire showed only one of the murals. Other than above, we only know their rough design from the reproduction created by a painter, Koun SAKURAI in the Meiji period.

The Murals on the Shoheki of the Naijin

There were mural paintings of Hiten on 20 Shoheki walls above the nageshi (a horizontal piece of timber) of the naijin. In the naijin, there were three Ken in the front, two Ken in the side, then 10 hashirama in total of the front, the back and the both sides. Since there were two murals in each hashirama, the number of the murals was 20 in total. The murals were numbered from 1 through 20. The mural on the east edge of the south wall was No. 1, then No. 2 and No. 3, continuing in a clockwise fashion ending with the No. 20 on the south edge of the east wall. Since these mural paintings were removed prior to the fire in 1949 and kept in the different place, they were spared from tragedy. Part of those 20 murals would sometimes be exhibited in Daihozoden (Treasure House) in Horyu-ji Temple.

The Murals of the Gejin

Among the 12 murals of the gejin, four Taiheki walls, such as murals No. 1, No. 6, No. 9, and No. 10, have the Illustration of the Pure Land with Sansonbutsu (three Buddhist deities) in the center. Upon each of the remaining eight Shoheki, an image of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) has been painted. There were various opinions from ancient times regarding the subject of the murals on the four Taiheki. In the Taisho period (1912 to 1926), an art historian, Seiichi TAKI, expressed the opinion that the murals depicted Shiho Shibutsu (Four Buddhas of the four directions) in Konkomyo-kyo Sutra (Golden Light Sutra). Shiho Shibutsu of Konkomyo-kyo Sutra was Ashuku Nyorai (Ashukubutsu [Aksobhya]) for the east, Muryoju Butsu (Buddha of limitless life, also known as Amida Nyorai [Amitabha Tathagata]) for the west, Hoso Butsu (Buddha with Great Treasures) for the south and Mimyosho Butsu (Delicate and Wonderful Voice Buddha) for the north. In the opinion, it is acceptable from the iconographic characteristics that the image on the West Taiheki (No. 6 wall) is Muryoju Butsu (Amida). However, the other depictions, such as Ashukubutsu, Hoso Butsu and Mimyosho Butsu, were difficult to indentify from their iconographic characteristics and the opinion was lacking decisive factors. As for the subject of these Taiheki, the following opinion is accepted today (according to the opinion of Rikichiro FUKUI and others). No. 1 wall is Shaka Jodozu (Illustration of Pure Land of the Buddha), No. 6 wall Amida Jodozu (Illustration of the Pure Land of Amida), No. 9 wall Miroku Jodozu (Illustration of the Pure Land of Maitreya), and No. 10 wall Yakushi Jodozu (Illustration of the Pure Land of Bhaisajyaguru). Although there were no particular Buddhist scriptures that instructed in the four directional set of the Buddha, Shaka or Shakyamuni, Amida, Miroku (Maitreya) and Yakushi (Bhaisajyaguru), there were several examples similar to the ones listed, dating to ancient times. For example, a record (the Kofukuji Ruki [Records of Kofuku-ji Temple]) shows that a group of sozo (a statue made from a wood core, coated with clay) that depicted the Pure Land of Shaka, Amida, Miroku and Yakushi were placed in the first layer of the five-storey pagoda of the Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara built in 730.

Wall No. 1, Shaka Jodozu: On the eastern Taiheki. Shaka sanzon (Shaka triad) is centered and Judai deshi (The 10 Chief Disciples of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni) are assisting figures on the left and the right sides. At the bottom of the painting, there is an offering stand, of which a pair of Shishi lions (the left-handed guardian dog of a Shinto shrine) is on the left and right. At the top, a canopy is drawn in the center, of which tennin (heavenly beings) are on the left and right. Although the attendant figures of Shaka Nyorai (Buddha Shakyamuni) are commonly described as Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri) and Fugen Bosatsu; the attendant figures in this mural painting are unlike Monju and Fugen in their usual iconographic image depiction. It seems these attendant figures are depicted images of Yakuo Bosatsu (Medicine King) and Yakujo Bosatsu (Medicine Superior), which are taught in the Hokekyo juryo-hon (Chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra). As seen from the photograph taken prior to the fire damage, its design and the color remained relatively vivid.

Wall No. 2, Bosatsu Hanka zo (image of a half lotus positioned Jizo Bosatsu): On the south edge of the east face. The image of the Bosatsu is in a left facing angle, the left leg present in a lowered step position. The image of Bosatsu holds a stem of a long lotus flower with his left hand.

Wall No. 3, Kannon Bosatsu Ryuzo (standing image of Kannon Buddhisattva): On the east edge of the south face. The image stands facing to the right. The image has her right hand down holding Mibu Renge (unopened lotus). Because there is a Kebutsu (an artificial small sized statue of the Buddha) of Amida on her hokan (crown), this is identified as a Kannon Bosatsu (Kannon Buddhisattva, an attendant figure of the Amida Buddha).

Wall No. 4, Seishi Bosatsu Ryuzo (standing image of Seishi Bosatsu [Vajrapani]): On the west edge of the south face. The image stands facing to the observers' left. Together with the Kannon Bosatsu, the Seishi Bosatsu is an attendant figure of Amida Buddha. It is paired with the Kannon image on the wall No. 3, of which outline is almost the same as the mirror image of the Seishi Bosatsu. It would seem each image was taken from the same sketch. Prior to the fire damage, many colors had been removed from the wall.

Wall No. 5, Bosatsu Hanka zo: On the south edge of the west face. The image of the Bosatsu faces to the observers' right, with his right leg on his lap. It is undoubtedly that the Bosatsu image on the wall No. 5 is paired with the Bosatsu image on the wall No. 2, and they face each other. Therea are some opinions regarding these two Bosatsu image of the wall No. 2 and the wall No. 5, including that they are Nikko Bosatsu (Bodhisattva of Sunlight) and Gakko Bosatsu (Bodhisattva of Moonlight, of the attendant figures of Yakushi Nyorai [the Healing Buddha]) respectively, or they are the attendant figures of Miroku Buddha. However, the official image names are unknown, due to a lack of sufficient or substantial key supporting evidence.

Wall No. 6, Amida Jodozu: On the western Taiheki. Centered on Amida Sanzon (Amida, Kannon, and Seishi), 17 images are depicted at the bottom, and 8 images at the top. A total of 25 images of Bosatsu are depicted in the murals. This design of the mural is interpreted as an expression of the Jodo (Pure Land) of 'Muryoju-kyo' (The Infinite Life Sutra), one of the Jodo Sanbu-kyo (the three main sutras of the Jodoshu sect). In consideration of the excellence in its production, it is identified as of the most representative pieces of the art work among the murals of Kondo in the Horyu-ji Temple. The lower half of the wall has been severely peeled off even in the photograph prior to the fire damage, the design is unclear.

Wall No. 7, Kannon Bosatsu Ryuzo: On the north edge of the west face. The image stands facing almost the front, slightly to the observers' left. By a Kebutsu (small Buddha statue) of Amida on her hokan, the statue is identified as a Kannon Bosatsu. It has been severely peeled off even prior to the fire damage.

Wall No. 8, Monju Bosatsu zazo (seated image of Manjusri Bodhisattva): On the west edge of the north face. This image is seated, facing the observers' right. It is difficult to identify the image of the wall No. 8 by the iconographic characteristic, however, it is estimated as Monju Bosatsu (an attendant figure of the left of Shaka Nyorai) since the image on the wall No. 11, which is paired with the image on the wall No. 8, is Fugen Bosatsu (an attendant figure of the right of Shaka Nyorai). Significant cracks in the mural are visually obvious even in the photograph taken before the fire damage.

Wall No. 9, Miroku Jodozu: On the western Taiheki of the north wall door. Centered around Miroku Sanzon (the Maitreya Triad), two images of Tenbu (deities who reside in a heavenly realm, one of six realms in which the souls of living beings transmigrate from one into another), four images among Hachi Bushu (or Eight Legions, Protectors of Buddhist Teachings), two images of Rakan (also known as Lohan, or achiever of Nirvana), and two images of Kongo Rikishi (Vajrapani, wielder of the vajra). Thus, there are a total of 13 images depicted in the mural. At the bottom of the painting, there is an offering stand, of which a pair of Shishi lions is on the left and right. In the upper part of the mural, a canopy is depicted in the center, tennin in the left and right. Seen from the photograph before the fire damage, the design is unclear due to the severe falling of the mural in whole, possibly by exposure to the afternoon sun.

Wall No. 10, Yakushi Jodozu: On the eastern Taiheki of the north wall door. Centered on Yakushi sanzon (Yakushi Triad), two images of Bosatsu, two images of Rakan, four images of Shinsho (protective deity), and two images of Kongo Rikishi, and so on, are depicted in the mural. In the lower part of the mural, there is an offering stand and one pair of Shishi lions on the left and the right. In the upper part of the mural, a canopy is depicted in the center, tennin in the left and right. Examined the photograph before the fire damage, it was preserved in relatively good condition, however, the color of the face and body of Yakushi Nyorai zo (image of Yakushi Nyorai) had darkened.

Wall No. 11, Fugen Bosatsu Zazo (seated image of Fugen Bosatsu): On the east edge of the north face. The image seats facing the observers' left on a rengeza (lotus seat) on an elephant. By the iconographic characteristic (riding on an elephant), the image is recognized as Fugen Bosatsu. The image is paired with the wall No. 8, the image of Monju Bosatsu.

Wall No. 12, Juichimen Kannon Ryuzo (standing image of Eleven-faced Kannon): On the north edge of the west wall. Among all the images of Bosatsu depicted upon the eight Shoheki, only this Juichimen Kannon stands facing front. This image is paired with the Kannon Bosatsu image on the wall No. 7, the opposite wall.

The Shoheki of the Naijin

As previously mentioned, the 20 murals in existence have exactly the same design, depicting two flying tennin. It would seem that all of these murals were produced from the same sketch. The murals are approximately 71 centimeters in height and 136 centimeters in width. Thanks to less exposure to direct sunlight, the murals of the walls No. 14 and No. 16 on the north face are preserved well.

The Technique and the Style of the Murals

The original murals were colored onto mud walls with white clay for undercoating. The following materials are used in the murals.

The red pigments: Vermilion (cinnabar), Bengal red (red ion oxide, Bengala in Dutch), and red lead

The yellow pigments: Odo (yellow ocher) and Mitsuda-so (litharge, yellow lead monoxide lead monoxide, Litharge)

The blue pigments: Rokusho (Patina, malachite, an inorganic green pigment) and gunjo (ultramarine, deep blue sea color, or Lapis lazuli)

The purple pigment: The color existed, but the materials are unknown.
(Now, the purple pigment changed into a brown color.)

The black pigments: Sumi (Indian ink)

The murals of the Kondo were colored after tracing the full scale sketches on the wall surface. It is estimated that the sketches traced to the wall surface by the two methods such as Nenshiho (the carbon paper method) and Oatsu Senbikiho (a transcription method by pressing). In the Nenshiho method, a sketch, of which colored powders (charcoal, Bengal red, and so on) are placed on the backside, are set on the wall surface then traced its outlines with a spatula and others. This method resulted in a carbon copy like image of the sketch being transferred to the wall. In the Oatsu Senbikiho method, a sketch is placed on the wall surface and traced its outlines with a pointed stick or others to engrave the talwegs on the wall.

The mural was created by the method that the outlines were drawn in Bengal red after copying a sketch and colored on the wall. The coloring emphasizes the contrast between red and green pigments and many kumadori (a technique to express special by shading) are used to been given a three-dimensional appearance. In addition, the ungen saishiki (an art technique that thin bands with distinct colors are placed next to each other in order to give the impression of shading) is used to depict wearings and so on. A Tessenbyo (wire-line drawing), a stable line without being thick or thin, is used for re-outlining. The murals of Horyu-ji Temple is sometimes said to resemble those of Ajanta Caves in India, however, the stylistic characters mentioned above are seen in the paintings in early Tang Dynasty in China (618 to 712), such as Mogao Cave in Dunhuang. They are considered to be been directly influenced by Chinese painting. It is unknown who painted the murals; however, it is estimated as collaboration among several painters since the painting style varies from wall to wall. It is estimated that the Kondo had been built by 693 when Ninno-e (a Buddhist ceremony of lecturing Ninnogyo [the Sutra of Benevolent Kings] to keep the nation tranquil) was held at Horyu-ji Temple. The murals are thought to be created from late seventh century to the vey early eighth century.

Until the Taisho period (until 1923)

"Horyu-ji Shizai Cho" (note of materials [assets] of Horyu-ji Temple) in 747 doesn't have any description about the murals of the Kondo. However, it is thought that this doesn't indicate the nonexistence of the murals at that time, but the murals were not considered as 'assets' because they were identified as integral parts to the buildings of the Kondo.
(There is an opinion that the production of the murals was in the latter half of the eighth century.)
The oldest document which mentioned the murals were "Shichidaiji Nikki" (The Diary of Seven Great Temples), written by Chikamichi OE in around 1106. In his book, Chikamichi OE wrote that the murals were painted by 'Kuratsukuri no tori,' that is, Tori Busshi who produced the principal image of the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple. It seemed to be a common acknowledgement of the painter of the murals around that time. In the Kamakura period, "Shotoku Taishi denshiki" (the Private Recollections on the Life of Prince Shotoku) written by Kenshin, the priest of the Horyu-ji Temple, describes Kuratsukuri no tori as the painter of the murals.

In the Meiji period, the murals were gradually recognized their artistic value and preciousness to be reproduced by a painter Koun SAKURAI around 1887 (The reproductions are owned by Tokyo National Museum). A painter, Kunyo SUZUKI, also reproduced the murals from 1907 to around 1931 (The reproductions are in the private collection).

In 1897 when The Law for Ancient Temples and Shrines Preservation (the prior law to establish The Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties) was proclaimed, it was considered to preserve the mural wall paintings by covering with glass, but that never happened. In 1915, Horyuji hekiga hozonhoho chosaiinkai (Investigative Committee of Conservation Techniques for Mural Paintings of Horyu-ji Temple) was established within the Ministry of Education. It was established by a proposal of the Tenshin OKAKURA, who died two years earlier. Four years later, in 1919, the committee was dissolved after reporting about the scientific techniques for the preservation of the murals. The scientific techniques for the preservation of the murals were examined in a part of the walls, however, weren't practically applied. Meanwhile, curtains were installed for the mural protection in 1917, and the murals were opened to the public only for a fixed viewing period in the spring and fall from the following year.

After the Showa period (from 1926 to the present)

In 1934, Horyuji kokuho hozonjigyobu (National treasure in Horyu-ji Temple Preservation Division) was established in the Ministry of Education and Japanese government led 'Showa Daishuri' (major repair in the Showa period) project of the buildings of the Horyu-ji Temple. In 1939, the Horyuji hekiga hozon chosaiinkai (Investigative Committee of Conservation Techniques for Mural Paintings of Horyu-ji Temple) was newly established in the Ministry of Education, and the experts in the art, history, and natural science were joined to discuss about strategy for prevention of further deterioration and the conservation of the murals. It was discussed whether to store the murals in the Kondo as before or to remove and replace them in different place, however, the latter was opposed by the Horyu-ji Temple side for religious reason and so the decision could not be easily reached. Meanwhile it was known that Benrido, an Art book publisher in Kyoto, had taken full-scale (exact sized) photographs of the murals in 1935. After the original murals were damaged by the fire, these full-scale photographs became important materials. Benrido took photographs of monochrome in full-scale size which were divided the murals into several parts, those of infrared, and those of color separation. Because color film was not well circulated in Japan during this period, Benrido needed to use filters in a four color separation process, to create the photographs. Benrido produced their printed copies of the murals through the use of collotype printing in 1938.

Separated from the examination of the scientific preservation method, the murals were planned to be reproduced in their present condition and the four top ranking Japanese art painters at that time were assigned to. This reproduction started in 1940. However, the reproduction was interrupted in 1942 when Japan had entered into a wartime regime. The Kondo started to be disassembled in 1945 just before the end of the war. This disassembling was not only to repair, but also to evacuate the art works and the precious buildings by disassembled into some components, from the damage by the war. The materials for the upper layer of the Kondo were disassembled and in the phase that the ceiling boards between the first and upper layers were removed, it greeted the end of the war.

Damage Caused by the Fire

A fire occurred in the Kondo in the early morning of January 26, 1949. According to the Tokyo Nichinichi Newspaper and Hochi Shinbun (newspaper) on that day, when the chief priest, Join SAEKI, held a morning devotional exercises at around 5:00 a.m., everything was as usual, but a fire broke out at around 7:20 a.m., then was put out at around 9:00 a.m. Officially, the fire was started from the electronic heating pad used by reproducing painters, however, there were some opinions that the fire origin was an electric generator for the fluorescent lamps used in reproducing or that it was fired on purpose, and so on, and the truth is unknown. At the time of the fire, the Kondo was half disassembled as previously mentioned, materials of the upper layer and mokoshi above the ceiling had been already disassembled to be spared from the fire. In addition, Shaka Sanzon zo (the statues of Shakyamuni triads) and other Buddha statues of the Kondo were safe, because they were moved into the Daikodo (Great Lecture Hall), Daihozoden (Treasure House), and so on. However, the murals were severely scorched and the pillars, kashira-nuki (head rail), and kumihimo (guilloche) of the first layer were burnt black.
Additionally, although the murals of the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple are often said as 'lost by fire,' the charred murals do exist today as following mentioned and it is appropriated to express them as 'damaged by fire.'

The fire damaged murals were injected acrylic and urea resins to become hardened. Then, the murals were reassembled from October 1954 to March of the following to be stored in the repository, built on the east side of the Jikido (dining hall) in the Horyu-ji Temple. In this repository the burned murals, pillars, and other materials have been arranged in their former manner, but they are not open to the public for reasons of the preservations. The Kondo was rebuilt by reusing the materials which escaped the fire in the disassembling or replacing those of the fire damaged first layer axis into new materials. The Kondo was completed in 1954.

The murals after the fire were lost most of the colors and their outlines left barely visible in the manner of a negative film image. Among the painting pigments, only Bengal red remains without chemical reaction after the fire, therefore, the outlines in Bengal red are existed. Of the murals, the No. 1 Taiheki, No. 10 Taiheki and others relatively remain their design after the fire damage, and the design and the patterns of the clothes, and so on, in the No. 12 Juichimen Kannon zo remains vividly. On the other hand, the wall No. 6, Amida Jodozu, which was considered as the master piece among the murals, has been severely damaged. In the place where the face of the Amida Nyorai, the middle Buddha image, used to be painted, a hole was drilled to let a fire hose go through so that the mural of this part was completely lost. The attendant image (Kannon Bosatsu) to the observers' right was a well-known image, which became the design for a World Cultural and Natural Heritage stamp, but the pigments comprising its face were almost lost. Although, these fire damaged murals have been usually never opened to public, in commemoration of registering Horyu-ji Temple as World Heritage, they were shown to only those selected in a lottery from November 1 thorough 23, 1994. In addition, in late July in each year, they are opened to the participants of Summer University program at Horyu-ji Temple, as a special visit to the Horyu-ji Temple.

The fire damaged murals and the survived Hiten painting on a Shoheki of the naijin were designated as important cultural properties as 'Kondo gejin kyu hekiga or tsuchikabe juni men' (12 old mural paintings [mud wall] of the gejin in the Kondo) and 'Kondo naijin kyu hekiga or tsuchikabe niju men' (20 old mural paintings [mud wall] of the naijin in the Kondo) respectively on February 8, 1958.

The Reproduction of the Murals (the First Phase)

The following four painters handled the mural reproduction started in 1940, with some assistants respectively.

Arai group: Hirokata ARAI (also known as Kanpo ARAI, 1878 - 1945), the walls No. 2 and No. 10.

Irie group: Hako IRIE (1887 - 1948), the walls No. 6 and No. 8.

Nakamura group: Gakuryo NAKAMURA (1890 - 1969), the walls No. 1 (incomplete) and No. 5.

Hashimoto group: Meiji HASHIMOTO (1904 - 1991), the walls No. 9 and No. 11 (both were incomplete).

Although two of those four, Hirokata ARAI and Hako IRIE, were not very famous painters of that period, they were assigned the important roles by the recommendation of Seiichi TAKI, an art historian. Arai was valued at his experience in imitating the mural paintings of the Ajanta Caves in India. Irie was a member of the Kokuga Sosaku Kyokai (National Creative Painting Association) founded by Bakusen TSUCHIDA and Kagaku MURAKAMI, and others in the Taisho period. However, he deeply involved in the reproduction of ancient paintings after the Japanese painting department in the Kokuga Sosaku Kyokai was dissolved in 1928. He was considered to be an expert replica painter.

Each group of Arai, Irie, Nakamura and Hashimoto handled one Taiheki and two Shoheki, and the four Taiheki, No. 1, No. 6, No. 9 and No. 10 were assigned by lottery. Four of the eight Shoheki, No. 2, No. 5, No. 8 and No. 11, were assigned to the groups, however, the rest of four Shoheki were not assigned to any groups and never worked. Also among the walls started reproduction, No. 9 and No. 11 walls attended to by the Hashimoto group and the No. 1 wall by the Nakamura group were not completed.

There was a dispute in those days inside the Horyuji hekiga hozon chosakai (Investigative Committee of Conservation for Mural Paintings of Horyu-ji Temple) on whether to execute the copying in the manner of Japanese traditional painting or Western painting.
Eisaku WADA (1874 - 1959), an artist in the Western painting, insisted that 'the colors for the mural paintings could only be reproduced with a western painting method.'
In opposition, Yukihiko YASUDA and other artists of Japanese traditional painting protested 'the lines of the murals could only be drawn within a Japanese traditional painting method.'
Neither of the parties would compromise on their opinions. Subsequently, the reproduction was performed in the Japanese traditional painting method; Eisaku WADA individually started to reproduce the mural in a western oil tradition. Wada copied the wall No. 5; however, he couldn't finish it.

In the reproduction started from 1940, fluorescent lamp, which was the latest illumination at the time and only for military purposes in Japan, was used for lighting in the Kondo. In the reproduction method, the full sized photograph taken by Benrido was collotyped lightly on washi (traditional Japanese paper) to be colored. Among the four groups, only Irie group worked on the traditional method of reproduction called 'Ageutsushiho method' consistently, not employing the method. In the Ageutsushiho method, after thin sheet of washi is placed on an original old painting or photograph to examine the transparent lines well, a painter draws the line by lifting the washi while watching the original. The washi used for this reproduction was 'Jingushi,' which was specially made in Kochi Prefecture for the painting of the life of Emperor Meiji to be exhibited at Seitoku Kinen Kaigakan (Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery) in the outer garden of the Meiji-jingu Shrine. Irie from Kyoto, and the other three artists from Kanto, seemed to have disputes over not only the reproducing method, but many other issues.

The reproduction was not only tough and lumbering task in the narrow scaffoldings in the cramped Kondo but also was extremely low-paid. Then, the reproduction was interpreted in the military-charged period around 1942. The reproduction was reorganized after the war, but Arai and Irie died in 1945 and 1948 respectively and the news of the fire damaged murals was not reported. In addition, Yoshio YOSHIDA, who became popular as an actor playing the antagonist, was among the assistants of the Irie group.

The Reproduction of the Murals (the Second Phase)

As previously described, the Kondo of Horyu-ji Temple, which partly burnt, was restored after the repair by disassembling in 1954, but the walls which once had murals were left blank. Later in 1967, by the request of the Horyu-ji Temple and backup of the Asahi Shinbun (newspaper) Company, another reproduction of the murals to install onto the blank walls was arranged. The following 14 artist painters participated in this reproduction.

Yasuda group: Yukihiko YASUDA (1884 - 1978), Koji HANEISHI, Eien IWAHASHI, and Yoshihiko YOSHIDA; the walls No. 2, No. 4 and No. 6.

Maeda group: Seison MAEDA (1885 - 1977), Chihiro KONDO, Tadashi MORIYA, and Ikuo HIRAYAMA; the walls No. 3, No. 10, and No. 12.

Hashimoto group: Meiji HASHIMOTO (1904 - 1991), Seiji NOJIMA, and Chusaku OYAMA; the walls No. 8, No. 9, and No. 11.

Yoshioka group: Kenji YOSHIOKA (1906 - 1990), Kazuho HIEDA, and Takashi ASADA; the walls No. 1, No. 5, and No. 7.

Unlike the previous reproduction since 1940, this reproduction was worked in artist's own studios, not the site of the Horyu-ji Temple. The technique used in this reproduction was to color the washi collotyped the full-scale photographs. The washi was made by Iwano Papermaking Workshop in Fukui Prefecture. Normal sized washi were jointed in a seamless manner by a special technique called 'Kuisaki' (a method to make a larger paper with small papers, through the use of wetted papers; the tearing by hand, not using cutlery, creating rougher edges in joining several papers) to be the large screen of approximately 3.1 meters in height. The paint materials were specially adjusted at Iwata hoko-do in Kyoto. In this reproduction, not only Meiji HASHINOTO, but also some assistant painters as Yoshioka, Yoshida, Kondo, Nojima, and Oyama continuously participated since the previous reproduction. This mural reproduction started from 1967, and was completed in a short time, less than one year. Then, the replicas of the murals were fitted in panels before being installed onto the walls of the Kondo in February 1968, the following year. In November of the same year, a Kaigen-hoyo (literally, eye-opening ceremony; Buddhist ceremony when the construction of a temple is completed) was held and the inside of the Kondo of the Horyu-ji Temple was restored to the pre-fire condition.

At the Horyu-ji Temple on each January 26 (the memorial day of the fire in the Kondo), 'Kondo hekiga shoson jishuku hoyo' (Buddhist memorial service in self-discipline for the burnout of wall paintings within the main temple structure) is held at the Kondo and the repository, and a fire drill is carried out afterwards.