Mr. Swift to Mr. Blaine.

No. 106.]

Sir: Some time since Mr. V. Marshall Law, a citizen of the United States residing in Tokio, informed me that he had in his possession a section of rope made of human hair which had been used as an ordinary cable in lifting building material in the construction of a Buddhist temple at Kioto, in Japan, which he desired to transmit as a free gift to the Smithsonian Institution for final deposit as an object of general public interest. He at the same time inquired if I could in any manner facilitate the transport of this curious rope to its place of destination, inasmuch as for him to do so would involve on his part some outlay of money and other inconveniences more or less difficult to overcome. As I understood Mr. Law to say, the priests of the temple only consented to part with the piece of rope upon the positive assurance from him that the rope was not for Mr. Law, but for the American nation, and that it would be placed in the Smithsonian Institution as a public [Page 593] deposit, and, in fact, that they intended it as a gift to the people of the United States, positively declining to allow any private person to have what they regarded as a sacred thing.

Under these circumstances, I have thought it proper to assist in its conveyance and delivery and to utilize the return dispatch pouch to transmit the rope to the United States, in the belief that you will consider this curious relic worthy of being so officially fowarded and approve my action.

I have the honor, therefore, to request that you will cause the section of human hair rope, with the accompanying photograph of the entire rolls of cable still remaining at the new Buddhist temple at Kioto, as well as the papers and documents, including a copy of the letter from Mr. Law, to be delivered to the Smithsonian Institution in such manner as you may deem suitable and proper.

I have, etc,

John F. Swift.
[Inclosure in No. 106.]

Mr. Law to Mr. Swift.

Honorable and Dear Sir: The writer sends you to-day a section of rope made of human hair, also a large photograph of all the remaining hair cables in existence at this time, a table of the names of provinces of the donors showing the size and length of each of the ropes used in the construction of the eastern Hon-gwan-ji temple at Kioto, and a lithograph drawn to scale of that famous Buddhist edifice, with the request that if it meets with your approval it may be forwarded to the Smithsonian Institution in the United States, with such of the latter-named documents as may, in your estimation, be of interest to the patrons of that institution.

These articles came jnto my possession under the following circumstances: Last July the writer visited Kioto, and while looking over that ancient city of Japan visited the Hon-gwan-ji temple, then almost completed. His attention was particularly drawn to the numerous black hair cables lying about, all of which were or had been in use for elevating heavy timbers, etc. Upon inquiry he learned that these ropes were made from the hair of men and women who were the followers of Buddha, and who had sacrificed their long hair that these ropes might be made. The writer was impressed with the fact that these hair ropes told an eloquent story of the self-sacrificing devotion of the followers of this religion, and he at once made efforts to secure pieces of the ropes to send to the Smithsonian Institution. Every effort made at that time failed, and the best he could do was to request that his application be placed “on file” and brought before the council of Buddhist priests. As many sight-seers had already made efforts to beg or buy pieces of these ropes to no purpose, the writer suffered many a quiet “smile” from his friends, who, while they were astonished at the writer’s audacity, felt that they knew perfectly well that he would never get a piece of those ropes under any pretext whatever. But at last, after more than 7 months, the leading Buddhist priest of Japan, Hiramatz Rei, has delivered to the writer the section of the largest cable called for, along with the photograph and printed tables of length and weight, the two latter having been especially provided by them, in order that Americans might the better judge of the enormous quantity of hair furnished them for the making of these ropes. The writer can not rid himself of the idea that the religious people of America can learn a lesson of personal sacrifice and devotion from these followers of Buddha in Japan. How many churches would be built in Christendom if the rank and file were called upon to sacrifice their hair for the manufacture of the necessary ropes and cables?

Respectfully submitting these relics to your disposal, in accordance with a pledge made to Mr. Hiramatz Rei, the writer remains,

Yours, very sincerely,

V. Marshall Law,
25 Tsukiji, Tokio.

Since the 13th year of Meiji (1880), when the rebuilding of the two halls of the eastern Hon-gwan-ji, in Kioto, vtas begun, the faithful laymen and lay women of every place have been unanimous in presenting to the principal temple (Hon-zan) strong [Page 594] ropes made of their own hairs to be used for the work. The number of these ropes reached 53 lines in all, and 29 of them were already broken or became useless from frequent using, though they were equally very strong. The length and weight, etc., of these ropes are no longer known, but there exist 24 lines. For the sake of menfory of the future, therefore, we make a table of the names of the donators’ places and of the length and weight of the existing 24 lines.

I.—A table of the names of the provinces of the donators of the hair ropes.

Province. Line. Province. Line.
Etchu 16 Harima 3
Echigo 15 Iwaki 1
Ugo 10 Bungo 1
Sanuki 4
Echizen 3 Total 53

II.—A table of the number, length, and iveight of the existing hair ropes.

Number. Length. Circle or circumference. Weight. Number. Length. Circle or circumference. Weight.
Jo, shaku. Shaku, sun, bu. Kwan, momme. Jo, shaku. Shaku, sun, bu. Kwan, momme.
1 13,8 6,0 18,300 15 7,6 6,8 23,700
2 36,0 1,3,0 280,000 16 7,5 6,5 10,000
3 30,3 1,0,0 66,000 17 31,5 9,0 70,500
4 23,7 7,5 28,500 18 24,0 5,5 65,300
5 15,6 6,5 1,600 19 23,6 9,4 57,800
6 14,4 6,0 14,800 20 22,8 1,1,0 100,000
7 17,1 6,0 23,000 21 16,2 7,0 20,000
8 20,1 9,0 42,700 22 13,8 6,3 13,800
9 29,1 6,0 40,600 23 11,4 4,4 8,750
10 25,8 7,0 46,000 24 12,6 6,3 16,000
11 8,8 4,0 13,200
12 11,3 7,5 17,600 Total 452,8 7,5,8 11051,650
13 28,2 9,5 63,000
14 7,6 5,6 10,500

1 jo=9.9421186 feet. 1 shaku=11.930542 inches. 1 bu=1.4316650 line. 1 kwan=10.064575 pounds. 1 momme=2.4154980 pennyweights.

The commas between the figures are used as we would use a ruling. Thus in the first column it reads 13 jo and 8 shaku.