Avalokiteshvara, a hanging scroll painting

From Korea
Choson dynasty, 14th century AD

Many Buddhist works of art were produced during the Koryo period (918-1392), when Buddhism was established as the royal religion. However, with the fall of the dynasty, the production and quality of Buddhist art declined. The newly-established Choson dynasty embraced Neo-Confucianism as the official ideology, and persecuted Buddhism.

This painting of Avalokiteshvara is thought to have been made in the early Choson period, when Buddhism was no longer supported by the court. It is painted in ink and colours on silk. The background to the figure is plain, and the style is clearly simpler when compared to the elaborately decorated paintings of the Koryo period.

Avalokiteshvara is the bodhisattva of compassion who served to save all beings in this life from suffering. The worship of Avalokiteshvara spread in Korea due to the popularity and importance of two Buddhist scriptures (the Lotus Sutra and the Flower Garland Sutra), which set out in detail Avalokiteshvara's compassionate nature. There is also a legend which tells of an encounter with Avalokiteshvara by the eminent Korean monk Uisang. This must have helped to bring him to prominence on the peninsula.

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More information

Bibliography

J. Portal, Korea - art and archaeology (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

Dimensions

Height: 1720.000 mm
Width: 700.000 mm

Museum number

Asia OA 1965.12-17.03

RFC1731

Purchased with the assistance of the Brooke Sewell Fund

Location

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