The Six Realms of Birth, 10 hanging scroll paintings

Edo period, 19th century AD

From a set of 15

The six realms of birth (rokudō), as interpreted by the Tendai sect monk Genshin (Eshin Sōzu, 942-1017) in his seminal Ojō yōshū (The Foundations of Rebirth, 985), are full of horrors that contrast with the bliss of the Buddha Amida's Western Paradise. Until released by enlightenment from the cycle of rebirth, sentient beings must constantly incarnate through these six realms of, respectively, hell, hungry ghosts, warrior demons, beasts, human beings and heavenly beings.

These ten scrolls come from what must have originally been a set of fifteen. They are nineteenth-century copies of a famous set of hell paintings thought to date from the late thirteenth century, originally from Ryōzen-in at Yokawa on Mt. Hiei and now at Shōju Raigō-ji Temple, Shiga.

The subjects of the ten scrolls are:
1. Court of King Emma in Hell
2. Equally Reviving Hell
3. Uniting Hell
4. Realm of Hungry Ghosts
5. Realm of Beasts
6. Realm of Bellicose Demons (Ashura)
7. Realm of Human Beings -- Nine Impure Aspects
8. Realm of Human Beings -- Four Painful Aspects of Old Age, Sickness and Death
9. Realm of Human Beings -- Parting by Death from Wind, Fire and Water
10. Redemption of Sins and Ascension to Paradise through the Efficacy of the Nembutsu

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More information


W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)


Height: 1526.000 mm (each scroll)
Width: 670.000 mm (each scroll)

Museum number

Asia JA JP 2-11 (1881,12-10.068-77)


William Anderson Collection


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