- Museum number
Painting, hanging scroll. Mandala, showing precincts and building of Kasuga Shrine in upper half; Buddhist deities installed in halls of Kofuku-ji temple in lower half; at very top, five small disks depicting Buddhist deities. Ink, colours and gold on silk. With paulownia storage box.
- Production date
- Early 15thC
Height: 168.50 centimetres (mount)
Height: 99.80 centimetres
Width: 51.50 centimetres (mount)
Width: 35 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Smith et al 1990
A mandala is a schematic painting which visually relates elements of ultimate reality to each other in the form of visible symbols (see also 1881, 1210, 59). In Japan one particular form of mandala developed expressing and trying to resolve the difficulties caused by tensions between imported Buddhism and the native Shinto religion. This was achieved theologically by the doctrine of Honji Suijaku developed in the Heian period, which explained that the Shinto deities (kami) were in fact manifestations of universal Buddhist deities. As part of this process of reconciliation, the Shinto shrines were often linked to Buddhist temples which were assumed to have a protective relationship with them. Of all the shrines close to metropolitan areas the grandest was the Kasuga Taisha in Nara, which still dominates the old eastern end of the town right up to and into the hills.
This mandala presents the 'suijaku' interpretation in a graphic form easily understood, even by the uneducated. A phalanx of Buddhist deities, emanating from the direction of the Kofukuji Temple (in the foreground), are ranged before the shrine, and five of these are repeated in roundels in the sky. These represent the five main 'kami' of the Kasuga shrine in Buddhist form, together with the moon which is one of the symbols of the principal Kasuga deity. In between spreads the shrine, laid out in pure Yamato-e landscape style, seen from a very high viewpoint and looking across to the nearby hills.
Sekiguchi, Masayuki, 'Suijakuga (Nihon no bijutsu no. 274)', Tokyo, 1989
Interaction between Buddhism and the native Shintō resulted in the ‘honji suijaku’ concept by which Shintō and Buddhist deities were identified with each other. The Fujiwara clan's ancestral Kasuga shrine, established in AD 709 adjacent to the Buddhist Kōfukuji temple at Nara, has five Shintō deities which were equated with the five Kōfukuji deities, and the cult survived the decline of the Fujiwara. This ‘maṇḍala’ shows the shrine buildings against mountains with bands of mist symbolising its holy aura. The Buddhist deities at the top, counterparts of those in the four main Kasuga buildings and the later Wakamiya shrine, are repeated below with other deities and guardians.
Hizo Nihon bijutsu taikan Vol 1
Kasuga Shrine in Nara is dedicated to the deities associated with the Fujiwara clan; it is also linked closely with neighboring Kofuku-ji, the clan's Buddhist temple. The two part composition of this painting, properly termed a Kasuga Shrine-and-Temple Mandara, reflects this relationship. The upper half of the composition shows the precincts and building of Kasuga Shrine; the lower half depicts the Buddhist deities installed in the halls of Kofuku-ji temple.
The Kasuga precinct begins with the First Kasuga Torii and the Two Kasuga Pagodas located just inside, further up the pilgrimage path through the Second Torii lies the main compound with the four principle shrine halls; over to the right lies the Wakamiya complex. Vermilion 'torii' (gateways making the entry to Shinto shrines) and bridges along with white walls are shown through the mist, sometimes only faintly visible. Pilgrimage paths through the shrine precinct and details of the vermilion and white building are highlighted in gold. The moon floats just above the overlapping forms of Mt. Kasuga and Mt. Mikasa.
At the very top of the painting hover five small disks depicting the Buddhist deities who are considered the "original ground" of the kami enshrined in the main halls of the shrine complex. From right to left these Buddhist deities are: Manjusri (Monju Bodhisattva associated with Wakamiya); Sakyamuni (Shaka Nyorai associated with the First Shrine); Bhaishajyaguru (Yakushi Nyorai associated with the Second Shrine); Ksitigarbha (Jizo Bodhisattva associated with the Third Shrine); and Eleven-headed Avalokitesvara (Kannon Bodhisattva associated with the Fourth Shrine).
The iconographic forms of the Buddhist deities installed in the various halls of Kofuku-ji are shown in the lower half of the composition. These deities are arranged in three rows. In the upper middle are the deities of the lecture hall, Amitabha with his attendants Manjusri and Vimalakirti; to the right is Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara and a venerable priest, both associated with the refectory; to the left is Maitreya Buddha and two bodhisattvas seated in 'hanka' poses, associated with the Hokuen-do. In the middle row is a Sakyamuni Triad from the Main Golden Hall, with Sri Laksmi of the east gate and Maitreya Bodhisattva of the west gate; to the right are Bhaishajyaguru, Manjusri, Shoryochi Taisho and Sakyamuni, all associated with the East Golden Hall. At the left are a Sakyamuni Triad, Indra, and Vaisravana (Bishamon-ten and Brahma, associated with the West Golden Hall). In the lower row are two deva kings associated with the Middle Gate, and at the left is Amoghapasa (Fukukensaku Kannon) associated with the Nan'en-do. At the very bottom of the work stand the 'kongo rikishi', musclebound figures associated with the Great South Gate. The four deva kings are placed one at each corner. In addition to these iconographical figures, the Kofuku-ji compound also includes several buildings, among them a five-story pagoda and a few small shrines.
The work is painted on silk of a somewhat rough weave and likely dates from the Muromachi period. However, the work has elaborate detail with outstanding use of the 'urahaku' technique, which entails impressing gold into the silk from behind, for the halos and pedestals. Fine brushwork and deep rich colors also contribute to giving the work an air of mystery and profundity. (Translated by Bruce Darling)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2019 2 October - 24 November, BM Mitsubishi Corporation Japanese Galleries, 'Nara: Sacred Images from Early Japanl'
2010 Jun-Oct, BM Japanese Galleries, ‘Japan from prehistory to the present’
2006 Oct 13-2007 Feb 11, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
- Acquisition date
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Asia painting number: Jap.Ptg.Add.371 (Japanese Painting Additional Number)