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1,028 media by topicpage 1 of 11

Three Poems from the “Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern” (Kokin wakashū), known as the “Araki Fragment” (Araki-gire)

Calligraphy traditionally attributed to Fujiwara no Yukinari (Kōzei) (Japanese, 972–1027) late Heian period (ca. 900–1185)

Excerpts from Bai Juyi's "Biography of a Master of Drunken Poetry" (Suigin sensei den)

Comprising just four columns of Chinese calligraphy removed from a long handscroll, this precious fragment of early eleventh-century calligraphy has been mounted as a hanging scroll. It was brushed by the celeb... more

Sketch of an "Inviting Rain" Mandala

This unusual mandala, a sketch from a compendium of esoteric Buddhist images, set in the watery world of dragon kings, was used in rites to end drought. Interestingly, there are no known polychrome or highly fi... more

Segment of the Lotus Sutra (Hokekyō)

This five-line segment of a sumptuous scroll of the Lotus Sutra perfectly embodies the aesthetics and religious practice of the late Heian period. The text, from chapter 19, is a litany of fabled fragrances. Th... more

Iconographic Drawing of Saturn (Doyō)

Rituals dedicated to the stars and planets were introduced to Japan from China in the ninth century together with Esoteric Buddhist teachings. Doyō (Sanskrit: Shanaishchara), or the planet Saturn, is one of the... more

Memyo Bosatsu

This iconographic drawing represents Memyo Bosatsu, a deity of sericulture who provides the poor with clothes. The bodhisattva is thought to have originally been a deity indigenous to Chinese popular cults that... more

Three poems from the “Later Collection of Japanese Poems” (Gosen wakashū), known as the “Karasumaru Fragment” (Karasumaru-gire)

Traditionally attributed to Fujiwara no Sadayori (Japanese, 995–1045) Heian period (794–1185)

Daiitoku Myōō

Daiitoku Myōō (Sanskrit: Yamantaka) is one of the five Great Light Kings of Esoteric Buddhism. His Sanskrit name means "one who stops the power of the King of Hell." He is shown with multiple heads, eyes, legs,... more

Landscape in the style of Fan Kuan

Once considered a work of the Ming period (1368–1644), this monumental landscape in the style of Fan Kuan can be dated stylistically to the twelfth century. A mountainscape built up in three stages, the paintin... more

Daishōjin Bosatsu, from “Album of Buddhist Deities from the Diamond World and Womb World Mandalas” (“Kontai butsugajō”)

A serene bodhisattva, or compassionate Buddhist deity, wearing an elaborate golden crown sits on a large lotus pedestal. The rainbow of colors on the body, garments, and halo are remarkably preserved from the t... more

Three Poems from the “Later Collection of Japanese Poems” (Gosen wakashū), or “Shirakawa Fragment” (Shirakawa-gire)

Traditionally attributed to Monk Saigyō (Japanese, 1118–1190) Heian period (794–1185)

Kongōyasha Myōō

Kongōyasha Myōō is one of the Five Great Guardian Kings in Esoteric Buddhism. His ferocious aspect is a manifestation of the wrath of the Five Wisdom Buddhas against evil. Kongōyasha Myōō is presented with thre... more

Travelers in a Wintry Forest

During the tenth and eleventh centuries, majestic trees rivaled panoramic landscapes as sources of artistic inspiration. The hermit-painter Jing Hao (act. 900–930), for example, saw in the pine tree "the moral ... more

Page from the Illustrations and Explanations of the Three Jewels (Sanbō ekotoba), known as the Tōdaiji Fragment (Tōdaiji-gire)

Calligraphy attributed to Minamoto no Toshiyori (Japanese, 1055–1129) Heian period (794–1185)

Page from Illustrations and Explanations of the Three Jewels (Sanbō e-kotoba), one of the “Tōdaiji Fragments” (Tōdaiji-gire)

Illustrations and Explanations of the Three Jewels was originally compiled in 984 by the courtier-poet Minamoto no Tamenori as an introductory guide to Buddhism. The “Three Jewels” of Buddhism comprise the Budd... more

Anchira-taisho Jochi

The subject of this iconographic drawing, which originally belonged to Kōzanji, a temple in the mountains northwest of Kyoto, is generally identified as General Anchira (Andira in Sanskrit), one of the twelve g... more

Ten Kings of Hell

This is one from a set of scrolls (30.76.290–.294) illustrating the theme of the Ten Kings of Hell, which developed during the second half of the Tang dynasty (618–907). The theme transforms the Indian Buddhist... more

Ten Kings of Hell

This is one from a set of scrolls (30.76.290–.294) illustrating the theme of the Ten Kings of Hell, which developed during the second half of the Tang dynasty (618–907). The theme transforms the Indian Buddhist... more

Ten Kings of Hell

This is one from a set of scrolls (30.76.290–.294) illustrating the theme of the Ten Kings of Hell, which developed during the second half of the Tang dynasty (618–907). The theme transforms the Indian Buddhist... more

Ten Kings of Hell

This is one from a set of scrolls (30.76.290–.294) illustrating the theme of the Ten Kings of Hell, which developed during the second half of the Tang dynasty (618–907). The theme transforms the Indian Buddhist... more

Ten Kings of Hell

This is one from a set of scrolls (30.76.290–.294) illustrating the theme of the Ten Kings of Hell, which developed during the second half of the Tang dynasty (618–907). The theme transforms the Indian Buddhist... more

Children Playing in the Palace Garden

Children at play was a popular subject among artists of the Song Imperial Painting Academy. In this example, twenty-two boys play games, ride hobbyhorses, and enjoy a large masonry slide in a corner of the impe... more

White-Robed Kannon

This graceful frontal view of Kannon (Sanskrit: Pandaravasini) emphasizes the deity's dignity and compassion. It derives from Esoteric Buddhist iconography that systematically groups deities into mandalas of th... more

"Imperial Visit to the Great Horse Race at the Kaya-no-in Mansion" (Kaya-no-in komakurabe gyōkō emaki), from the Tale of Flowering Fortunes (Eiga monogatari)

A few days in the autumn of 1024 are the setting for this episode from the quasi-historical chronicle of the life of Fujiwara Michinaga (966–1027), the great Heian-court politician and patron of the arts. As th... more

Competition Between Poets of Different Eras (Jidai fudō uta awase), depicting the poet Minamoto no Hitoshi

This hanging scroll illustrates part of an imaginary poetry competition among fifty poets from the past. The selection of poems from old anthologies and their arrangement into "competing" pairs is traditionally... more

The Tale of Sumiyoshi (Sumiyoshi monogatari)

Anonymously authored in the mid-tenth century, The Tale of Sumiyoshi is one of Japan’s earliest romantic novels, predating The Tale of Genji by a half century. This story of two lovers who, after a long separat... more

Buddha Amitabha Descending from His Pure Land

The imagery in this painting shows the Buddha Amitabha descending from his Pure Land to welcome the soul of a recently deceased individual into his paradisiacal abode. Amitabha is one of several Buddhas who cre... more

Amida Triad in the Form of Sacred Sanskrit Syllables

Embroidered Buddhist images were introduced to Japan from China in the sixth century. Large embroideries were prominent among icons from the sixth through the ninth century and were often hung in temple lecture... more

The Bodhisattva Manjushri (Monju Bosatsu)

The bodhisattva Manjushri holds his identifying attributes—sword and sutra—and appears, as he often does, as a youth to symbolize the purity of his wisdom. A pair of mystic syllables at the top corners of the p... more

Kasuga Mandala

The area of Kasuga was chosen by Fujiwara Fuhito (659–720) to enshrine his ancestral clan deities when the Japanese imperial court moved to Nara in the early eighth century. Here, the Kasuga Shrine and its envi... more

The Poet Fujiwara Kiyotada, from the Narikane Version of the Thirty-six Poetic Immortals

Thirty-six poets were selected in the late tenth century as the Poetic Immortals (Sanjūrokkasen), and soon thereafter imaginary portraits of them (kasen-e) were made. The present fragment once belonged to a lon... more

Amitabha triad

The Amitabha Buddha (Korean: Amita) was the focus of worship in Pure Land Buddhism, which enjoyed great popularity during the Goryeo period. Devotees were promised entrance to Amitabha’s Western Paradise upon r... more

Benzaiten and Fifteen Attendants

Kamakura period (1185–1333)


In the style of Muqi (Chinese, ca. 1210–after 1269) Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)


Fourteenth-century renderings of arhats (or luohans), particularly from the second half of that period, are imbued with an intensity that differs markedly from the more serene representations of these figures t... more

Sakyamuni and Attendant Bodhisattvas in a Landscape

This painting stands midway between the hieratic icons employed in formal temple ceremonies and the informal images that served Chan (or Zen) monks as personal devotional images for use in meditation. The intim... more

Ox and Herdsman

Unidentified Artist Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

Eleven-Headed Kannon on Mount Fudaraka

Described in the sutras as a mountainous island in the southern sea, Mount Fudaraka (Sanskrit: Potalaka) is said to be the residence of the bodhisattva Kannon (Sanskrit: Avalokiteshvara). In China, this island ... more

Three poems from the Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern (Kokin wakashū)

Connoisseurs in the past attributed this work to the hand of courtier-poet Fujiwara no Tameyori. In doing so, they seem to have made a speculative connection between the content of the calligraphic fragment, in... more

The Illustrated Sutra of Past and Present Karma (Kako genzai inga kyō emaki)

Sinicized figures representing the Buddha’s father and his men occupy a landscape with a rolling hill and trees. The text beneath the illustration relates how Prince Siddhartha (the historical Buddha) travels t... more


In the style of Muqi (Chinese, ca. 1210–after 1269) Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

Shaka (Shakyamuni) Triad

This painting shows Shaka in his fully enlightened state, enthroned and flanked by his bodhisattva attendants: Monju (Manjushri), riding a golden lion, and Fugen (Samantabhadra), riding a white elephant. Servin... more

Buddha Amitabha descending from his Pure Land

This painting, traditionally ascribed by Japanese scholars to a Song Buddhist painter named Zhang Sigong, represents the Buddha Amitabha (J.: Amida) welcoming souls into his Western Paradise. The drapery of the... more

Mandala of Monju Bosatsu

At the center of this mandala, which was used in rites to prevent natural calamities, is an orb framing Monju Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Bodhisattva Manjushri) surrounded by eight tiny Sanskrit seed syllables and eight... more

Two Poems from the Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern, Continued (Zoku Shoku kokin wakashū)

Nun Abutsu (Abutsu-ni), one of the most celebrated woman writers of the age, earned literary fame for her moving account of palace and temple culture in her Diary of the Waning Moon (Izayoi nikki). Before takin... more

Section of the Dream Diary (Yume no ki) with a Sketch of Mountains

The content of a dream is inscribed in a mixture of Chinese characters and Japanese phonetic syllables known as katakana, along with a sketchy depiction of three mountains. The dreamer records a meeting with tw... more

Letter to the Nun Jōjūbō

Myōe Kōben (Japanese, 1173–1232) Kamakura period (1185–1333)

Section of the Dream Diary (Yume no ki)

This long text is written in Chinese characters mixed with Japanese syllables, called katakana for their inflected verb endings. Katakana originally functioned as a mnemonic device used primarily by monks, but ... more

Chan master riding a mule

Painted in a few swift brushstrokes and deftly applied ink washes, Chan Master Riding a Mule exemplifies the freely expressive manner of Chan (Zen, in Japanese) Buddhist painting, which relies less on descripti... more

Meeting between Yaoshan and Li Ao

This painting was inscribed by the Chan (Zen) Buddhist priest Yanxi Guangwen between 1254 and 1256, while he was abbot of Lingyin temple in Hangzhou. The work is an important example of early Chan Buddhist "app... more

Satsubari, the Second of the Sixteen Arhats

Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)

Deer Mandala of Kasuga Shrine

Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)

Farewell by a Stream on a Clear Day

Zhao Yuan was a member of Suzhou literary circles and a close friend of many late Yuan scholar-painters, including Ni Zan (1306-1374) and Wang Meng (ca. 1308-1385).Farewell by a Stream on a Clear Day is painted... more

Mikaeri Jizō Bosatsu

The merciful bodhisattva Jizō is shown leading a soul to paradise. Standing atop a cloud with his left foot forward and a golden staff held back over his shoulder, he turns to gaze with gentle vigilance. Popula... more


According to Buddhist scripture, arhats (Japanese: rakan) are protectors of the Dharma who also use assorted magical powers to assist the faithful. They were frequently depicted in groups of eight, sixteen, eig... more

Taima Mandala

The Taima Mandala represents the Pure Land of the Buddha Amida (Sanskrit: Amitābha) bordered on three sides by parables from the Sutra on the Meditation on the Buddha of Infinite Life (Kanmuryō jukyō ). This te... more

The Four Deities of Kōyasan Temple Complex

The four deities in court dress represent a hierarchy of local Shinto gods (kami) important to Kōyasan, the great mountain-based complex of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. The upper pair comprises Kariba Myōjin (mal... more

Mandala of Hannya Bosatsu

The bodhisattva Hannya, an emanation of the Cosmic Buddha Dainichi as the embodiment of ultimate knowledge and perfect wisdom, is depicted in the center of the painting, seated on a lotus pedestal and mounted o... more

Scene from The Illustrated Legends of Jin’ōji Temple (Jin’ōji engi emaki)

Jin’ōji Temple is associated with the ascetic hermit monk En no Gyōja. Legend has it that he ordered a shikigami (a local deity represented as a small ghost) to guide the Korean deity Hōshō Gongen (Korean: Bose... more

Cicada on a Grapevine

At the end of summer, the leaves of a grapevine have withered, its fruits have ripened, and a solitary cicada clings to the vine. This scroll was originally paired with a painting now in the collection of the K... more

Crane in a bamboo grove

A favorite image in Chinese society and a familiar presence in imperial gardens as well as refined scholarly retreats, cranes were also renowned as the vehicles of Daoist immortals. Their long life span and loy... more

Prince Shōtoku at Age Sixteen

Imaginary portraits and legends about the life of Prince Shōtoku (574?–622), the champion of Japanese Buddhism, emerged immediately after his death in 622. This painting of Shōtoku is based on his biography, wh... more

Illustrated Biography of Prince Shōtoku

Prince Shōtoku (574?–622), a fervent champion of Buddhism against the often fierce opposition of the hereditary clans in charge of Shinto ritual, was venerated within a century after his death as an incarnation... more

Scholar Viewing Plum Blossoms

This small landscape is a rare example of the continuation of the Southern Song Painting Academy manner during the Mongol occupation. With the establishment of the native Chinese Ming dynasty in 1368, the Song ... more

Portrait of En no Gyōja

En no Gyōja, the legendary founder of Shugendō, a sect of mountain-dwelling religious practitioners, is said to have lived during the seventh century on Mount Katsuragi, near the ancient capital of Nara. En no ... more

Water-Moon Avalokiteshvara

Unidentified Artist Goryeo dynasty (918–1392)

Shakyamuni Triad with the Sixteen Protectors of the Great Wisdom Sutra

The historical Buddha Shakyamuni, known as Shaka in Japanese, sits on a lotus throne at the center of this painting—impressive in size, precision of brushwork, and coloration. He is surrounded by an entourage o... more

Welcoming Descent of Amida and Bodhisattvas

Like many of the works of art created to represent the Pure Land belief in salvation through faith, raigō ("welcoming descent") paintings like this one were indispensable religious furnishings at the time of de... more

Descent of Eleven-Headed Kannon

The bodhisattva Kannon is closely associated with the Buddha of Infinite Light, Amida Nyorai, who vowed to save all sentient beings by bringing them to his Pure Land in the West. This role is indicated in the i... more

Shaka, Monju, Fugen and the Ten Great Disciples (Jūdai Deshi)

The enlightened historical Buddha Shaka (Sanskrit: Shakyamuni) is enthroned and flanked by his ten chief disciples and his bodhisattva attendants—Fugen (Samantabhadra), on a white elephant, and Monju (Manjushri... more

Descent and Return of Amida to Western Paradise with a Believer's Soul (Gōshō mandara)

This painting of Amida (Sanskrit: Amitâbha) receiving the soul of the warrior Kumagai Naozane (1141–1208) is based on a dream recorded by the founder of the Pure Land sect, Hōnen (1133–1212). Naozane's taking o... more

Miroku Bosatsu

Miroku Bosatsu (Sanskrit: Maitreya Bodhisattva), the future Buddha, resides in the Tushita heaven, awaiting rebirth on earth. He usually has a princely appearance and holds a stupa. Legends say that Vasubandhu ... more

Orchids and Rock

In the final stroke of the smoothly inflected brush line, the semicursive calligraphy of Bonpō’s inscription is visually united with the expansive rendering of the orchid’s supple leaves and fragile blossoms. O... more

A Nenbutsu Gathering at Ichiya, Kyoto, from the Illustrated Biography of the Monk Ippen and His Disciple Ta'a (Yugyō Shōnin engi-e)

In this scene, people from all walks of life have gathered to hear the charismatic monk Ippen (1239-1289) perform a recitation of the Nenbutsu prayer invoking Amitabha. The crowd's anticipation nearly bursts fr... more

One of the Twelve Devas: Bonten

Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)

“The Mountain is Empty; A Pinecone Falls”

A single column of dramatically cursive script reads, “The mountain is empty, / A pinecone drops.” This short line was taken from a longer poem by Wei Yingwu (737–790), one of the most renowned poets of Tang-dy... more

Letter to Monk Sekibyō

Zekkai Chūshin (Japanese, 1336–1405) Muromachi period (1392–1573)

Poem in Chinese about Sugar

A prominent figure in early fourteenth-century Japanese Zen, Shiren was born into an aristocratic family in Kyoto and studied Zen in Kamakura with the Chinese émigré monk Yishan Yining (Japanese: Issan Ichinei,... more


A compassionate bodhisattva who rescues sentient beings from descending into hell or purgatory, Kshitigarbha (Korean: Jijang) became enormously popular during the Goryeo period. A key figure in Pure Land Buddhi... more


This decorative work of the Piling school of flower painting compares closely to signed works by the late-fourteenth-century painter Lü Jingfu. Originally one of a matching pair of panels, the painting shows bu... more

Mandala of Kasuga Shrine

Combining the conceptual framework of the Buddhist mandala with elements of traditional Japanese painting, artists produced representations of shrine precincts in this unique genre of painting known as “shrine ... more

Wintry Plum (Han Mei)

The plum, the first flower to appear in spring, is celebrated along with bamboo and pine as one of the Three Friends of Winter. Admired for its purity and hardiness, sending forth new shoots and delicate blosso... more

Death of the Historical Buddha (Nehan-zu)

Essential tenets of Buddhism are explicit in paintings of the Buddha Shakyamuni’s nirvana, his passing from earthly life to the ultimate goal of an enlightened being: release from the bonds of existence through... more

Poem on the Theme of Snow

Musō Soseki, the expert calligrapher of this verse, was one of the most influential Zen priests of the fourteenth century, having trained under the Chinese émigré Yishan Yining (Japanese: Issan Ichinei; 1247–13... more

One of the Twelve Devas: Katen

Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)

Shaka Nyorai

Shaka Nyorai, or the historical Buddha Shakyamuni (the sage of the Shakya tribe who attained enlightenment), lived in India from about 563 to 483 B.C. He is portrayed here sitting cross-legged on a lotus throne... more

Arhat from a series of sixteen Arhats

According to Buddhist scripture, arhats (Japanese: rakan) are protectors of the Dharma who also use assorted magical powers to assist the faithful. They were frequently depicted in groups of eight, sixteen, eig... more

Portrait of Xuanzang (Genjō) with Attendant

The monk’s features are outlined in a taut, incised manner that derives from a Tang-dynasty (618–907) mode of representation. The “iron wire” line, usually reserved for religious subjects, connotes venerability... more

Kumano Shrine Mandala

Kumano mandalas represent the Kumano Shrine complex, one of the most sacred sites in Japan. The painting is divided into three sections. At center, Buddhas and bodhisattvas sit on the tiled floor of a temple. I... more

Illustrated Biography of Prince Shōtoku

Prince Shōtoku (574?–622), a fervent champion of Buddhism against the often fierce opposition of the hereditary clans in charge of Shinto ritual, was venerated within a century after his death as an incarnation... more

Lotus and waterbirds

Imported from India, the lotus—growing from the slime of a pond, its blossoms blooming unsullied—was linked to Buddhist images of purity and rebirth. By the thirteenth century, naturalistic depictions of lotus ... more

Aizen Myōō

The blood-red body and flaming halo of Aizen Myōō, the Wisdom King of Passion, symbolize how, in Buddhist practice, the violent energies of carnality and desire can be converted in the pursuit of enlightenment.... more

Jizō Bosatsu in Welcoming Descent (Jizō bosatsu raigō)

Veneration of the bodhisattva Jizō (Sanskrit: Kshitagarbha) became widespread during the Kamakura period. Among the iconographies associated with Jizō that originated in this period is this one, in which he man... more

Shaka Triad and Sixteen Arhats

This scroll depicts the Buddha Shaka (Sanskrit: Sakyamuni) on a bank of swirling clouds at upper center, preaching to a varied group of bodhisattvas, arhats, and historical Japanese figures at Vulture Peak. Sha... more

Amitabha and Kshitigarba

The combination of the Amitabha Buddha (Korean: Amita) and the bodhisattva Kshitigarbha (Korean: Jijang)—on the right and left, respectively, standing under a canopy—is the only known example of this iconograph... more

Poem on the Theme of a Monk’s Life

Sesson Yūbai, one of the most accomplished literati Zen monks, was both proficient in calligraphy and learned in Chinese poetry. After studying with the Chinese émigré monk Yishan Yining (Japanese: Issan Ichine... more

Battle at Rokuhara, from The Tale of the Heiji Rebellion (Heiji monogatari)

This fragment is one of fourteen salvaged from a handscroll illustrating the epic battle narrative The Tale of the Heiji Rebellion, which describes the confrontation in late 1159 between two rival military clan... more

Taima Mandala

This Taima mandala offers a resplendent vision of the Western Pure Land, a paradise over which Amida presides and to which he welcomes all beings who call upon his name. Amida sits enthroned at the center of th... more

Crows in Old Trees

This painting, by the southern artist Luo Zhichuan, demonstrates the renewed interest in the brush idioms of the Northern Song artists Li Cheng (919–967) and Guo Xi (ca. 1000–ca. 1090) that grew after the Mongo... more