The World's Largest Public Domain Source

  • homeHome
  • searchSearch
  • photo_albumStories
  • collectionsCollections
  • infoAbout

  • account_boxLogin
1,342 media by topicpage 1 of 14

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)

Library Scene

Unidentified Artist Song dynasty (?) (960–1279)

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

Scroll of Mudras

This handscroll depicts hand gestures known as mudras in Sanskrit, the Indian language in which many early Esoteric Buddhist texts were written. In Japan, the gestures are called insō, the Japanese term for a C... more

Palace Ladies Bathing Children

Depictions of the daily life of court ladies became a special genre of painting under the influence of the eighth-century painter Zhou Fang and his tenth-century follower Zhou Wenju. Painting in a richly detail... more

Samyutagama Sutra, chapter 25

Sutra writing developed its own distinctive tradition of regular script in which individual characters retained the squat, fleshy proportions and compact strokes of early clerical script. In this scroll, compri... more

Scroll of Mudras

This handscroll depicts hand gestures known as mudras in Sanskrit, the Indian language in which many early Esoteric Buddhist texts were written. In Japan the gestures are called insō, the Japanese term for a Ch... more

Summer Mountains

Between the years 900 and 1100, Chinese paint­ers created visions of landscape that depicted the sublimity of creation. Viewers are meant to identify with the human figures in these paintings. In Summer Mountai... more

Old Trees, Level Distance

Guo Xi, the preeminent landscape painter of the late eleventh century, sought to give form to poetic images and emotions and was particularly interested in conveying the nuances of seasons and times of day. Old... more

Scroll of Deities of the Diamond World Mandala

This iconographic handscroll features representations of the thirty-seven principal Buddhist deities from the Diamond World Mandala, along with auxiliary deities, amounting to a total of forty-nine deities. Acc... more

The Classic of Filial Piety

Song scholar-artists believed that painting was not just a record of sensory experience but also a reflection of the artist's mind, a revelation of his personality, and an expression of deeply held values. In g... more

Biographies of Lian Po and Lin Xiangru

Poet, calligrapher, and Chan (Zen) Buddhist adept, Huang Tingjian believed that calligraphy should be spontaneous and self-expressive—“a picture of the mind.” Containing nearly twelve hundred characters, this h... more

Poem Written in a Boat on the Wu River

Sun Guoting's Manual on Calligraphy (687) states that calligraphy reveals the character and emotions of the writer. Few works demonstrate this principle as clearly as this handscroll by Mi Fu, the leading calli... more

Courtly Odes, Beginning with "Wild Geese"

In 1127 the Song northern capital was sacked by the Jurched Jin; Emperor Huizong and members of his family were carried off, only to die later in captivity. The emperor’s ninth son, who was proclaimed Emperor G... 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

Iconographic Drawings of the Five Kings of Wisdom (Myōō-bu shoson)

The Five Great Kings of Wisdom (Godai Myōō) are ferocious-looking deities who ward off evil in order to protect the Buddha’s law. The opening section of this scroll shows various depictions of Fudō Myōō, the Im... more

Scroll from the Compendium of Iconographic Drawings (Zuzōshō)

The Zuzōshō, or Jikkanshō, is an encyclopedia of Esoteric Buddhist iconography in ten scrolls. The first edition is datable to the early twelfth century, when multiple versions of the iconography for particular... 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

Retreats in the Spring Hills

Retreats in the Spring Hills is datable stylistically to the early twelfth century, when artists began to experiment with archaic styles, including the "blue-and-green" landscape manner first made popular in th... 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)

“Parable of the Medicinal Herbs,” Chapter 5 of the Lotus Sutra

This sutra once formed part of a much larger set of handscrolls depicting all twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra, one of the most popular Buddhist scriptures. Each handscroll consists of a pictorial front... more

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

Streams and Mountains Under Fresh Snow

This painting was once attributed to Gao Keming, an artist at the Imperial Painting Academy in the early eleventh century, thanks to an inscription written in the style of the Song emperor Lizong (r. 1225–64) a... 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

Finches and bamboo

Huizong was the eighth emperor of the Song dynasty and the most artistically accomplished of his imperial line. Finches and Bamboo exemplifies the realistic style of flower-and-­bird painting practiced at Huizo... more

“Devadatta,” Chapter 12 of the Lotus Sutra

This sutra once formed part of a much larger set of handscrolls depicting all twenty-eight chapters of the Lotus Sutra, one of the most popular Buddhist scriptures. Each handscroll consists of a pictorial front... more

The Vimalakirti Sutra

Throughout Buddhism’s early history in China, the ascetic aspects of the religion—the practice of celibacy and self-deprivation—came into conflict with the Chinese family system and social values. The Vimalakir... 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

The Secrets of the Nine Luminaries (Kuyō hiryaku)

Designed to foretell destiny and to help overcome the influence of unfavorable stellar configurations, the rituals of Esoteric Buddhism, imported from India and combined with native Daoism, played an indispensa... more

In the Palace

In the Palace, a freehand copy of a tenth-century handscroll by Zhou Wenju, depicts daily life among the palace ladies of the Southern Tang emperor Li Yu (r. 961–75), a renowned patron of the arts who trained h... more

Illustrated Frontispiece to the Sutra of Enlightenment through the Accumulation of Merit and Virtue, the So-called Jingoji Sutra

This scroll bears a large rectangular Jingo-ji seal in red ink below the title, indicating that it once belonged to the set of more than five thousand sutra scrolls known as the Jingo-ji sutras. The retired emp... 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

Fisherman's Lodge At Mount Xisai

In this imaginary depiction of his retirement retreat the scholar-official Li Jie presents an image of his future home in a self-consciously primitive manner. The archaic, maplike image—composed of frontal, sch... more

Great Wisdom Sutra from the Chū sonji Temple Sutra Collection (Chūsonjikyō)

The frontispiece to this sutra chapter shows a dramatic three-quarters view of the Buddha seated with two bodhisattvas. Seven figures pay obeisance to the Buddha, with the six in front raising offerings of food... more

Great Wisdom Sutra from the Chūsonji Temple Sutra Collection (Chūsonjikyō)

The frontispiece of this sutra chapter illustrates the Buddha’s first sermon, at the Deer Park near Sarnarth in India. The Buddha and the two bodhisattvas who flank him are seated on lotus platforms. Behind the... 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

Scholars of the Liuli Hall

Scholars of the Liuli Hall commemorates a famous gathering hosted by the poet Wang Changling (act. ca. 713-41) at his official residence in Jiangning (modern Nanjing, Jiangsu Province). An earlier, cut-down ver... more

Six Horses

The disparities in paper, pigment, and style between the two halves of this painting make it clear that they are by different hands and from different periods. In the first half of the painting, the horses and ... 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

Scroll 9 of Collected Iconography (Zuzōshō): Ten (Devas)

Sketchlike drawings of Buddhist deities in ink and/or light colors played a vital role in transmitting the complex iconography of the multitude of deities who make up the Mikkyō (Esoteric) pantheon. As it is id... 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

Odes of the State of Bin

Composed more than 2,500 years ago, Odes of the State of Bin is part of The Book of Odes, one of the Confucian classics. The poem chronicles the annual cycle of activites in the countryside: the unfolding stage... 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

Scene from The Illustrated Sutra of Past and Present Karma (Kako genzai e-inga-kyō; Matsunaga Version)

This illuminated sutra tells the story of the historical Buddha’s good deeds in his past lives and the path of his religious enlightenment from prince to bodhisattva and finally to Buddhahood. This detached sec... 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

One Hundred Buffaloes

Unidentified Artist Chinese, 13th century Song dynasty (960–1279)

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

Cloudy Mountains

The son of Mi Fu (1052–1107), Mi Youren was an accomplished scholar-artist and the leading connoisseur of his time, often acting as the authenticator of ancient paintings for the emperor. He rose to the positio... 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

Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Tenjin Shrine (Kitano Tenjin engi emaki)

An ancient Shinto belief that the unpredictable, calamitous forces of nature are animated by tormented human spirits (onryō) underlies the legendary origin of the Kitano Tenjin shrine, dedicated to Sugawara Mic... 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

Illustrated Legends of the Kitano Shrine (Kitano Tenjin Engi)

Emaki artists, Japanese artists working in the narrative handscroll or emaki format, were masters of dramatic suspense. This scroll depicts the origin of the Kitano Shrine of the Tenjin cult, one of the most im... 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)

Beneficent Rain

Zhang Yucai, the thirty-eighth pope of the Zhengyi ("Orthodox Unity") Daoist church, lived at Mount Longhu (Dragon Tiger Mountain) in Jiangxi Province. A favorite of the Yuan emperors, he received commendation ... more

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

Poem of Farewell to Liu Man

Yelü Chucai played a pivotal role in mitigating the harsh rule of the Mongols over the occupied territories of North China. A trusted adviser to both Chinggis Khan and his son Ögödei, he introduced fiscal refor... 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

“Universal Gateway,” Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra

One of the masterworks of the Met’s Buddhist painting collection, this handscroll is the earliest known painted version of the twenty-fifth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which is known as the “Universal Gateway o... more

Poems on Painting Plum Blossoms and Bamboo

An accomplished poet, collector, painter, and calligrapher and a member of the Song royal family, Zhao Mengjian was compared by his contemporaries to the famous scholar-connoisseur Mi Fu (1052–1107). Like Mi's,... more

Ten Verses on Oxherding

In Zen, a herdboy’s search for his lost oxen has served as a parable for a practitioner’s pursuit of enlightenment since this Buddhist sect’s early history in China. In the eleventh century, the Song-dynasty Ze... more

Pear Blossoms

Qian Xuan was one of the first scholar-painters to unite poetry, painting, and calligraphy within a single work. In Pear Blossoms a perfect interplay of poetic and pictorial imagery has been achieved. The artis... more

The Pleasures of Fishes

Zhou Dongqing was a friend of Wen Tianxiang (1236–1283), the famous Song loyalist and a fellow native of Jiangsi Province. Zhou's painting was inspired by a passage from the Daoist classic Zhuangzi (ca. fourth ... more

Wang Xizhi watching geese

After the fall of Hangzhou, the Southern Song capital, in 1276, the artist Qian Xuan chose to live as an yimin, a “leftover subject” of the dynasty. Painted in his deliberately primitive “blue-and-green” style,... more

Grooms and Horses

In the early Yuan period, when the ruling Mongols curtailed the employment of Chinese scholar-officials, the theme of the groom and horse-one associated with the legendary figure of Bole, whose ability to judge... 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