Important Cultural PropertyThe Pure Land of Amida (Skt. Amitābha)

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  • 絹本著色浄土曼荼羅図(伝清海曼荼羅)
  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Ink and colors on silk Gold leaf Cut gold leaf(kirikane) Hanging scroll
  • H 162.1, W 134.0
  • Heian period/12th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 650(絵137)

 Paintings of the Land of Heavenly Bliss of Amida started to be actively illustrated after a Chinese Tang Buddhist priest Zendo (613-681) wrote the annotated edition of the Pure Land sutra “Kanmuryo Jyubutsu Kyo Sho” (known as “Kan Kyo Sho”). The early style of the Pure Land of Amida and Kangyo Mandala (Taima Mandala) appeared in the Nara period in Japan. Chiko Mandala, in which two Buddhist priests Chiko and Raiko of Gangoji Temple were drawn in the simple painting of the Pure Land envisioned by Chiko, was established in the late Nara period. In addition, Seikai Mandala was established in the mid Heian period.
 In general, the images taken from the story of King Ajatashatru (Skt. Ajātaśatru) and scenes of Kubon Raigo (nine levels of Amida’s birth) were drawn around the painting of the Pure Land in Taima Mandala and summary of the sixteen contemplations and a lotus pedestal are drawn in Seikai Mandala. However, they are not drawn in this painting and only the Land of Heavenly Bliss is drawn across the painting. Such features are like the Chiko Mandala said to have been established in the late Nara period and it seems to have developed based on the concept of an original painting of the Pure Land from the Tang period. Platforms including Koku, Horo, Keza (lotus pedestal), Hochi and Bugaku are drawn from the top and four bhikkhu are added to the Keza platform and two child are drawn on the Bugaku platform. It seems that these more complex features are like the “Chiko Mandala Itae Panel” held in Gangoji Temple in Nara Prefecture. However, the Amida (Skt. Amitābha) in this painting forms the Tenporin’in (hand gesture used by the historical Buddha as he preached). This is different from the Chiko Mandala forming the Mikaifurengegassho’in, but is the same as the old style hand gesture of the center statue in the paintings of the Pure Land from the Tang period.
 The warm colors used in contrast with white and green create a unique warm style. The bodies are outlined in deep vermillion and each figure has sharp expressions. The clothing is clearly colored, and the clothing accessories are beautifully decorated with gold and silver leaf, kirihaku. Together with the painting of the Pure Land of Koyasan Saizen-in, this is an extremely precious painting of the Pure Land as a style of hanging scroll in the late Heian period. This painting was handed down to Gokurakuji Temple in Nara Prefecture as a Seikai Mandala.

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