Important Cultural PropertyThe illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect

Save Image

image 全画面表示
  • 絹本著色絵因果経断簡 巻第二上
  • 1 scroll
  • Ink and colors on paper Handscroll
  • H 26.4, L 115.9
  • Nara period/8th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 757(絵151)

 “The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect” is a set of eight painting scrolls created by adding illustrations to “The Sutra of Cause and Effect” (translated in the middle of Yuanjia (Genka) by the Indian translator — priest of Liu Song period, Gunabhadra) consisting of four scrolls. ‘The list of the Hinayama Sutra Collection in the chest May 7, Tempyo Shoho 5 (753)’ of “Shoso-in documents” has an item of ‘The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect: two sets of 16 scrolls (畫因果經二部十六巻),’ and this is the first appearance in Japanese literature. Another list, “The List of the Sutra Collection of the Bureau of Sutras and Books (Zusho ryo) July 2, Tempyo Shoho 8 (756),” has an item of ‘The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect: scroll 8 (13), one (two) illustrated wrapper of the two wrappers (chitsu) (繪因果經八(十三)巻 一(二)帙之中一帙繪).’ At that time, the creation of “pictorial sutra wrappers (kyo chitsu)” became popular at the Scriptorium (Shakyo sho) when the relationship between the Scriptorium and the painters deepened. It is significant that Buddhist paintings were understood in conjunction with the text expressions in “The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect.”
 Existing “The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect” from the Nara period are those held by Jobonrendaiji Temple (the first one of a set of two), Daigoji Temple (the first one of a set of three), the old Masuda family (the first one of a set of four), Tokyo University of Arts (the second one of a set of four) and the Idemitsu Museum of Arts (the first one of a set of three).
 The painting held at this museum is one of those that used to make up one scroll together with those held in Jobonrendaiji Temple and represent the last scene of “Excursions out of the Four Gates (Shimon Shutsuyu)” following the four scenes: “Siddhartha’s Competition (Kyoshi Bugei),” “Abhisheka (Kanjo Taishi),” “Thinking under the Jambu Tree (Enbuju ge Shiyui)” and “Marriage (Nohi).” They represent those including scenes of Prince having a dialogue with a bhikkhu after exiting the north gate and then the bhikkhu heading for the sky, of Prince coming back to the castle on a horse, of Udai (優陀夷) talking to King, of Prince meeting the bhikkhu, of a dialogue with the bhikkhu, of Prince and his wife watching singing and dancing to music and finally Prince asking King for permission to become a priest. As each existing “The Illustrated Sutra of Cause and Effect” has unique expressions, it seems unlikely that they were created by the same painter in the same period. However, it seems this can be a valuable clue to looking into the situation of the bureau of painters (Gakoshi) of the time. This is a rare and extremely valuable work from the Nara period that still exists.